There is something magical about the way water beads on waxy surfaces.
Add a little colour to the water and you’ve got a cool science meets art activity!
Surface tensions is not easy to explain to kids, but it is easy to show them!
There are loads of great surface tension experiments and activities you can do with your kids, but this one includes some ideas about absorption as well as some a bit of colour and some art!
To do this water drop printing activity you’ll need the following:
- A nice flat surface to work on.
- Water mixed with liquid water colours or food dye.
- An eye dropper or pippette for each colour.
- Some wax paper
- Some water colour paper, or other thick absorbent paper.
- Somewhere flat to dry your artwork.
- A smock or apron.
We put our wax paper on a tray to help contain the mess. This activity is not too messy, but clean up is much easier when you can wash a tray instead of the whole table!
We used liquid water colours diluted about half/half with water to get nice strong colours, and plastic pipettes similar to these ones (affiliate link).
The process for this activity is easy – drop small amounts of liquid onto the wax paper and see what happens.
The wax paper doesn’t absorb the liquid so it beads and forms little droplets of colour.
Carefully add more liquid onto a droplet and watch how it grows. The surface tension makes the water into a dome shape as the water molecules at the surface of the droplet have more attraction to each other than they do to the air molecules, so they try to stick together for as long as possible.
Eventually you will add too many drops, the surface tension will lessen, and the dome will spill over, taking up more space on the wax paper.
Once you’ve had fun experimenting with surface tension and the wax paper is covered in coloured droplets, now you can make a print.
This time using absorbant paper (we used water colour paper, but it would be fun to try coffee filters, or paper towel too), carefully place the paper on top the water droplets. Give it a little time for the paper to absorb the liquid, then lift it off to see the print.
We had as much fun dropping the colours onto the wax paper and watching what happened as we did making prints from it.
My kids love it when art and science collide!
We made a quick video of the whole process too..
For more fun with surface tension try one of these activities and experiements:
Super Simple Surface Tension from Science Sparks.
Exploring Surface Tension from Buggy and Buddy.
Testing the Surface Tension of Liquids from Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls
Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:
We enjoyed this! It kept both the 12 y.o. and the 8 y.o. engaged. They listened to an audiobook and experimented with swirls and zigzags of dots. Thank you for a great activity.
Annemarie Dewey says
Thank you so much, Kate! This is a great site. This and several other activities have made my day. I can do them immediately with my pre-K special ed boys. They will love them!