Making a mermaid’s magical pool (or pirate’s treasure trove)


Mermaid’s magical pool

A few things from the craft box can be a fun way of transforming a paddling pool for an afternoon. We picked up all the shells scattered round the garden, sprinkled in magic dust (blue and silver large-cut glitter), and added glittery-fluffy-balls as treasure.

Making play dough is easy

Home made play dough

Home made play dough is super easy to make. It’s cheap, keeps well, you can choose what colours you want, and it doesn’t colour little hands the way commercial play dough often does. It also retains its colour much better if you’re using more than one colour rather than turning into an amorphous purple-brown.


  • 1c plain flour
  • 1/4c salt
  • 1T cream of tartar
  • 1T oil
  • 1/2 tsp food colouring
  • 1c boiling water

Note: This makes a small batch, just double if you want a big batch.


  1. Mix dry ingredients.
  2. Mix in oil.
  3. Slowly add boiling water. (You may not need all of. It should be smooth and pliable not sticky).
  4. Store in air tight container.

Orange play dough

Combining colours

How to make a simple spider

Thankfully toddlers are not art critics. They take joy in simple pleasures and aren’t going to worry if your arts and crafts skills aren’t going to get you a gallery listing.

You can make a simple spider using:

  • Cardboard inner tube
  • Scissors or sharp knife
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Marker pen or felt tips (or buttons or googly eyes).
  1. Cut your paper tube to size (toilet rolls are a good size but a paper towel roll will need cutting in half or thirds).
  2. Make eyes. The simplest option is to draw then on but googly eyes are great if you have a packet lying around.
  3. Make 4 holes on each side of the paper tube (roughly parallel).
  4. Push 4 pipe cleaners through the parallel holes so they stick out each side. You now have 8 legs!
  5. Draw a web for your spider or print one out from Worksheet Fun.

Watercolours are great for indoor painting

Watercolours are a great form of indoor painting. They’re much less mess than poster paint and easy to wipe up if you’re using a plastic mat or lino. They also handily come with a whole palette of colours!

These are great for encouraging creative messy play, colours (and colour mixing), fine motor control, and learning a process. Encourage them to go: paint, paper, water, paint etc. I find an old glass baby food jar ideal for washing brushes. It’s best to put only a tiny amount of water and change it frequently (that way there’s less to clean up if it gets knocked over!).

Watercolours will often come with a small brush. You can also experiment with other brushes, fingers, even a wet wipe will provide cool textures and colour mixing! If you’re toddler loves painting themselves and is going to do so anyway, why not support them in their experiment and try putting our a hand mirror so that they can see what they’re doing.

Supervision, support, encouragement, and modelling is important for toddlers. It can take a while to learn that the brush needs washing or that it’s not a good idea to smear black paint over all the other paint colours on the palette. On the bright side, they’re easy to wipe with a tissue or wet wipe to get back to a ‘purer’ colour.

Wet wipe watercolour painting