Make: Magic DIY Sidewalk Paint for Kids Summer Play

Sidewalk chalk – a classic summer play staple, right? But wait…have you ever tried making your own washable sidewalk paint..? Oh, my friend, are you in for a treat, because these brilliant DIY paints aren’t JUST an incredibly fun way to art up the neighborhood, they are an absolute breeze to make.

DIY Sidewalk Paint – Table of Contents

If you have five minutes, you can whip these up for a full afternoon of sunny sidewalk and driveway decorating. We even have a little variation on the recipe you can use to create spectacularly fun summer sidewalk paint potions (a quick science lesson for young magicians in the making).

A toddler using homemade sidewalk paint to decorate the sidewalk

Save this sidewalk paint recipe, then head over to our chalk art post for a fun way to use this for washable “spray paint” art messages of love and kindness!

For a fun indoor twist on this activity, see how we put together a tabletop paint potions process art lab!

To make your own DIY sidewalk paint you’ll need:

Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains Woodpeckers Crafts, Etsy, Blick Art Materials, and/or Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*

BASIC SUPPLIES:

  • 3 cups of water
  • 3 cups of cornstarch
  • Food coloring (as an alternative to standard food coloring, you can use natural food coloring like this, or gel food coloring like this for more vivid colors. )
  • Small containers (recycled plastic containers with lids, small bowls, a muffin tin, etc.)
  • Paintbrushes (all sizes)

OPTIONAL SUPPLIES:

DIY Sidewalk Paint Instructions:

  1. Mix cornstarch and water in small containers

    Using a 1:1 ratio, mix cornstarch with water. We mixed 3 cups of water with 3 cups of cornstarch, then divided the mixture into 6 silicone baking cups to use for six different colors. This gave us plenty of paint for one kiddo to play around with, yielding roughly 1 cup of paint in each color.

    You can use recycled plastic containers (with lids if you’re going to save your paints for a day or two) small bowls, a muffin tin, baking cups – whatever you can find that’s appropriately sized and safe to take out to the driveway or sidewalk.

  2. Add food coloring

    In past projects, I’ve found that I prefer the bright, vivid colors I can get with gel food coloring over the standard liquid food coloring. It’s usually available in pre-mixed, fun colors that can be hard to reproduce with the liquid, and it’s also more concentrated, requiring less product for bolder results. Add gel coloring 1-2 drops at a time, mixing well, until you’ve achieved the color you’re looking for. If you prefer to use liquid food coloring, here are some color formulas that work fairly well…

    Bright Green: two blue drops + four yellow drops
    Vivid Purple: three red drops + two blue drops
    B
    rilliant Orange: three red drops + three yellow drops
    Radiant Yellow: five yellow drops + one red drop
    Bold Brown: three red drops + three blue drops + three yellow drops

    Note: We found this was easy to completely wash off of our driveway with a hose and didn’t leave any sign of color-staining, but it’s always a good idea to test some small dots of paint on the area you’ll be painting on first. The material and porousness of your painting surface, along with the kind and amount of food coloring you’ve used, can create different results.

  3. Head outside and paint!

    Head outside and paint away!

A toddler using homemade sidewalk paint to decorate the sidewalk

Make Magic Sidewalk Chalk Paint Mystery Potions!

Years ago, our friends at ARTifact in San Francisco came up with a super cool variation on this sidewalk paint for us that kicks the fun up a notch with an amazing color reveal! Invite your kids to play magician and use a bit of science sorcery to create their own magic sidewalk paint potions that go from plain old white powder to fizzy, fantastical magically-colored paints.

Toddlers hands playing with melted homemade sidewalk paint

Magic Sidewalk Chalk Paint Potion Recipe:

  • Fill a small container with 1/4 cup of corn starch and create a crater in the center of each with a finger.
  • Squeeze 3-4 drops of food coloring into the crater. You’ll notice that the corn starch will ball up around the drops of color.
  • Instead of adding water and mixing before use, cover up the food coloring drops with another quarter cup of cornstarch.
  • When you’re ready for the big reveal, take your cornstarch-filled containers outside and place them on the ground (you’ll want to make sure your kids can see this part…). Add a tablespoon of vinegar for a bubbly, colorful reveal!
  • Finish by mixing in a half cup of water – you’re ready to paint!

For a fun gift idea, wrap each container in a square of tissue paper and tie it with a ribbon. Tie on a paintbrush and these instructions: “Mystery Sidewalk Potion: To paint the town, mix one-part potion with two parts water and watch the paint reveal its true color.”.

Frozen DIY sidewalk paint melting on the driveway

More Ways to Use Your Sidewalk Paint for Kids’ Summer Play

  • MIX COLORS. Use a spoon or eyedropper to explore color mixing.
  • SPRAY, SQUEEZE, OR SPONGE. Why stick to basic paintbrushes when you could explore a few other ways to paint?? Pour your sidewalk paint colors into spray bottles or squeeze bottles and experiment with making different kinds of marks with your paint. Get out some sponges and see what happens when you sponge-mix mix or sponge more water onto your paint. How much water can you add before your paint washes away?
  • FREEZE IT! This simple modification invites kids to cool off and enjoy some chilly sidewalk sensory play. Freeze individual colors in paper cups or silicone baking cups (you can add popsicle stick “handles” if you’d like) then take them outside for a fun melting paint experience.
  • USE ON PAPER. Nervous about marking up the driveway or don’t have a great spot to paint? You can use these paints on paper too! Experiment with using your paints on lighter colors AND darker colors (I found the colors really pop on black construction paper).
A plate of DIY sidewalk paint in the middle of a painted driveway

For more ideas to help your kids enjoy a little outdoor art-making, visit our collection of over 100 outdoor summer play activities for kids, or our hammered nature process art project (one of our most popular posts!) or make a cool, artful DIY bug box for insect observation.

For those kids NOT so into art, go on a nature scavenger hunt – don’t forget to take your recycled nature explorer kit! – or spend some time playing in the dirt with our collection of over 50 kids’ gardening activities.


*A note about affiliate links: We strive to use simple, earth-friendly supplies that can be purchased locally whenever we can, but sometimes we find the best universally available options, a rare eco-friendly find, or a niche product only available on Blick Art Materials, Amazon, Etsy, or Woodpeckers Crafts. When included in our supply list, these products are affiliate links, and if you click through to make a purchase we receive a small commission that helps us re-order these supplies!

Amanda Eldridge
Amanda Eldridge

With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help kids and families discover their creative potential through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community. Amanda has a background in graphic design, environmental design, and art curation. When not playing with ideas and designs for barley & birch, she enjoys working in freelance design, art, and illustration.

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