Bathtub Art Project: Soap Fingerpaints

Painting with Soap

Often when my daughters were very, very young, and even now that they’re older as a special treat, I like to set them up to fingerpaint in the bathtub. It’s certainly an art activity that’s more about the process than the product, since the fun is in smearing around and mixing and getting oneself all paint-y and colorful. And when they’re done painting, there’s more fun involved in using the handheld shower nozzle to give everything a good rinse before settling down for a nice bath.

To make clean-up just that much easier, or just to provide a different sensory experience or have a fun time following a recipe, you can also try making your own fingerpaints from soap. This project can use all new ingredients or recycle soaps that you don’t want, and unlike commercial products, your children will feel ownership over the making of it and you’ll know exactly what’s in it.

You will need:

  • Any amount of soap flakes. You can buy soap flakes from any craft store that sells hobby-level soap-making supplies, but it’s also useful, thrifty, and eco-friendly to grate either the unwanted little bits and bobs of almost-finished bars of soap, or those funkity little bars of soap that you get in every motel. I’ve grated glycerin soap before for other projects, although never for this one, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.
  • Just enough water to melt the soap when you’re beating it. Add the water in very gradually as you’re beating your mixture, so that you don’t end up with soap soup.
  • An egg beater. I actually do own a garage sale egg beater that I use solely for art projects, but you’re not going to use any toxic ingredients for this (obviously), so you should feel free to use your food-grade eggbeater for your soap fingerpaints, and just, you know, wash it well when you’re done.

Sift out the grated soap into a mixing bowl (you don’t want any clumps or stuck-together bits). With one hand (yours or a child’s), begin to beat the soap, and with the other hand, begin to very gradually add in the water.

Once you have a little bit of water in your soap flakes, amp up the egg beater speed until it’s pretty high, but also not throwing soap flakes into everybody’s face. Just like with egg whites, you want to beat plenty of air into your mixture.

Beat with the egg beater until your mixture has a smooth, paste-like consistency. You want to be able to spread it with your fingers, but you also don’t want it too liquid (no soap soup, remember).

If you liked that, try making play dough next!

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