Let’s get groovy and make some fun tie dye shirts while learning about the fun and interesting history of tie dye! Kids of all ages will love making their own tie dye shirts that they can wear. This tie dye activity can be done at home or in the class room, both inside or outside. It’s a great activity for kids who love DIY, color, being creative, or learning fun history! Learn all about the super interesting history of tie dye while making your shirt.

History for Kids: Fun Tie Dye Activity finished tie dyed t shirt on white shirt hanger on light gray wall background-Kids Activities Blog
Lets make some fun tie dyed shirts!

Did you know that the art of tie dye didn’t originate in the 1960s with the hippies? The art of tie dye is hundreds of years old, crazy, right! Check out the end of this article to learn about the history of tie dye!

Fun History of Tie dye ACTIVITY for kids

Lets make some tie dye shirts and learn all about the historical origins of tie dye! What colors will you use in your tie dye shirt? Let us know in the comments!

This article contains affiliate links.

supplies Needed to tie dye

History for Kids: Fun Tie Dye Activity tie dye supplies tie dye kit white t shirt clear gloves and white rubber bands on brown wooden floor background - Kids Activities Blog
You will need a tie dye kit, rubber bands, gloves, white t-shirt, craft clothes, and an area that is easily cleaned.

try natural or homemade dyes

Want to go for a natural, no-chemicals approach to tie dye? Well you’re in luck! When tie dye first came to be natural dyes were always used to dye the fabric item. Natural dyes made from plant matter, like indigo, were common, so here are a few alternatives you could make!

Want to learn more about how natural dyes were used to make tie dye? Check out the end of this article!

steps to tie dye a shirt

Step 1

Gather your supplies together and prepare your area. You will want to do this activity outside or using your bathtub. If you’re worried about a mess, you can lay down some news papers to make clean up easy!

Step 2

Pick out what colors you want to use and prepare them according to package instructions. You can do the whole rainbow or just one color, whatever combination you’d like!

If you’re using natural dyes, make sure you prepare them ahead of time.

Step 3

History for Kids: Fun Tie Dye Activity white t shirt on brown wooden floor background- Kids Activities Blog
Lay your t-shirt flat on the ground.

Lay your white t-shirt or other fabric item out flat on the ground. It’s ok if there are a few wrinkles.

Step 4

Pinch the center of your shirt and twist it into a tight spiral/circle.

Step 5

History for Kids: Fun Tie Dye Activity white t shirt balled up into a spiral pattern secured with white rubber bands on brown wooden floor background - Kids Activities Blog
Use rubber bands to hold the spiral in place and divide your shirt.

Use your rubber bands to hold the spiral in place and divide the shirt into several sections.

Step 6

Set your prepared shirt in your bathtub or outdoor area.

Step 7

History for Kids: Fun Tie Dye Activity  t shirt balled up into a spiral pattern secured with white rubber bands dyed rainbow colors in white bathtub background- Kids Activities Blog
What colors did you use for your tie dye shirt project?

Grab your prepared dyes and start dying your shirt. I did mine in a rainbow order, but you can do any colors you want! What colors will you choose?

Step 8

After you’re finished dying the tie dye, let it sit for anywhere from eight to twenty-four hours.

Step 9

After your tie dyed shirt sits, rinse it out well. Once rinsed, put your shirt by itself in the washer set to cold and colors. After it’s washed, let it air dry.

Step 10

After your tie dye shirt is dyed, it’s ready to wear! Just make sure the first couple times you wear it, you wash it by itself!

Finished tie dyed shirt

History for Kids: Fun Tie Dye Activity finished tie dyed t shirt on white shirt hanger on light gray wall background-Kids Activities Blog
How groovy is this tie Dye shirt?

This tie dye shirt looks groovy, man! How did your tie dye shirt come out? Let us know in the comments!

tips for tie dying your clothes

  • Lay out newspapers or a tarp where you’re going to tie dye your shirt so cleaning up is easier.
  • Do this activity outside for some summer fun!
  • Use any combination of colors to make your tie dye items
  • Tie dye any item you’d like for ultimate customization!
  • Try different methods of tying your shirt or other clothing items to get some cool, new designs! Here’s a guide: Tie-Dye Techniques for All Skill Levels

my experience with this ACTIVITY

I had this craft planned for a while, so I was super excited to finally work on it! Even though I mostly wear dark colors, I love tie dye. It is one of my favorite types of clothing, so of course I wanted to make an activity based on it!

history of tie dye

When you think of tie dye you tend to think of the hippies during the 1960s wearing a tie dyed shirt with some bell bottom jeans and a pair of cool looking sun glasses. However, the 1960s is not where tie dye began! The art of tie dye is incredibly old and some of the oldest known practices are from South America, Asia, and Africa.

Let’s take a look at some of the places where tie dye originated!

Tie dye art throughout asia

One of the most famous examples of tie dye from Asia, is Japanese shibori, which originated in the 8th century. This method of fabric dying is a form of “resistance dying” where a section of the fabric is blocked off from the dye in some way. In shibori the fabric is tied off into different patterns, like a spider web pattern, and then it is dyed.

In Indonesia, though, a method of tie dying called  jumputan is practiced. This method involves a similar process of binding the fabric before dying it, but sometimes sections of the fabric will be covered with batik wax designs to create more intricate designs.

Some other designs from China that use similar methods have been found as well. These methods are called Dali Bai nationality tie-dye since it is practiced by the Dali Bai people.


In regions of West Africa tie dye and various methods of it have been historically prevalent. In the Hausa region large indigo, which is a type of plant that is used for dying, dye pits are used to dye clothing. From there the clothing is embroidered with traditional patterns, and is then worn.

In Nigeria, other methods of resist dying are used as well.

Video: Tie Dye in Gambia video

How 1,000-Year-Old Tie-Dye Designs Are Made in Gambia

Check out this super interesting and educational video about the historic art of tie dye in Gambia by Business Insider! What was your favorite part of the video?

The western world and tie dye

Tie dye would be brought to the western world, namely the United States, through trade and imitations of other clothing dye styles. Around the early 20th century tie dye would become popular in the United States in an attempt to mimmic French fashion. However, tie dye would come to symbolize counter-culture in the United States. It’s vibrant rainbow colors were a stark contrast the the more monochrome and uniform styles of American fashion of the time.

Notably, in the 1960s tie dye would become extremely popular with the rise of the hippie subculture. It was popularized by musicians like Janis Joplin who wore it at the famous Woodstock 1969 music festival. From then on, tie dye would become a symbol of the hippies and counter culture movements in the United States.

want to learn more about tie dye?

Here are all the sources I used to help research and create this activity! If you want to learn more about tie dye and it’s long history, check out these sources!

Yield: one

Fun Tie Dye Activity

Fun Tie Dye Activity
Prep Time 15 minutes
Active Time 1 hour
Additional Time 12 hours 8 seconds
Total Time 13 hours 15 minutes 8 seconds
Estimated Cost $15-$20


  • - tie dye kit or natural dyes
  • - rubber bands
  • - bath tub or outside area
  • - tarp or newspapers


  1. Make your dyes
  2. lay shirt flat on the ground and pinch middle to spin it into a spiral.
  3. use rubber bands to hold in the spiral
  4. put shirt in tub and begin dying it
  5. let sit for 8 to 12 hours
  6. rinse out and wash on cold/color
  7. let air dry
  8. once dry, tie dye shirt is ready to wear

More fun DIY clothing activities from Kids ACTIVITIES BLOG

more fun history activities from Kids ACTIVITIES Blog


“The Art of Japanese Tie Dyeing.” YouTube, August 4, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYVgv4vK4BI.

Brooke, Eliza. “A Short Cultural History of Tie-Dye.” Vox, August 22, 2019. https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/8/22/20813844/tie-dye-history.

“How 1,000-Year-Old Tie-Dye Designs Are Made in Gambia | Still Standing | Insider Business.” YouTube, February 10, 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTqBrbOG3wQ.

“Techniques – Tiedye.” TieDyeYourSummer. Accessed April 10, 2024. https://www.tiedyeyoursummer.com/techniques.

“Tie-Dye.” Wikipedia, March 22, 2024. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tie-dye#:~:text=The%20earliest%20examples%20of%20tie,yellow%2C%20blue%2C%20and%20green.

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