Before I started blogging, one of our staple activities was Microwave Puffy Paint.  I cannot even tell you how many times I've made it.  There was even a period of time where S literally requested it daily!

Fast forward a few months, and now that I'm blogging, I read a ton of other blogs.  And I started noticing how much variation there was between microwave puffy paint recipes.  The recipe we've always used calls for baking powder, which can be a bit costly.  So I thought I'd set up a little experiment with S and see if we could tell which recipe was the best for making Microwave Puffy Paints!

I created four different mixtures.  The base of all of them was identical:  all-purpose flour with a dash of salt mixed with water.  I left one just as it was (green), added a teaspoon of baking powder to the light blue, two teaspoons of baking powder to the dark blue, and three teaspoons of baking powder to the purple.  I also added color to each so we could easily tell them apart.  (I used liquid watercolors, but you could also use food coloring.)

Then I had my fellow scientist make a straight line of each.

They were so pretty I had to take a picture, hahaha.

And here were our initial results (after 30 seconds in the microwave).  Because S is still small, she had a hard time making the amount of pressure in her squeeze constant, so the dark blue and purple lines were a bit wider than the other two.

  Just for ease of comparison, I created a set of more uniform lines.

For reference, purple has three teaspoons of baking powder, green has none, dark blue has 2 teaspoons, and light blue has 1 teaspoon.  After observing the visual differences, we had S do a squish test.

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Here's what we learned.  Yes, baking powder does make it puffier - but the amount by which it does is fairly negligible.  S was not able to tell a difference between any of them by sight, and said that possibly the purple felt a bit puffier - but even with that - she wasn't completely sure.  I also had my mom and my husband look and and touch each of the finished products.  At first they could not tell a difference either, but upon closer inspection they did note that the dark blue and purple were a bit puffier.  Our conclusion?  Add baking powder if you want to - but we felt like for the cost, it's not worth it.  You still will get quite a bit of puff without it.

So here's our new recipe for Microwave Puffy Paint:

All Purpose Flour
A dash of salt (around a teaspoon)
Baking Powder (optional!)
Liquid Watercolors or Food Coloring (optional)

When making a batch, you want to make sure you have a whisk on hand for the best results.  Slowly add water to your flour and salt mixture (I find that 1 cup of flour to around 1 cup water makes enough puffy paint for one child in one sitting).  Aim for a thick batter - like you would for muffins or pancakes.  It should pour, but not be runny.  There is a fair amount of forgiveness in this recipe - if it's too watery it will still work, it will just be less puffy.  The thicker you make it, the more definition the lines you squeeze will have.  Here's the most important part - whisk or mix until your mixture is FREE OF LUMPS.  Flour lumps will clog your squeeze bottles and frustrate your kiddo (I made the mistake of not whisking the first time I made this and S had such a hard time - boo!).  If you don't have a whisk, I'd recommend using a fork and allowing the mixture to sit for a few minutes between stirring.  I think this paint is most fun with squeeze bottles (if you don't have those, you could always try putting the paint in a ziploc bag with a small corner snipped off), but you can also use it as finger paint, or paint with brushes.

Once you are finished creating your masterpiece, just pop it in the microwave for around 30 seconds.  Small amounts of paint will need less time to cook (usually around 15 seconds) and large quantities of paint may need a minute or more in the microwave.  Once it's done cooking the steam and paint are HOT.  Please have an adult use care to move them (having them cool for five minutes in the microwave is a great course of action) and please have the adult check the temperature to make sure there are no hot spots before handing the finished product to a child.  Also, as the paint dries, it will pull up the edges of your paper.  We have found the most success with using cardstock paper or the thin cardboard from cereal (and other) boxes as we did here.  :)

Check back tomorrow for another fun way to use Microwave Puffy Paint!

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All activities here are activities I feel are safe for my own children.  As your child's parents/guardians, you will need to decide what you feel is safe for your family.  I always encourage contacting your child's pediatrician for guidance if you are not sure about the safety/age appropriateness of an activity. All activities on this blog are intended to be performed with adult supervision.  Appropriate and reasonable caution should be used when activities call for the use of materials that could potentially be harmful, such as scissors, or items that could present a choking risk (small items), or a drowning risk (water activities), and with introducing a new food/ingredient to a child (allergies).  Observe caution and safety at all times.  The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any of these activities on this blog.


  1. Have you tried baking soda rather than baking powder? I think I might do this this afternoon with the bunnies - I'll let you know what happens.

    1. Nope! Never tried baking soda. Let us know if it does anything!!! :)

  2. Your recipe gives ingredients but not quantities.
    All Purpose Flour (How much?
    A dash of salt (around a teaspoon)
    Water (How much?)
    Baking Powder (optional!) (I saw in the text of the blog this varies)
    Liquid Watercolors or Food Coloring (optional) (I can figure this out- according to how much color i want)

    Thanks for your help. Happy to learn about the liquid water colors

    1. Hi Sherry - I did not give specific amounts of flour because depending on how many children you are making this for/how many colors you want to make - the amounts will wildly vary. If you'd like to start with one cup of flour and slowly add water until you get a thick but pourable batter it's probably a good place to start. Hope that helps!

  3. WOW! I love your blog! So many great ideas we will surely be using during this long NE winter

    1. Yay! Thank you so much! I'm so glad - and I hear you on the looooong winters. :)

  4. Your blog is great!
    What kind of paper do you use?

    1. Thank you! We used cut up cereal boxes here. Cardboard or cardstock also work - cardboard is probably the best if you are planning to keep the art long term! :)

  5. Your blog is so informative and full of great ideas, love it :) thanks!

  6. Just made mine today and it worked out great. Should I refrigerate the unused batter? How long do you think it would last in the fridge?

    1. Yep, you can refrigerate it for a few days - just check to be sure there isn't any mold (and cover or seal it somehow). You may need to add a bit more water before using it the next time, depending on how long it's in the fridge.


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