Chalk Paint Outdoor Art – Busy Toddler

Overhead photo of a child


This simple idea for making chalk paint only needs two ingredients and a grater. It’s process art meets a motor skills workout and a science lesson – and it’s absolutely perfect.

Overhead photo of a child's hands zesting red chalk into a large bowl. there is colorful chalk dust all around.

What is chalk paint?

Chalk paint (in this instance) is created by combining chalk dust with water. There’s no actual paint in chalk paint – the chalk becomes the paint. Hope that sentence wasn’t confusing.

The result of combining chalk dust with water is a vibrant paint-like substance that’s as washable as kid-chalk always is.

This unique twist on “go play with chalk” is a major boost to outdoor play – and kids can’t get enough.

RELATED: Are you looking for even more summer activities to try with kids? Check out this list of really great and easy ideas.

Two boys on a patio are painting with chalk paint. There is a chalk around them and multiple cheese graters.

Why I never made chalk paint until now

There are lots of great DIY chalk paint recipes online.

Most involve a few steps:

  • Adults grate a bunch of chalk
  • Put it in containers or muffin tins
  • Add in some corn starch
  • Stir
  • Kids paint

This was always way too many steps for me. I don’t have time to sit and grate chalk to make paint when perfectly good pieces of chalk are waiting to be played with.

The entire activity seemed more convoluted and time consuming than needed or necessary.

Until I found this one weird trick for making chalk paint.

A child holds a paint brush over a bowl filled with dark teal paint made from chalk and water. Graters sit next to him.

The one weird trick you need for this activity

What’s the one weird trick for making chalk paint?

Have kids makes it and do as little as possible in the process.

I’m not kidding.

Creating chalk paint does not need to be an adult-led activity. It can be completely child led using just water and chalk.

RELATED: What’s the best art supply for kids? This gift guide is filled with awesome ideas for artsy kids.

Supplies for making chalk into paint: chalk, grater, zester, and bowls of water with chalk.


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The main note on this activity: you need chalk and graters. I used the ones we had in the house and after 3 weeks, they still work fine on my food (albeit after a good cleaning).

Because my kids and neighbor kids have loved this activity so much, I did buy some specific graters to just live in our chalk bin.

RELATED: Curious what are the best supplies to own with kids running around? I have a fuss-free list just for you.

A child holds a cheese grater and a piece of mint green chalk. They are grating the chalk into a bin.

The how-to

Here are the exact directions I gave the group of kids I had over:

“I think you can make like chalk paint from grating chalk and adding water. I’m not really sure how much water to add or if it even works, but anyways – that’s an option to try.”

That nonchalant direction ended up being all my kids (and 10 other neighbor kids) needed.

Grate chalk.

Add water.


There is a finesse to this: too much water and it’s diluted. Not enough water and it won’t paint.

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What about kid safety?

Graters have danger in them, inherently. They’re sharp. Kids could absolutely cut themselves doing this activity.

I have been doing this activity this summer with kids 4-12 years old.

The kids older than 6+ have been great with the graters. Knock on wood: no blood. I did go over grater use with them and impressed upon them that these are very real. Kids are so cool at rising to the occasion when we let them.

The kids under 6: The struggled to hold the grater and the chalk so they (yes, they, the kids) created a work-around.

The little kids use wire colanders to grate the chalk and it’s absolutely perfect for their tiny precious hands.

A child uses a metal colander to grate brown chalk.

The end all-be all summer activity

Letting kids create chalk paint has been the hot outdoor activity for my neighborhood crew.

They grate. They add water. They paint.

This has been on repeat for weeks and I don’t see it stopping. Sometimes they create masterpieces together. Sometimes they work alone. Sometimes they have elaborate imaginary cooking shows and use the paint as frosting for their mud pies.

Two boys draw with paint created by chalk. The patio is colorful with chalk and graters all over.

What learning happens from chalk paint?

We never need to justify an activity by finding the learning in it. Activities and play can just be about activities and play.

But it’s sometimes fun to look beyond the project and see just what the kids are gaining from it.

Here’s what’s actually happening when the kids make chalk paint:

  • Team work
  • Problem solving
  • Trial and error
  • Ratios and measuring
  • Color mixing
  • Fine motor skills
  • Life skills
  • Spatial awareness
  • Impulse control

Pretty glad I had the kids making the chalk paint rather than doing it myself (wink).

A child draws a smiley face using paint they created with chalk and water. Chalk and graters are in the picture.

How to clean up chalk paint?

Remember: it’s just chalk (and water). Whatever surface you normally play with chalk on will be great with chalk paint.

Hose it off at the end or let the rain handle it.

The take away: play with this where you usually do chalk since you know that is a chalk-safe surface.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you remove chalk stains from clothing?

Try using OxyClean. I rarely have stains on kid clothing from chalk but when I do, I use OxyClean.

What age is this activity for?

This activity has multiple layers: using the grater or colander, rationing water to make paint, and then painting. Different kids will be ready for different parts of this activity at (you guessed it) different times. You’re going to have to use your awesome adult judgement for this one.

Susie Allison, M. Ed

Owner, Creator

Susie Allison is the creator of Busy Toddler and has more than 2 million followers on Instagram. A former teacher and early childhood education advocate, Susie’s parenting book “Busy Toddler’s Guide to Actual Parenting” is available on Amazon.


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