tactile art

Heat a bar of soap in the microwave, add a palette of tempera paint and presto! Soap becomes a medium little artists can use to get creative.

What You Will Need:

  • a bar of dye and lotion-free soap (we used Ivory soap)
  • tempera paint
  • card stock paper

Start with Science

ivory science

Before you pull out the paints, start this activity with a science lesson. Pop a bar of dye and lotion-free soap (in a microwave-safe dish) into the microwave. The amount of warming time you’ll need depends on your microwave. I started with 30 seconds, and then added another 15 to make the soap melt from a bar into a fluffy cloud. Prior to heating the soap, make a prediction about what will happen. Ask your child to tell you what she thinks will happen when you microwave the soap.

As the soap heats up, it will expand into sculptural waves. When you take it out of the microwave, don’t allow your child to touch it right away. The soap will be hot. It will deflate a bit as it cools, so this is the perfect time to start a hands-off observation. Ask your child a few questions, such as:

  • How does the soap look different now?
  • How do you think the soap changed?
  • Do you think the soap can go back to how it looked before?
  • How do you think the soap will feel now?

When the soap has cooled, let your child feel the new texture.

Sensory Exploration with Textures

It’s time to use the soap in a totally tactile sensory way. Have your child break the cloudlike fluff apart. She can spread the soap pieces across a piece of card stock, creating a textured canvas. The soap will stick to the paper when she presses down.

During this step, discuss the textures that your child feels. Is the soap canvas bumpy? Lumpy? Smooth? Silky?

Colorful Creative Canvas

sensory art

Now your child is ready to get artsy! She can go abstract and finger-paint rainbow hues across the soap canvas, or pick a scene to create.

  1. Pour a golf ball-sized pools of tempera on a plastic tray or piece of waxed paper.
  2. Finger paint the soap! Have your child use her hands to layer colors onto the textured surface.
  3. Continue adding more colors until the soap is covered with paint.

water lillies

You can give your child a variety of colors or have her mix her own. To make her own hues, give your child the primary colors (red, yellow and blue) to blend together. Add white to lighten any of the colors.

More Adventures in Learning

About Erica Loop

Erica Loop

Erica Loop is an arts educator and freelance parenting writer. She has an MS in Applied Developmental Psychology, and enjoys creating activities that bring literacy, math, science and other content areas to the arts. When she’s not teaching, she’s spending time with her newly-turned teen son and writing art activities on her blog Mini Monets and Mommies.

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