by Beth Crumpler

I use Pinterest to find teaching ideas and crafts for children.  I have a toddler, so I quite often scan Pinterest looking for activities and crafts that I can do with him.  This morning I began scanned my Pinterest pins to find an activity that I could adapt into a pumpkin activity for my toddler.  As I was scanning, I came across a Pin for creating puffy paints for children, that I had pinned earlier this week.  I naturally clicked on the pin to be redirected to the original source of the puffy painting activity so that I could look up the ingredients and instructions to see if it was something I could do with my son.  I was looking for a fun and low maintenance activity, and one that required no shopping.

The original source is from an article called, How to make puffy paint from One Crafty Mumma by author Melissa.  The article lays out instructions for mixing 1 tablespoon of self-rising flour, 1 tablespoon of salt, some drops of food coloring and some added water to make the mixture like a paste.  I had salt and food coloring, but did not have self-rising flour.  I did have all-purpose flour and baking powder.  I thought I could create the same mixture minus the self-rising flour and add all-purpose flour and baking powder instead which I had at home.  This idea seemed like it could work.

After reading over Melissa’s instructions, I thought this was an activity my toddler could handle which could easily be adapted into a pumpkin painting activity.  I also thought it was a low maintenance activity that did not need much prep, many parts, had easy drying instructions, and seemed simple with clean up.  Painting was simple- it required just taking the paste mixtures and brushing them on paper.  Drying the paint was even simpler- it required putting the painted paper in the microwave for 30 seconds.  There was no wet paint or paper to have to find a place to let the paint dry untouched for hours.  This activity called for potentially hardly any prep, maintenance, drying or clean-up.  This seemed like the perfect task to do with my toddler.

I took Melissa’s instructions and modified them.  For each bowl of paint mixture I added:

  • 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder
  • 1-2 tablespoons of water (added more drops as needed to make a paste)
  • For the orange paint (2 drops of red and 6-8 drops of yellow food coloring)
  • For the brownish-black (4 drops of blue and green, 2 drops of yellow and 8 drops of red food coloring)

I then blended the mixtures to make them ready for painting.

by Beth Crumpler

I had watercolor paint brushes, so I took a thick one that could handle the puffy paint mixture and had my son paint with it.  He likes to draw and color circles, so I had him paint in circles with the orange to make the pumpkin.  Painting orange circles is good for his fine motor skills, his depth perception, understanding shapes, and teaching him about the color orange.  I then cleaned off the brush and had him paint with the brownish-black mixture.  I had him paint the rectangle on the top first.  It is not a perfect rectangle, but nonetheless taught him the spacial recognition and arm movement for making a rectangle.  I helped guide him to do the eyes in the shape of triangles.  Again, the eyes are not perfect triangles, but perfection is not the point.  Through guiding him through painting the eyes, he learned spacial recognition for triangles and the fine motor skills, and directional skills for making them.  I then guided him with the mouth in the shape of another large rectangle.  It did not turn out great, but again he was able to learn the shape recognition and fine motor skills.  As I took him step by step through painting the pumpkin I verbally kept taking to him about the arm movements he was making to create the shapes and kept telling him the name of the shapes he was painting.

After my toddler finish painting the pumpkin, I stuck it in the microwave for 30 seconds.  (At the top of this post is the final product.)  I let it cool for a few minutes and then let my son feel and touch it.  He loved the puffiness of the texture.  The texture transition from wet sticky paint to a dry soft puffy was an educational experience for him in texture, which again makes this a fabulous educational activity for a toddler.

I have high hopes of adapting this puffy painting activity further with my son: fall trees with colored leaves, Thanksgiving turkey with colored feathers, X-mas tree with colored lights, snow painting on black paper (minus any food coloring since the natural coloring of the paste mixture is white), spring flowers, etc.  This puffy painting activity really can be adapted for sorts of seasons, objects and tasks.  I even think this activity could be done in a public school setting too.  It doesn’t require any drying…it is very simple to find a microwave and put the student paintings in the microwave for 30 seconds at school.  The rising puffy paints in the microwave could even be turned into a science lesson/experiment and more for elementary students.

To adapt this art activity into a science, language arts, writing and/or esl lesson, call it “Microwave Painting (Science Experiment)”.  You can:

  • Use it to teach steps in doing a science experiment.
  • Teach students how to make a “hypothesis”- have them guess what will happen when the paintings are put in the microwave. (Shh- if you do this- don’t tell them it is puffy painting.)
  • Chart out the hypotheses students had made and then chart out the results. (Have students give adjectives and vocabulary for describing the results.)
  • Compare and contrast the hypotheses and results.  This can teach them similarities and differences in the hypotheses and results.
  • Guide them in writing the steps to the experimental process.  This can teach step by step instructional order, sentence building and expressing details.
  • Guide them through brainstorming the ingredients.  This can help them recall information and learn vocabulary.
  • Once the experiment is complete, guide them in brainstorming subject nouns, object nouns, verbs and adjectives about the experiment that can go together to form sentences.  After you help them brainstorm a few examples, have them brainstorm on their own. Guide them though constructing a few complete sentences with the subject nouns, object nouns, verbs and adjectives.  After that, have them do some more themselves.

Here is a science experiment, language arts, writing and/or ESL lesson plan and answer sheet I have created for you to use.  You can use it for any of these content areas.  You have permission to use this and adapt it as much as you want.  Remember you don’t have to do this lesson with pumpkin painting; you can do it with any type of painting and subject.

Microwave Painting Experiment for Art, Science, L.A., writing and/or ESL.

I’m sure I will brainstorm other ways to adapt this activity for children and lessons.  Do you have ideas for using or adapting this activity for your students or children?

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Beth Crumpler is the founder of adaptivelearnin. Beth is an educator who is passionate about platforms for adaptive learning and curriculum design. She earned her B.A. in music education from Southeastern University, M.S. in TESOL from Shenandoah University, and 42 graduate-level credits from several universities in California. Beth is an experienced teacher, curriculum writer, blogger, and elearning course developer in the fields of ESL and music education. She has written learning content for several major educational companies/institutions. Her strongest asset is in using needs analysis and thinking creatively to develop adaptive educational materials both through kinesthetic hands-on and technological platforms to meet the diverse learning needs of students regardless of age, learning need and content area. Beth has taught students of many linguistic, cultural, and socio-economic backgrounds. She loves her work, loves to bring positive humor to it whenever possible, and is seriously dedicated to the profession. Beth's experiences teaching for numerous content areas, diverse populations, and a wide range of age groups is what propelled her with the vision to create adaptivelearnin. Her vision has been to support educators in finding resources which support learning through modified and targeted experiences so that all students receive individualized learning to facilitate their educational growth needs. Adaptivelearnin is a place where educators can find digital and hands-on adaptive learning resources for planning and instructional purposes. Beth does freelance curriculum writing, article writing/blogging, and online course development. For inquires about hiring Beth for work, please email her at Go to to check out published articles Beth has written. Opinions are her own and are not those of her employer, or previous employers.

One Thought on “Pumpkin Painting Multiple Content Area Lesson”

  • I just thought of a few more ideas. For Halloween you could use black paper, no food coloring to make the puffy paint and have students/children paint ghosts. You could use white paper and make black paint and have them paint spiders. You could have them paint a monster on a paper bag or piece of paper that could be rolled up into a 3-D shape and have students paint monsters. After the paint is microwaved, then the spiders, ghosts or monsters come alive.

    A music teacher could take this idea and pre-draw black lines of the music staff on a piece of paper. Then you could have students paint in the lines and spaces of the staff different colors. Microwave the music staff and notes and then the notes come alive- 3 dimensional. A music teacher could have students paint their favorite instruments and then write a story on the sound characteristics of the instruments.

    For toddlers, you could have kids paint a train track or road and background. After you microwave the painting and the 3 dimensional shape comes alive, then toddlers could drive their trains or cars on the painting for fun.

    You could also use the paint on a toilet paper roll or paper towel roll and create and have kids paint a 3 dimensional shape or character of your choosing…or possibly even paper covered over a tissue box.

    If you brainstorm activities, really this puffy painting technique could be used for many projects.

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