Crafty Recipes

By Maria Nerius

I volunteer to teach different craft classes at a local senior center. Every time I visit I end up learning a lot more from the "students" than I could ever teach them. I'm also reminded that there was a time when there wasn't a craft store in every town and to craft you had to use what was available… and your imagination.


These following "old fashioned" craft concoctions (or recipes) are fun and relatively inexpensive. A real bonus is that your campers can be part of the preparation.

Most kids love anything slippery and slimy. There is nothing as amusing as sticking your hands into a bowl glob and a few minutes later coming up with dough clay. Or being able to blow the biggest bubbles from a bubble solution you made all by yourself.

Here are some of my favorite old time craft recipes. You'll find most of the ingredients in your kitchen cabinets. Enjoy!


Salt Dough Clay
This is a delightful air-drying dough for all ages.

4 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 1/2 cups of warm water

1. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl.
2. Add warm water slowly, using your hands to mix all together.
3. Knead on a flour-covered surface for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
4. Wrap the dough tightly or place in an air-tight container. Take out only what you will be using.

Optional: Dough can be colored with food coloring. Add a few drops at a time and knead dough.

Colored Rice or Pasta
Ever wonder how some people can get a nice, even color to rice or pasta? The trick is the rubbing alcohol that quickly evaporates after evenly spreading the coloring.

1 cup white rice or pasta
1 teaspoon rubbing alcohol
Food coloring
Zip lock plastic bag for each color
Small paper cup
Paper plate

1. Put rice in zip lock baggie.
2. Mix a few drops of food coloring with alcohol in a small paper cup.
3. Pour liquid over rice and seal baggie.
4. Shake until color is evenly distributed.
5. Spread colored rice in a thin layer to dry on a paper plate. Allow to dry completely.
6. Store rice in an air-tight container.

Sticker Glue
Create your own fun stickers with this yummy tasting glue.

1 Packet unflavored gelatin
2 Tablespoons boiling water
2 Tablespoons cold water
2 Drops of grapefruit seed extract or vitamin E
1/2 teaspoon white corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (or other flavoring)

1. Dissolve gelatin in boiling water.
2. Add cold water.
3. Stir in corn syrup, GSE or vitamin E and flavoring. Mix well. GSE and vitamin E are both natural preservatives. This glue has a shelf life of around 4-6 weeks in keep in a dry cool area. Store in an air-tight container.
4. To use glue just brush on the back of paper or stickers. Allow to dry completely. Then to stick all you need to do is lick!


Down Right Silly Putty
Who needs a plastic egg anyway?

1 cup white glue
Food coloring
Approximately 1/2 cup liquid starch
Small bowl
Spoon or craft stick

1. Mix glue with a few drops of food coloring until you are happy with the color.
2. Begin slowly adding liquid starch. Stir and mix as you go. Continue stirring in starch until mixture reaches a shapeable, stretchy consistency. You may need slightly less or more than 1/2 cup of starch.
3. Store in an airtight container.


Mellow Jell-O Finger Paint
This paint smells delicious!

Package of flavored gelatin
Boiling water
Small bowl

1. Place gelatin powder in bowl.
2. Slowly add boiling water until mixture is the consitency of finger paint.
3. Allow mixture to cool and begin to paint!

Sassy Sidewalk Chalk
Chalk it up to fun and draw to your heart's content.

2 cup water
2 cup Plaster of Paris
2 tablespoons Tempera Paint (wet or dry)*
Paper towel cardboard tubes
Duct or masking tape
Large measuring cup or bowl
Spoon or craft stick
Paper or Styrofoam plate
*Food coloring can be substituted by color, is not as intense and will fade over time.

1. Cut paper towel tubes into 2-3 smaller sized tubes. Cover one end with duct or masking tape. Make sure the taped end is secure so you won't have any leaks.
2. Combine all ingredients and stirring until well mixed.
3. Let mixture stand a few minutes.
4. Place tubes on plate. Pour mixture into holders and let stand until semi-firm.
5. Remove holders and let dry completely. Chalk should be ready to use in about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Classic Paper Paste
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon alum
4 cups water
Saucepan and heating element

1. Mix all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer until clear and thick.
2. Allow to cool in saucepan and then store in an air-tight container.

Soap Dough
You can sculpt a masterpiece as you clean up.

2 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tablespoons liquid paint
1 tablespoon liquid soap

1. Mix first four ingredients together. Mix well.
2. Add water slowly using only enough to make a pliable dough.
3. Store in an air-tight container when not in use.

Paper Mache Paste
Just add shredded newspaper, a balloon, some paint and you are ready to make a piñata

1/2 cup flour*
2 cups boiling water
2 cups cold water
3 tablespoons sugar
Saucepan and heat element
*Do not use self-rising flour for this recipe.

1. Boil water in a saucepan.
2. While water boils, mix flour and cold water together in a bowl. Add this mixture to boiling water.
3. Let mixture return to boil.
4. Remove from heat and add sugar.
5. Mixture will thicken as it cools.
6. May be stored for a short time (under two weeks) in an air-tight container.

Big Bad Bubbles
The biggest bubbles ever!

1 cup water
4 tablespoons clear liquid dish detergent
2 tablespoons clear corn syrup
Container with lid
Optional: Small bowls, food coloring, and paper

1. Mix ingredients together in container.
2. Kids can use straws to blow bubbles.

Optional: Pour a small amount of bubble solution into a small bowl. Add a few drops of food coloring and mix well. Dip straw into bowl and blow air to create a surface of bubbles. Slowly place paper over bubbles. Pull up. The bubbles create a fun design on the paper! Best to do this outside because it's quite messy!


Salt Glitter
No glitter on the craft shelf? Here's a quick substitute.

1/2 cup salt
5-8 drops food coloring
Zip lock plastic bag
Paper plate
Optional: 1/2 teaspoon rubbing alcohol

1. Pour salt into plastic baggie.
2. Add a few drops of food coloring. You can also add rubbing alcohol at this step. Rubbing alcohol helps mix the color without adding more liquid since the alcohol will quickly evaporate.
3. Seal baggie and shake, shake, shake until color is evenly distributed.
4. Spread colored salt in a thin layer to air dry on paper plate.
5. Store in air-tight container.

Maria Nerius has been designing and writing craft projects for 15 years and is the craft expert at If you have questions, comments, have craft ideas of your own, or would like to see a particular craft in an upcoming issue, e-mail Maria at