Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Homemade Sidewalk Chalk Experiment #2 (FAIL)

Update: I see that this post is getting a lot of traffic, so I want everyone to know that this recipe does NOT work for making sidewalk chalk. It will produce sidewalk paint. If you are looking for a sidewalk chalk recipe that does work, I have found two: this one and this one. Thanks for visiting! I hope you find what you are looking for.

A few days ago, my sister-in-law, Kristin asked me if I had ever made homemade sidewalk chalk. Ironically, I was in the midst of waiting for my first batch to harden up, when she gave me a new recipe to try out. It sounded a lot like the sidewalk paint that we had made last spring so I was a bit skeptical that it would harden up and produce actual, usable chalk. Regardless, I figured it was worth a try. If it was successful, it would be a bit cheaper than my first recipe for sidewalk chalk, and it would be simpler to get more variety of colors with food coloring instead of powdered tempera paint. Plus, if it didn't work out, I would only be out a few cents and some time, so it wasn't a big deal.

When I tried it out, I first lined the tins with circles of wax paper that I had cut with scissors because I was afraid the chalk would stick. This turned out to be unnecessary I think. I had to wait a total of 5 days for it to dry out. On the second day, there was about 1/4" colored liquid on top of an "oobleck" type pseudo-solid. My skepticism continued. The day after that, there was less liquid, and it the stuff beneath it seemed firmer to the touch. So, my hopes were raised that this experiment would work. Then, the day after that, some of the "chalks" looked almost dry. After two more days, they all appeared to be dry, and they were starting to separate from the sides of the tins. The weird thing that my husband pointed out is that they appeared to be growing patches of green mold on top. Gross, right? However, I was cautiously optimistic that if I could just get them out unscathed, this could actually work. That was the dilemma. I decided to put an inch or so of hot water in my sink and then let the pan soak in it for 1 minute. Then, I used a butter knife to gently remove the chalks from the muffin tin. All but two made it through this process without disintegrating. However, the "chalk" felt very, very soft, so I doubted it would be usable.

{Homemade Sidewalk Paint -- BEFORE it dried into useless dust!}

I tentatively tried one or two "chalks" on a piece of paper and it immediately crumbled to bits. Figuring this for a lost cause, and a messy one at that, I gave Mia a cookie sheet and a piece of paper, so she could give the "chalk" a go. She ended up with a pile of pink "chalk" dust, which she enjoyed playing with, piling up, and smooshing back down, dragging it around the cookie sheet with her fingers until I decided enough was enough. She had pink "chalk" dust on her face and in her hair. I say "chalk" because it had turned out to be essentially colored corn starch after the water evaporated, not at all what I was hoping for, but truthfully, not an unexpected result. In the end, I don't feel that this is a failure because it didn't produce the desired effect. Really, I know that this will make perfectly good sidewalk paints, plus now I have the idea to do them in muffin tins instead of the glass jars we previously used, and this is definitely safer to do with kids.

{AFTER: Nothing more than colored cornstarch -- utterly useless as"sidewalk chalk!"}

The Bottom Line: If you decide to do this, choose a nice sunny day, and please know that you will be making sidewalk paints that need to be used immediately, NOT some sidewalk chalks. You will likely want to mix up your paints while you are outside, to keep spillage to a minimum. You will also need paintbrushes or sponging for painting the sidewalk.

{Here is my craft FAIL -- just in case you thought it never happens.}

Materials Needed to Make Sidewalk Paint (not chalk):
  • 12 cup muffin tin
  • 1 1/2 cups cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • container for mixing
  • spoon/s for mixing
  • food coloring
  • paint brushes or sponges
  • funnel (optional)
  1. In a container, mix equal parts cornstarch and water. I used 1 1/2 cups of each, which will fill 12 muffin cups approximately half full. Divide into the muffin cups. Tip: A funnel is helpful for pouring.
  2. Add a few drops of food coloring to each muffin cup to get desired colors. I used no more than 3 drops per muffin cup. Tip: Food coloring may stain skin and clothing, so be mindful of this when using it.
  3. Mix up each color, and have kids paint on the sidewalk or driveway using paintbrushes or sponges. Tip: When we did this last year, we kept the paints in jars with lids, shook them up as needed, and re-used the paints.
  4. That's it. Enjoy your sidewalk paint. Don't bother waiting around for this recipe to harden up and produce "sidewalk chalk." You will just be disappointed.


  1. Sorry the recipe didn't work! You'd think people would test them out before posting them on websites for others to do and fail. Grr!

  2. That does seem strange. I think whoever did it just misunderstood that it was not meant to be chalk, but rather a sidewalk paint. I always look at things as being experiments, so I wasn't too upset that it "failed." Sometimes they don't work out. Thankfully, most of the time they do. :)

  3. This was very helpfull.too bad i foind it after we made the "chalk"

  4. thanks for the heads up now i know why mine dident harden it turned into powder once i got it out the tin so i may make the sidewalk paint or use it on my hair:)

  5. I sid the recipe above of thw cornstartch water and dye and the liquid was on the top I just mixed them a lot and poked them then I finally decided screw it im ganna take a little eye dropper and suck up all the liquid in the cups I started this at 1030 this morning it is now 145 and theyr almost completely hard and ready to test :/ even if it ends up being a fail atleast my daughter and the littke boy I babysit will have fun with the dust and thats the point of it right? Letting the kids have fun

    1. I would be interested to hear how it turned out, Alisha.