Colour Concoctions with Coloured Water!

 We explored colour mixing with coloured water concoctions on kitchen towels! They learnt about colours and made beautiful tie-dye patterns on the papers as a by-product, which are little art works in their own right.

We put about 1-2 cm of red, yellow and blue liquid food colouring into 3 separate jars, then filled to the top with water to dilute them. This turned them into our own version of liquid watercolours! [In the UK I have yet to find liquid watercolours that I see written about on US blogs. This seems to work well as an alternative!]

I set the paints up outside on our outdoor chalkboard table, on top of some sheets of kitchen towel. I added 2 turkey basters (found in a local hardware shop) and left them to it!

It took Pop a few attempts to work out how to squeeze the end to suck up the paint and when she mastered it she was really pleased with herself! First of all they spent a long time just sucking up the colours and splashing them out on the towels, enjoying the joy of that process.
 Slowly, Cakie started to notice that the colours changed when placed together, and then the fun and learning extended!

Oh wow! The yellow and the blue mix to make green!

The yellow and the red make orange!

I found some extra jars and she tried combining the paints within them and loved guessing what might happen before she did it.

Beautiful colours mid-transformation!

Pop made copious amounts of purple, in a variety of shades! I had to keep replacing the kitchen towel every 5 minutes as it became so water logged, but they wanted to keep on going. I hung them out to dry and amazingly they didn’t break (these are supermarket economy ones!)

I absolutely love the effects of the mixed colours on the paper! This blue one above, with dandelions added by Cakie looks like a work of art to me.

As they dried they resemble tie-dye and looked gorgeous with their range of cool and warm hues. It provided a nice opportunity to go back and talk about what we did and what colours they were able to create, by examining the finished “art work.”

Now if only we could think of something to do with them!

Learning Links:

  • creativity: exploring colour mixing, talking about warm and cool colours, discussing shade and tone, creating art on a large scale
  • physical: using small hand muscles to squeeze and release, hand-eye coordination
  • knowledge & understanding of the world: making predictions about what colours would be made, combining liquids, dilution
Cakie: 3 years 7 months
Pop: 2 years 1 month
Bean: 11 weeks


  1. Anonymous says

    It’s also fun to fold the
    napkins and dip the corners in and then open them carefully. They have a lovely pattern.xx
    Faith Murray

  2. Anonymous says

    They look beautiful. Have u tried brusho in water for liquid watercolours? They look like they are crying out to be made into a string of flowers to me …

    • Anonymous says

      I use brusho in school and assumed your teaching days would have exposed you to it!!!! It is like course powder that you can either mix with water (and appears to me a non expert like liquid watercolour) or you can wet the paper and sprinkle it on and it makes FAB pictures. I’ll let you know if I have a pot laying around and send you some!! x

  3. says

    This is great – I haven’t found the liquid water colours either (I bet someone will find them on Amazon if we ask like the water beads :D). So turkey basters how do I go about using them. I’m seeing them in loads of activities and understand about the hand muscles using the pre-writing grip but what sort of activities would you recommend

    • says

      I’ve checked Amazon and ebay but still no luck! I think Indian Ink is the closest thing, and it’s glorious. Need to stock up on some! The turkey basters I think are really just for water play. My girls LOVE them in the bath for sucking up water and squirting it at each other!

    • says

      Brusho which people are mentioning above are great – we have some powder ones and a tiny bit of powder turns it into a brilliant vibrant water colour but you can use them in the powder form as well. I use them in my own canvases as well. I will have to find some turkey basters (should have stocked up at Christmas!) they sound loads of fun.

  4. says

    Ah lovely. We made some tie-dyed paper towel fabric last summer. Once dry, they were made into dresses for dolls, as I recall. Thank goodness for the super-strength variety!

  5. says

    Easy ways to make liquid watercolors are to take dry block water colors crush them and put them in water let it soak overnight. Or take washable markers like crayola markers and soak them in water overnight.

    Another alternative not sure if you have it in the uk but koolaid or powdered drink mix tthe kind without sugar added add 1tbs water per packet it makes scratch and sniff paintings.

    Looks like you guys had a lot of fun. I love your blog you have so many fantastic ideas

  6. says

    I just love the look on Pop’s face as she is trying to figure out how to work the turkey baster. We have used them for playing, and it took my daughter awhile to figure out how to use it too.

  7. says

    I ADORE THIS! Will try! I try not to use paper towels, so maybe I will try it on some recycled/re-used papers – going green one step at a time!

  8. says

    I think I would take a clothes pin and turn them into butterflies! :) Or save and use as wrapping paper. My kids thought it was so cool to unwrap their birthday presents in paper they designed…they even were bragging telling their friends.

  9. Anonymous says

    Try blowning bubbles with a straw, then .touching bubbles with paper. Let dry then use to makes cards from the kids. Also can use watered down tempura paints.