Paint finishes for wood toys must be non-toxic and durable. If you are making homemade wooden toys there are many options available to beautifully finish them with colors. Here are some options for you to consider:
Acrylic Paint - Acrylic paint is a durable paint that has pigments suspended in an acrylic (or plastic) binder. If you are striving for all natural paints for your toys, please be aware that acrylic paints are plastic based and not natural. However, they come in a wide range of vibrant colors, are color fast, easy to apply and clean up and have no fumes. They can even be mixed with water to create a "wash" of paint, as in the tree example in the photo to the left, which shows the wood grain beneath.
Not all acrylic paint is created equally however! Not all acrylic paint is non-toxic or safe for toys either! Please read paint labels and look for the "AP Non-toxic" seal. Do NOT use paints without this seal. Some artist's paints have mercury, arsenic and cadmium in them for pigments and you absolutely do not want these ingredients on your toys.
Milk Paint - Milk paint is one of the few 100% natural paint finishes for wood. True milk paint uses a cow's milk protein (casein) as the binder. It is odorless when dry and completely biodegradable. It comes in a powder form that you mix with water. More water will create a wash effect showing the grain while less water will create a thick, opaque matte paint. Please be aware that some people are extremely allergic to dairy, including cow's milk casein and could potentially be allergic to milk paint.
Watercolors - You can also paint wood with watercolor paint, which will leave a subtle wash of color, almost like a stain because the grain of the wood shows through. Watercolors use plant gums as a binder (unlike acrylic paint which is a plastic binder) and because of this the paint is forever watersolulable. The trick is to use enough that it absorbs into the wood, like a stain. Toys painted with watercolors should be sealed to keep them colorfast.