30/06/2009 05:25 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Creative Toys Worth Buying: Face Paints

Stimulating children's imagination is an important, and luckily, fun part of parenting. It doesn't mean giving them a stick and a cardboard box to play with but it does mean focusing on toys and materials that encourage open-ended play.

Face paints are a perfect addition to the craft cupboard, or toy cupboard. Wherever you store them, just make sure they're out of reach of little ones, unless you don't mind every surface, plus them and the cat being decorated.

I absolutely adore face paints and luckily for me so do my children. To be honest, it's now only the youngest two who are crazy about them and I'm happy to indulge.A staple of school summer fairs, they are also a regular feature of life around here. But there are a few 'rules' that we follow, to save my sanity and the cream sofa.

Faces are only painted in this house in the afternoon, which cuts down on cries of "is my face OK", smudges and face paint ending up everywhere else but their faces. Then it's bath time and beautiful, spotless cherubs.

Only proper face paints are used. This means Mummy's lipstick, big sister's sparkly eye shadow and poster paints are not suitable alternatives. We use Snazaroo, which I found in a local toy shop, and can be bought individually or in sets like a paintbox. Stock up on orangey/browns for endless lions, white for nearly everything and pots of glitter.

Getting our face painted is not an every day kind of activity, it is more of a treat. Call me mean, but it is messy and while I am laid back about mess I just don't fancy getting smeared in it too often which can happen if they are particularly cuddly or teary.

And here's another thing, it can be a shared activity. Sometimes, if I'm not going anywhere, I will submit to getting my face painted (which I promptly forget about until someone rings the doorbell). Daddy, we have discovered, is particularly good at sitting still while a four-year-old wields a brush close to his eyes.

So good, in fact, that he has been known to let a whole gaggle of very excitable children paint his face at birthday parties.

And this is where face paints are also useful: when there is a lull in the party, or you want to calm them down, or a couple of children don't want to join in with games.

We also take our two sets (yes, we have two, and a book on designs I picked up secondhand) camping for those rainy afternoons.

If time is pressing, or if I am bored of painting butterflies, a quick flower/heart/sun on each cheek can sometimes suffice. Then my daughter will skip off to be a fairy/butterfly/Mummy with a painted face while my three-year-old practices his roars as he climbs onto the chair in front of me.