Water Color Racing

This lesson developed by Reach Out!
Recommended Ages: Preschool and Early Elementary


Can you make colors run?

What You Need

  1. Coffee filters or dense paper towels
  2. Scissors
  3. Food coloring
  4. Nuts or bolts
  5. Duct tape
  6. Ruler
  7. Wax paper
  8. Quart sized clear glass jar
  9. Pitcher or glass
  10. Water

What You Do

  1. Cut 3 strips out of your coffee filters or paper toweling. Make them about and inch thick and about eight inches long.

  2. Put a piece of wax paper on the table or counter top.

  3. Tape a bolt or nut on the bottom of each strip. This is like an anchor or a weight to hold the strip down in the jar when we pour water on them.

  4. Lay the strips on the wax paper. Put a drop of green food coloring on the bottom of one strip; put a drop of red food coloring on another strip; and put a drop of blue food coloring on the last strip. The drops should be above the weights you taped on the strips.

  5. Drape each strip into the glass container. Tape the top of the strips to the top of the jar so they don't slip or move around.

  6. Put some water into a pitcher or glass.

  7. Pour water from the pitcher or glass into the container with the strips. Only put in enough water to just cover the weights.

  8. Watch what happens. What do you see happening to the food coloring? What direction does the coloring seem to go in? Why? Does one color of food coloring go faster than the others? Why?

What Is Happening

The coffee filter or paper toweling strips are absorbing water. The liquid food coloring moves along with the water being absorbed. The strips are absorbing the water from the bottom of the container- then it seems to move up. Can you explain why?