Art for Kids: Food Coloring Tie Dye

On Father’s Day Weekend, my preschooler and I were busy filling up ice cube trays with food coloring and water and made a few spills.  After mopping up our mess with some paper towels, we realized that we accidentally had come upon a beautiful Paper Towel Tie Dye art activity.

art-for kids tie dye paper towels feature


  • paper towels
  • water
  • food coloring
  • a watercolor tray

Don’t worry if you don’t have a fancy paint tray, we used a chip and dip tray we found in the Target $1 bins.  You could also just put together a bunch of bowls from your kitchen.

How To

This activity is as easy as dip, scrunch, and unroll!

Jane dipped her paper towel in one color, and then dipped and dipped again.  Then, she squeezed out all the excess water, and unraveled her striking masterpieces!  

She found they were more than just pretty decoration, but they made great skirts and kerchiefs, too.

This was a great opportunity to continue talking about the concepts of Absorption and Color Mixing , which we’ve been doing lately. We noticed that the colored water seeped into the paper towels just like it did in the celery stalks of our Celery Capillary Action Experiment, and that we could squeeze out color from the towels just like we did with the sponges in our Sponge Painting Art Activity.

We Talked About:

  • Why the paper towel soaked up the water
  • What happened to the water in the paper towel
  • What would happen if we squeezed the soaked paper towel
  • Why our patterns had more than just the colors that were in the tray

My toddler got in on the fun as well, amazed by the changing colors.

Since we used high quality towels, the kids could keep dipping and squeezing over and over again.  They made up a game of soaking up water from the tray and carrying it over to a little wading pool to squeeze out into a swirling black liquid mess, which they were mesmerized with for the rest of the afternoon.

Have you or you kids accidentally created something beautiful out of what you thought was just a mess?  Check out these ideas from the Quirky Mommas:

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About Chrissy

Chrissy shares play & learning activities for toddlers and preschoolers, baking & craft ideas for parents, and her unconventional parenting thoughts at The Outlaw Mom (TM) Blog. You can also find her debating about work-life balance at The Verdict and turning traditional thoughts on their head at Think Inside The Box.