DIY play makeup for toddlers

I rarely put on makeup these days, but when I do Mary Virginia is always underfoot. “Mommy, can I have lotion in my hair? Can I have deodorant on my belly? What are you puttin’ on your mouth?”

If we’re going somewhere that requires more than me redoing my ponytail when we arrive, Tom and I team up to make sure I can have a moment. Just a moment.

Tom starts doing circus tricks in the living room to keep the kids occupied, but they inevitably wander into my room because even if Daddy was juggling actual ponies with glitter shooting out of their hooves, that could never compare to me doing something like, I dunno, brushing my teeth. Putting moisturizer on my face. It’s fascinating — especially to Mary Virginia. With a frantic curious toddler at my feet, instead of the five minutes it should take me to throw on a little foundation and mascara before we leave, I end up managing a 45-minute at-home spa for Mary Virginia.

To be honest, I get very frustrated with this set-up. I just need five minutes, little one. Not that I’m keeping score, but I was pregnant with you for nine months, gave birth to you, nursed you for 16 months, oh and quit my job to care for you. Can I have a second in the bathroom? And we’re already late. (We’re always late.) I get frustrated but I don’t want to get frustrated. I don’t ever want to begrudge my children for wanting to be with me. So instead of shooing her away, I decided to find a way to include her.

My solution: play makeup for Mary Virginia.

no-mess diy play makeup for kids

This project was incredibly easy, totally free (I already had everything) and I think she’ll love it.

When I showed the final product to Tom, his first response was, “But do we want Mary Virginia wearing makeup?”

No, we don’t. She’s only two. But I also don’t want her caring for an infant, or cooking, and just yesterday she brought me a plate with coasters on it and told me she made me waffles. I don’t want David driving a car just yet and I don’t think I ever want him going on a field trip to the center of the Earth. But this is all play, right?

Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think Mary Virginia likes makeup because she thinks she needs makeup to be beautiful, or because she is aware of society’s misogynistic pressure on women to look a certain way. I think she just likes makeup because she sees me doing it.

Plus, she calls me her girlfriend. This is what girlfriends do.

no-mess diy play makeup for kids

I started with some makeup cases I’ve accumulated from free samples through the years. I picked a variety of sizes and snagged the cases with fun colors that Mary Virginia would like. They also open differently, so I thought it’d be a good fine-motor exercise.

The makeup came out surprisingly easily with a butter knife…except for that olive green Clinique eyeshadow. Apparently if you are the type of person to wear glittery olive green eyeshadow, you need a lot of it.

no-mess diy play makeup for kids

Then I gave each container a quick wash with soap and water.

no-mess diy play makeup for kids

While the cases were drying I decided to clean the brushes. Warning: those sponges just dissolve in water, so don’t try to wash them. Whoops.

no-mess diy play makeup for kids

no-mess diy play makeup for kids

I wanted to make the cases monochromatic when possible, becuase I know littles love that sort of thing — purple in the purple case, pink in the pink case, etc. But I didn’t have enough colors to make it happen.

Instead I just picked the most fun colors.

no-mess diy play makeup for kids

Careful when you pour — nail polish comes out surprisingly fast.

You can even make swirly patterns…

no-mess diy play makeup for kids

no-mess diy play makeup for kids

The polish sort of sinks when it’s dry, so I added more after a few hours, and then let it dry over night.

no-mess diy play makeup for kids

I love it. It looks awesome, and it really was so, so easy. I keep looking around for more things to include, like my little pot of moisturizer, or a spray bottle to freshen her curls.

I added a big makeup brushes I’ve never used and a few sponges and threw it all in a makeup bag my mom gave Mary Virginia a few weeks ago.

no-mess diy play makeup for kids

We’re giving it to her for Christmas, and it might be one the gift I’m most excited about. It was definitely the cheapest, easiest, and most homemade.

And hopefully, hopefully now we girlfriends can get ready together without fighting over the glittery blue eyeshadow.

(Psst, I’m not the first person to come up with this. If you search Pinterest for play makeup, there are lots of tutorials, including this cool one for lipstick.)


  1. Ashley December 11, 2015

    I love this idea! Totally stealing it! (Going to have to ask my mom for empty makeup containers though. Ha! Poor GK– I’ll never be able to teach her this aspect of being a lady!)

  2. Meredith December 11, 2015

    Great gift idea! HG is always underfoot when I put on makeup. Currently her makeup is a contact case, so anything would be better than that 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  3. Audra @ Renewed Projects December 14, 2015

    Genius!!!!! My two year old is way curious about all things bathroom, too. Now if you also think of something for deodorant or toothpaste please post that, too! I’ll be heading upstairs now to wipe the toothpaste off the bathroom wall, the bathroom door, and the floor. lol

  4. CANNOT stop laughing at, “Not that I’m keeping score, but I was pregnant with you for nine months, gave birth to you, nursed you for 16 months, oh and quit my job to care for you. Can I have a second in the bathroom?” My life with an 18 month old who screams bloody murder if I shut the bathroom door.
    This is SUCH a great idea! And I completely agree about her not wanting to put on makeup because of the “traditional’ reasons. I don’t want my son to make calls to all of his little friends, but he sure loves walking around with my phone to his ear and babbling!

  5. Kati December 15, 2015

    I did this for my daughter a couple years ago and she still loves to play with it. I bought her a couple brushes like mine from the Elf line at Target that are $1 each so she has her own makeup and brushes and will leave mine alone. Totally works like a charm. She’s 4 now and still loves it.

  6. Susan December 16, 2015

    What a wonderful idea! I am sure your daughter will love it. The best part is that it looks like your makeup–not the kid version. You may have to act like she shouldn’t use it, I am sure she will like it even better.

    • amandakrieger December 17, 2015

      haah! you’re so right! i should store it high on the counter barely out of reach 😉 she’ll love it for sure!

  7. Jaime Wiebel December 17, 2015

    I love this idea. I have a little girl that would probably go crazy for this because she is so girly. I hate wearing make-up because I don’t like anything on my face. But sometimes (date night) I put it on and it totally wierds my kids out. My little girl said Mommy you look beautiful, it totally makes me want to wear it more often. She would really love this. Totally thinking about doing it. Thanks for the great story.

  8. Katie December 20, 2015

    One of my favorite gifts as a little girl was play makeup – what a fun way to recreate this so easily and with items most ladies have around the house. Thanks for sharing, found you at Turn It Up Tuesday!

  9. Jessamyn January 5, 2016

    such a great idea! I actually made this after reading your suggestion for Avery for Christmas but my nail polish never really got hard? When I put it in the freezer it obviously firmed up well for a while but I think because I was using the cheap polish (with fun colors!!) it was just kind of gummy…Did you have this problem at all or were you using nicer polishes? Any tips? I’d like to make her another couple to replace ones that she messed up since she really liked them! (Before they were taken away because she was trying to scoop makeup out! LOL!)

    • amandakrieger January 5, 2016

      hmmm. my nail polish did get hard. i let it dry on the counter for over 48 hrs, and then i put it in a bag and wrapped it and it was there for at least a week before Christmas.
      but it could have been the polish? i used mostly revlon bc that’s what i had. let me know if you try again!

  10. g2 test June 19, 2016

    Your style is very unique in comparison to other folks I’ve read
    stuff from. Thanks for posting when you’ve got the opportunity, Guess I’ll just bookmark this page.


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