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Toddler Project Review: Salt Painting

It sounds simple enough, right? Have your toddler doodle on a piece of dark paper (black gets the best effect) using glue. Cover that glue in salt (definitely a parent-supervised operation!); then add color one drop at a time. Surely it would be good for at least a few minutes’ worth of entertainment, right? Unfortunately, any toddler mom knows full well that there are any number of things that can go wrong in that scenario. Can your toddler be trusted with the salt? What about the paint?

Pulling out the glue!
Emily L. Goodman

Obviously, this is a supervised activity. You don’t want to leave a toddler alone with paint, or with the salt shaker; but you do want the opportunity to explore and have a good time with the materials.

Your toddler is likely capable of doing the “glue” stage by himself. Hand him the bottle of glue and let him go a little crazy. This particular project won’t be hurt in the slightest by big blobs of glue, so let him have fun!

Next, shake salt over the glue. It’s going to take quite a bit of salt; you might want to have a bin on hand to shake the excess into. This will also enable you to reuse the excess for later paintings. You won’t want to eat it—school glue is generally nontoxic, but it doesn’t taste all that great—but you can use it in another craft project later on.

Now, add color! You can do this one of two ways: either by using watercolors, or by using food coloring. In general, much more vibrant colors were achieved by the use of food coloring, and it was much easier to use: just draw up a dropper, rather than shaking drops of paint off of a paintbrush. In general, this method was much less frustrating. However, you will need to carefully monitor how much paint or food coloring is going onto the page—a little bit goes a very, very long way, in this case! If you’ve let the glue and salt dry a little bit before applying, the effect is even more spectacular.

The toddler verdict: three separate paintings and more than thirty minutes of art time, as well as a temper tantrum when it was time to put everything up (though that might also have been because it was nap time).

The bigger kid verdict: “Can I keep this painting?” and “I want to do this again!”

The mom verdict: This is definitely a project that requires supervision. Even the big kids are going to be awfully messy with the salt application. However, it’s also a great activity to burn some time and creative energy. This one is definitely one to keep in your back pocket and pull out again later! As a bonus, it uses materials that you probably already have on hand, so you don’t have to worry about running out to buy anything, and you can decide to do it at the spur of the moment.