DIY: Make your own dot dabbers for preschool

DIY: Make your own dot dabbers for preschool

I love dot dabbers and as I prepare for the up and coming preschool year, I have been making my list of things I need to restock. I use up dot dabbers pretty quickly so I added them to the list but then I got to wondering if I could possibly make my own dot dabbers.. Hmmm…

I have been saving small water bottles for something and I decided to use them. They are fairly easy to squeeze and they would hold more than enough paint to last me a while…

I started by adding tempera paint to the water bottle. I filled the bottle about 1/4 full of paint….

Next, I added water up to the top of the bottle but not all the way to the top.  I didn’t know how much water per paint I should add but without the water, the paint was too thick. So this seemed to work pretty well. I suppose more paint could be added but I would not do less…

Then I put the lid back on the bottle and shook it really well to mix the paint and water up good. After the paint was ready to go, I was down to the tricky part. I needed to find something that would disperse the paint as evenly as possible but this was no easy task. I tried a cotton ball but it just got sopping wet and fell into the bottle after a few dabs. So I tried out these make-up sponges.

The makeup sponges don’t fit properly inside the bottle so I used tiny rubber bands and banded the sponges around the outside lip of the bottle. Make sure the bands are tightly on so they hold the sponge securely…

Then I flipped the bottles over and gave them a squeeze…

Let me say right now that if you squeeze the bottles hard enough, it is likely the sponge will pop off. I didn’t have a problem but I was being somewhat careful (but not too careful) so I wouldn’t end up with paint all over the table. I suggest that you give a few pointers to the children about squeezing the bottles gently so the paint will come out without popping off the top.

My paint was just a tad watery but it left really beautiful dots anyway. My husband walked by and said “what are you doing besides making lots of dots!”  I took that as a compliment…

I sat and played with my dot dabbers for quite awhile and barely ran through any paint…

Once you are done painting then just take off the sponges and rinse them out for another day. Add the lid to the bottle and put the paint away for another day too…

Now that I got you thinking, perhaps you have another idea for how to make a dot dabber or at the minimum, what else could be used for the top. Now that I have this going – my mind is twirling with other possibilities. I will have to work on those in my spare time!!


  • Ariana Hall Posted July 20, 2011 12:30 am

    I love it! Those things are so expensive … so creative 🙂

  • Kristah Posted July 20, 2011 12:35 am

    I wonder how hard it would be to cut the bottle tops so you could put the sponge on the inside of the cap. It is a great idea but Art and Education stores sell refillable bottles that might be worth buying.

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 20, 2011 12:37 am

    Thank you Ariana:)

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 20, 2011 12:39 am

    We bought some refillable bottles from somewhere – possibly discount school supply but they were very difficult to take off the tops and they were quite small too. So I decided against buying them this time:)

  • kewkew Posted July 20, 2011 1:18 am

    Thanks for sharing this. I can’t wait to give it a try. I’ve always wanted some dot dabbers for the girls. One question: not sure what make up sponges are.

  • Letty Posted July 20, 2011 2:17 am

    How amazing and creative!!

  • Leeanne A Posted July 20, 2011 7:27 am

    OOOOOOOOOOO LOVE it!!!! Guess what I am making!

  • Carol D Posted July 20, 2011 7:42 am

    Thank you so much for this idea! I am setting up a new pre-k classroom and while I love dot daubers, the money available this year has been spent on more urgent items (like chairs!) 🙂 This will be perfect! And I am even going to WalMart this morning – makeup sponges are on my list! Thank you for ALL of your great ideas — the pictures are especially helpful!

  • Diane Posted July 20, 2011 8:17 am

    I am known as the dot queen at school so I absolutely love this idea and can’t wait to give it a try! It also shows the students the creativity of recycling and using things for different purposes. I am also working on making a light table for this year. Thanks!

  • Scott Posted July 20, 2011 8:26 am

    You’ve got my mind racing for possible toppers. Hmmm.

  • jennie_hi Posted July 20, 2011 8:30 am

    Hi I made some from using water colors/water/plant water stakes….I saw from another website. They work but didn’t work too well. SO I always wondered about using regular paint and water. You answered my question about that. Thanks. Maybe we will try it today.

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 20, 2011 8:37 am

    Make up sponges can be found in most stores like Walmart or Marsh or CVS in the make up section. They are round and white and made of a soft foam and come in packages of 6 or so. They are often used for putting on foundation. I hope this helps 🙂

  • Carrie Posted July 20, 2011 8:53 am

    Cannot wait to try this with my twins 🙂 what an awesome idea!! i will get my thinking cap on and stay tuned if anyone has other ideas for toppers..

  • Stacy @ {share&} Posted July 20, 2011 9:14 am

    You are just so smart! : )

  • Autumn Posted July 20, 2011 9:19 am

    I was JUST thinking yesterday that I needed these but I didnt want to BUY them. This is brilliant!

  • Michelle Willow Posted July 20, 2011 10:22 am

    And today I bought some dot-a-dot markers! 🙁 Well, they will be spent fairly quick, probably 🙂

  • Bonna Posted July 20, 2011 10:33 am

    Return them? Buy makeup sponges instead?

  • Tammy Posted July 20, 2011 10:38 am

    Great idea. I will have to try it. Dot dabbers are so expensive and the tops usually are picked off or the foam top rips off after awhile.

  • Bonna Posted July 20, 2011 10:40 am

    Great idea. I always felt like a victim having no choice but to purchase these for high dollars. Not any longer!
    One question though: Are the bottles too squeezable that a child could easily blow the top right off? If there is that chance mine will do it!! Would the sturdier water bottles from maybe the flavored water work better? I may give them a try as well. Can we find that dense foam in sheets in the same consistency? I think I have seen them used in packaging, like for a computer part or a shipped fruit basket or something. Just a thought.

    Thanks once again for another great suggestion and for waking up my tired mind this morning!!

  • Roopa @Putti Prapancha Posted July 20, 2011 11:19 am

    Great idea, love all your DIY ideas:) I had seen these being made with floral tubes here

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 20, 2011 12:45 pm

    Thank you Letty:)

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 20, 2011 12:45 pm

    Dot Dabbers!!!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 20, 2011 12:47 pm

    I noticed you spelled it Dot Daubers – I could not decide which way others would spell it! LOL! I know what you mean – I have so much to buy that purchasing these just seemed out of the budget at the moment..

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 20, 2011 12:47 pm

    Yes – it is a great way to continue promoting the concept of recycling:)

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 20, 2011 12:48 pm

    Your mind is always racing!! That is what I love about you!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 20, 2011 12:49 pm

    I saw this way too but didn’t try it. I would like to experiment with other types of paint or liquid water color when I get the chance.

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 20, 2011 12:49 pm

    You will have double the fun!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 20, 2011 12:49 pm

    Haha – I don’t know about that:)

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 20, 2011 12:51 pm

    Hmmm, I would try to make your own set first and see how well it goes. If you don’t like the homemade then keep the store bought – if you do then return the store bought. I really like these for me but you will have to try it out first.

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 20, 2011 12:51 pm

    Thank you Autumn!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 20, 2011 12:52 pm

    I like them too and found mine just don’t work that well after not so many uses! I think because half the time we lose the lids:)

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 20, 2011 12:54 pm

    You know – I don’t think they are too squeezable. I tried the harder bottles and they wouldn’t squeeze at all so it was hard to get the paint to rise to the top. Keep in mind that part of the fun with this will be squeezing the paint. It isn’t that the top will pop off really but that the paint will squeeze out rapidly if it is too thin or squeezed really hard. I think preschoolers can learn to use them very easily!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 20, 2011 12:58 pm

    Yes – meant to share that link and got in a hurry – I am so glad you have shared it for me!! I didn’t get a chance to try these but still would like to!

  • Carrie Posted July 20, 2011 1:00 pm

    I’m wondering about the possibility of just using a regular kitchen sponge… I would have to be fairly dense but you could cut it down to just bigger than the whole and squeeze it into the hole. I would think you could hot glue it in, though that would make it permanent and not refillable.

  • April Posted July 20, 2011 1:38 pm

    I spell it dauber as well. my grandma gave us quite a few of the ones made for bingo….but if we ever run out of those, I might have to try this!

  • Rose Mockford Posted July 20, 2011 2:12 pm

    What a great idea, thanks for sharing. I’m thinking I might try using cable ties (not sure what they’re called in the States-you know the adjustable zip-lock style?) to secure around the make-up sponge, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t pop off then!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 20, 2011 2:15 pm

    I like to hear other ideas!!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 20, 2011 2:16 pm

    My father in law played bingo all the time! I wish I had some of his left-over daubers!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 20, 2011 2:17 pm

    I thought about a sponge and it may work very well. I couldn’t find one when I was at the dollar store that didn’t have scratch pads on the back so I just went with what I had:)

  • Debbie Posted July 20, 2011 3:10 pm

    I loved the idea of the dot daubers. I am also worried about the water bottles being to thin that the students would squeeze to hard and would be wearing the paint. I am going to check out the travel section in the Dollar Store and see if they have small travel size bottles that would be a little sturdier. Will let you know how it works out. Thanks for the great ideas. 🙂

  • Lauralee Posted July 20, 2011 6:15 pm

    Love it. We are headed to Big Lots later, and we will be buying make up sponges!

  • Jackie Posted July 20, 2011 9:27 pm

    I have been trying to figure out how to make these! I tried cotton balls attached to clothespins to do a dot stuff … It wasn’t the same thing though but it was a fun way to paint. I’ll give these a try for sure.

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 20, 2011 10:07 pm

    I found some at dollar store too!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 20, 2011 10:08 pm

    Travel bottles would work very well. I found some and thought about using them instead but I really wanted to try the water bottles just to use them up for now. I love your idea and when I run out of all those water bottles, I will give that a try.

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 20, 2011 10:10 pm

    I should say that the biggest problem is not popping off but coming loose. I also find that if you squeeze super hard, the paint comes out a little quick but it wasn’t something that made me worry. It was all manageable. Let me know how the ties go!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 20, 2011 10:12 pm

    I love cotton balls on clothespins – a different kind of fun experience! Marking that on my to-do list this year:)

  • Kristah Posted July 21, 2011 2:24 pm

    I think I found something that might work if you can get your hands on them. Do you know anyone who works in the maternity section at the hospital? Come check out the picture on my blog

  • Michelle Posted July 21, 2011 6:46 pm

    I love this idea. There really isn’t a fabulous set of daubers out there. They say they are refillable, but when your class pounds them like hammers (even after being asked nicely not to), there is NO getting those lids off to refill. The tips also lose their material on the cheap ones, pretty quickly. I am so excited about this that I am going to hit walmart tonight to get some make up applicators to try this. Thank you so much for all of your ideas, I really enjoy your blog!!

  • Ashley Kate Posted July 24, 2011 6:15 pm

    You are quite brilliant! I can’t wait to try this and pass it along to other teachers! :o)

    Ashley Kate

  • Ashley Kate Posted July 25, 2011 9:23 am

    We call them ‘bingo dabbers’ in WNY! :o)

  • Ashley Kate Posted July 25, 2011 10:33 am
  • renelik Posted July 25, 2011 9:28 pm

    Brilliant! I have been thinking of how I could DIY a dot dabber for a long time as I find it quite expensive but I couldn’t think of anything. This is great!

  • Savannah Posted July 27, 2011 11:34 am

    Great idea! I made some for my kids today using kitchen sponges..I glued the sponges into the neck of the bottle so that I can put the caps back on

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 27, 2011 1:56 pm

    Awesome! I am going to hop over to take a look now!

  • Nadia Posted July 28, 2011 2:21 am

    This is such a great idea! It was also something that I am in major need of! I haven’t been able to find the dot a dot type of paints here in South Africa and I have looked everywhere. Importing it from the US would be a bit too costly. I hope this one will work as a great alternative for us. 🙂 Thanks!!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 28, 2011 8:56 am

    I hope it works well for you too! Just play around with the idea and you will find something that works for you!

  • Lee Posted January 5, 2012 12:09 pm

    Oh my goodness…I have a lot of bingo daubers that have “juice” but the top is destroyed. Can’t wait to try this method for a replacement top!!!

  • Elga Posted January 15, 2012 1:39 pm

    Super creative! Love your idea… saw it on Pinterest. I would definitely make them, those dot dabbers are insanely expensive here in Indonesia 😉

    Warm hugs from far-far away.
    Love your blog so much!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted January 15, 2012 3:02 pm

    Warm hugs back Elga!

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