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Baby Art Playground: Natural Taste-Safe Fingerpaint Play

Taste-Safe Fingerpaint Play

Part of the Baby Art Playground series

“Allow baby to explore the texture and beauty of paint without worrying about toxins or unnatural additives. Baby will be painting with food-based paint so be prepared to dress for mess!”

Oooo dis one was fun. With all of my Baby Art Playground programs, I’m looking for a fun 45-minute activity for the patrons that they may duplicate at home on a later date. This means the craft must be enticing enough for them to come (marketing for the win) yet an easy, quick, and inexpensive craft for them to redo at home. I also have to tweak the recipes for 50 babies, so there’s also that.

While there are a lot of baby-safe paint options out there, I found the recipes from Fun at Home with Kids to be enticing and perfect for large scale production. And while the name of this program is a bit of a mouthful, it’s just enough key phrases to catch a caregiver’s attention. Here are the deets for the program:

Why fingerpaint play?

Writing is a key componenet of the Every Child Ready to Read 2nd Edition program from the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) and the Public Library Association (PLA). By introducing our children to fingerpaint play, we are giving them the fine motor skills needed to be able to hold a crayon and, later, a pencil to write and share their creativity with others.


  • Beets
  • Turmeric
  • Blueberries
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Flour
  • Almond Milk
  • White butcher paper
  • Ladle
  • Wipes

Adapting for a library

Adjusting for a larger audience can always be a challenge. First, I did a trial run of all 5 paints from the book produced by Fun at Home with Kids called 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids (highly recommend!). Prep time was quite involved when you take into account purchasing of the supplies, the trial run (week before), and the mass creation of paint for the program (day before). I decided that the pink paint (beets) and the yellow paint (turmeric) were the cheapest and easiest to mass produce.

I believe I did 40 servings of the original recipe which was waaay too much (MRW I dumped 3/4 of my midnight procrastination paint). We had approximately 25 babies per session (106 participants total) and each child got about 2 tablespoons of paint so keep this in mind when you are making the paint for your group. For 50 babies total, I used about 4 cups of paint per color.

I rolled out three long sheets of white butcher paper for the babies to paint on the floor. This was perfect but we did need to keep an extra eye on the babies if they tried to walk away with paint all over their bodies and feet. Wipes were an essential purchase.

Storytime component     To tie in the power of the library and early literacy, we sang a song at the beginning of the program. I encouraged parents to use this song if their baby was getting fussy, scared, or weirded out by the paint.

Tune: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

Painting, painting with our hands.

Let’s explore all that we can.

Let’s create and have some fun.

Make some art before we’re done.

Painting, painting with our hands.

Let’s explore all that we can.

Handout     On the handout, I included the source of the art activity, the EL song, and the recipe for all 5 paints for caregivers to duplicate at home.

Tips for next time

  • Create less paint. Believe me. Do not multiply the recipe by the amount of kids you expect will come. You will need emotional support later as you pour buckets of paint into the trash.
  • Recommend babies wear onesies. This was important because we were taking pictures for our photosharing website and I did not include any nakey babies online. The paint was all natural but the turmeric does permanently stain. I offered to share the cute pictures of the shirtless babies via email but this became quite the hassle because I had to communicate with a dozen photo-lovin’ mommies.
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Baby Art Playground: Footprint Art

Footprint Art for babies ages 0-14 @ librarybonanza

Footprint Art for babies ages 0-14 @ librarybonanza

Dress for mess! This messy sensory art exploration exposes baby to a variety of textures. Education toys provide further enjoyment, play, and exercise for developing senses. Siblings are welcome to help, but supplies are limited to the age-appropriate child.

Bring home a keepsake of your baby’s darling feet. Canvas and paint provided.

Everyone, please feast your eyes on an alluring yet potentially catastrophic craft program for babies: footprint art. Don’t worry–it can be done!

The motivation behind this program was purely product-based. I am slightly obsessed with process-based art (that develops fine and gross motor skills along with early literacy skills and brain development) so I felt a bit guilty as I put it together. But, the parents were ecstatic and signed up in droves and libraries are here to make the parents happy, too, right? We still had educational toys out for play but most of the space was dedicated to a potentially messy craft. Tarps lined the floor but the paint was miraculously well contained.


  • Fifty 8×10 canvases = $115.71
    • Note: I ordered these the cheapest I could through an outside company via Amazon but never receive 6 and had to go to Hobby Lobby anyways to get the total I needed. They were on sale at Hobby Lobby for about 50 cents more per canvas soooooo….
    • You could easily do this on paper, but I wanted the craft to be wall-ready to maintain its longevity and save parents the time of having to get it mounted.
  • 8 bottles of Sargent Art Tempera Paint = $15.92
    • All tempera paint is nontoxic and washable. If you want absolute certainty, check for the AP certified standard on the bottle that conforms to ASTM-D.
    • I chose paint over ink stamps because the stamps were waaaay too light for the canvas.
  • 10 Large Kitchen Sponges = $5.55
    • Note: I wanted to take the ease of ink pads with the results of paint. These sponges were perfect for fully and quickly applying the paint without tickling the sensitive feet (as a brush may have done). Staff prepped the sponges in advance and reloaded as needed.
  • 4 containers Baby Wipes (about 2 wipes per child) = $3.67 (on sale at Aldi, what what)
    • Note: These were a quick, baby safe way to immediately clean the foot once baby had stamped their footprint on the canvas.

Total Cost = $140.85

Attendance = 106 people, ROI = $1.33 per person

Overcoming Concerns for a Library Program

Two main concerns exist with this program:

  1. The fickleness of babies’ moods. Most all blogs discuss one-on-one footprint art where a caregiver is at home and they have an ability to control the environment or return back to the painting later when baby is ready. Not so in a time-sensitive program at the library. However, I encouraged caregivers to bring snacks, milk, or any other distractions for baby as they had something wet and cold slopped on their feet. I asked caregivers to pair up so that they could help each other press baby’s foot on the canvas while another held the baby, hopefully avoiding too much frustration from the caregiver (which radiates into baby). Lullaby music also played over the speakers. All in all, only 3 or 4 babies per class cried from the experience, but were quickly soothed.
  2. Messy, messy, messy. Remarkably not so if given the right precautions. Babies and caregivers were asked to sit on the ground atop tarps spread throughout the room. Paint was then handled by 1 volunteer and 2 staff members. A brief introduction to the craft was given including several tips for getting a decent footprint:
  • While you hold or another caregivers holds your baby, hold by the ankle and press firmly on the foot.
  • Bring snacks or bottle for distraction
  • Practice footprint on paper
  • Press heel onto paper and roll the toes or press them down
  • Lift quickly so paint doesn’t smudge

With baby wipes in ample supply, cleanup was quick and easy for caregivers, preventing the spread of paint over clothes and the tarps.

Tips for Next Time

I wish that I had written our library at the bottom of the canvas somewhere to remind parents where they made the craft.

Some parents were go-getters and created artwork from the footprints (such as a butterfly or a heart) but I wanted to avoid too many stipulations which may have caused nervousness for making the artwork perfect. It was nice to have it more open ended. As the patrons left, the canvases felt rather bland but I encouraged them to decorate them more at home when baby was sleeping or they had some “off” time.

Until the next round of Baby Art Playground in the summertime! I’m super stoked for natural taste-safe fingerpaints, teething rings, and mesmerizing mirrors!

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Baby Art Playground: Texture Blocks

Part III of the Baby Art Playground Series

Texture Blocks

Oh oh oh, this was one of my favorite baby crafts. LET ME TELL YOU EVERYTHING.

Why texture blocks?

Textures are a wonderful early learning experience for growing senses. As babies explore their world, they are building curiosity, strengthening eye sight, and being able to discriminate between objects. We can increase their joy and excitement by providing language for the experience and engaging with their playtime.

I received my inspiration for texture blocks from Fireflies + Mudpies, two very inspirational things.

Caregiver Reception

Caregivers were in LOVE with this craft. While they were gluing and affixing, baby could squeeze and scrunch something that was ready to be put on the block. The options were colorful and fun to sift through. Babies were immediately interested in the final product and it was the perfect size to tuck away inside a diaper bag.

Things to keep in mind as a library program…

There was a LOT of prep time for this one. I purchased the cheaper (but lighter) blocks for the program. For extra security, I sanded down all sides of 100 blocks which took a considerable amount of time. My recommendation? Enlist the help of volunteers for this prep. Also involved in the prep time was measuring and cutting 2×2 squares of fabric, foam paper, fuzzy tape, and bubble tape. The sticky tape was the best because one side was already measured out to 2″ so this saved some time. If it’s readily available, a circular paper punch would work wonders with time management.

To save money, I went to the store at the end of the summer season and got a ton of clearance items. I also used leftover fabric, stickers, and foam letters. The foam letters were divided by letter into baggies which saved the caregivers some time as they juggled baby with their brick crushing arms. Also a time saver? Items with one adhesive side.

I have been advertising these special programs on a local caregiver networking group through a nearby hospital and it has worked wonders in bumping attendance. I would highly recommend seeking on out via social media!

Supplies List

  • 100 2″ square blocks ($70) – I preferred these over the “square blocks” because they were lighter and cheaper. I wanted every caregiver to leave with 2 blocks to stack, but you can easily cut the cost by providing only one block.
  • Sticky Foam sheets ($1.49 each)
  • Fuzzy Tape rolls ($6.99 each)
  • Foam stickers (on sale, < $1.00 each)
  • Bubble wrap roll (on sale, $1.19 each)
  • Fabric patterns cut into 2″ squares
  • Foam letters
  • Felt
  • Any other random items including buttons, pipe cleaners, pom poms, sand, rice, gem stones, etc. I tended to avoid these due to potential chocking hazards and time needed to affix the items

Total Cost = $133.08

ROI (price per 80 participants) = $1.50

Idea for next year

Get more animal stickers. Parents can play a game where they roll the dice or simply turn it about in their hands. Whatever animal comes up, the parents can make the sound!

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Baby Art Playground: Discovery Bottles

Part II of the Baby Art Playground Series

Discovery Bottles

A big hangup with baby crafting is the threat of a big mess. Oftentimes, this is a wonderful thing as babies explore their world and express their curiosity through play. But sometimes it’s nice to have an activity with minimal mess paired with a long-lasting toy. Especially if you have a terror monster on your hands and/or are hosting a program for 20+ babies. Enter Discovery Bottles! I received inspiration from FamilyliciousLearning Through Play, The Imagination Tree, and Fun at Home with Kids.

Why discovery bottles?

Babies are fascinated with the world around them, using their mouths to explore new textures and objects. But for the mesmerizing things that may pose a choking hazard, we can place inside a bottle and seal it up tight. While the sense of touch and smell may be taken away, baby can use their eyes and ears to explore things that have been previously unattainable: glitter, feathers, tinsel, gemstones, pom poms, pipe cleaners. Basically, if there were a craft monster and he coughed, these things would come out.

The beautiful thing about discovery bottles is its low-cost allure. All those extra bits and pieces at the bottom of your craft box? Put it in the bottle. Music making rice and bells? Put it in the bottle. All your life’s responsibilities and obligations? Bottle.

Caregiver Reception

Another program (that I am blogging months later), another success! Parents loved the flexibility and independence to choose a variety of supplies to fill their bottles. Just like during the 15 minutes of playtime after my storytime, I find that many caregivers are fervently seeking social connections. While I start the program with a brief overview, a couple early childhood development tips, and instructions, the rest of the program is free-flowing and open for conversation.

I also provided the option to create a calming glitter discovery bottle which many parents and babies enjoyed. (To save money) The proportions are about half a bottle of glue, half water, 1-2 drops of food color, and about 1-2 tablespoons of glitter. Stick with silver glitter, especially if you are dying the water. I’ve heard that hot water allows easier mixing, if that is an option for you. BE ALERT: Parents may want to furiously shake the bottle upside down, as they have much practice, but let them know that the seal is not impenetrable and water may leak out.


  • 48 plastic Voss water bottles ($1.34 per bottle) = $64.32
  • Supplies, esp. clear Elmer’s glue = $107.50
  • ROI (cost per attendee) = $2.15

Supplies list

  • Voss water bottles (Gatorade and Sobe water bottles also work really well. Just make sure the plastic is think and sturdy)
  • Feathers
  • Rice and funnel
  • Clear Elmer’s glue (about one half per bottle)
  • Glitter and funnels
  • Food Dye
  • Pom poms
  • Foam objects and letters
  • Tinsel
  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Random stuff out of the craft closet
  • Hot glue gun (operated by a volunteer)

Things to keep in mind as a library program…

You can find a wide variety of baby crafts on blogs and in books but they take on a whole new level of finesse when provided to a room full of babies.  To avoid exorbitant costs, I try and restrict my crafts to have ONE component that I will purchase for each individual baby. For this craft, it was the bottles.

You will need to call upon the aid of your coworkers as much water was drunk and much skin was hydrated.

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Baby Art Playground: Peekaboo Puzzles

Part I in a three part series


Babies are little balls of adorable gooeyness, like loaves of squishy dough waiting for an adult to move along with them or demonstrate movement. This is what makes baby storytime a challenge and a blessing. While you can do any laptime activity (that’s appropriate) and not worry about them wandering off, they also have very limited capabilities regarding self-control so you must be comfortable communicating to an audience of adults. Which I am totally down for doing. Naw, for real, I got this. Much like storytimes, babies would not be able to enjoy my new program Baby Art Playground without their caregivers.

So now I’m bringing the action, bringing the funk of crafting fun for even the littlest tykes. Baby Art Playground is for ages 0-14 months, the same as my weekly storytime. There are three parts to this program:

  1. Main craft
  2. Sensory bins
  3. Toy area

This program veers away from Hands-On Ones and Twos because the main craft is made by the caregiver to be used later by the baby. The craft could also use baby to complete it (like handprint/footprint art), but the baby is not getting much out of it–which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because the parents love the final result and aren’t they people, too? But I still wanted to model activities for baby development. Enter sensory bins and a space for toy discovery and socialization. Children learn through play and experimentation. Exploring a sensory bin allows them to discover new textures and practice fine motor skills. Also, our library programs are a great way for parents to see that mess can be fun!

Last Monday was the first Baby Art Playground and our main craft was Peekaboo Puzzles. The supplies included:

  1. 10-20 Photographs of family, friends, and things that were important to baby (from participants)
  2. Magazines for those that forgot to bring photos
  3. Fine-tip sharpies
  4. Scissors
  5. Jumbo Knob puzzles or chunky puzzles
  6. Rice
  7. Cotton balls
  8. Toys

I went with the three puzzles below. If you order the puzzles directly through the Melissa and Doug website then you receive BOGO. In the past, I have also taken the slightly worn puzzles available for play or check out in the Youth Department and perused thrift stores or consignment shops for nice looking puzzles. The most popular puzzle at the program was the First Shapes puzzle because they could use more photographs and the shapes were a bit smaller.

The directions were as follows:

  1. Take your puzzle piece and trace over the image with the sharpie
  2. Cut out your image and affix in the slot
  3. Play a game of guess who/peekaboo with baby–talk about the shape on top and the person underneath. Use this experience to communicate and talk with baby!

Parents and Caregivers were extremely appreciative of the program and loved the opportunity to sit down and create a meaningful project for their babies. Although the cost was a bit high, the results were well received.

Little Literacy Librarian, Storytime Katie, and I will be presenting about crafting programs for ages 0-5 at the Illinois Library Association Conference this October. Have more questions? Come check us out!

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