Learning at Home: Messy Art Play Activity

Mom and kid fingerpainting

What You Need

  • Water
  • Clear or white plastic cups or bowls
  • Cooking oil and food dye
  • Eyedropper
  • Paintbrush (the bigger, the better)
  • Sturdy paper plates
  • Solid-colored paper
  • Newspaper or craft tablecloth

How to Do this Activity

First, cover your table with newspaper or a craft tablecloth.

Explain the various materials to your child, and experiment together to find out what happens when you mix food dye with water. Then, add oil. Have your child use the eyedropper to take some of the mixture from the cup or bowl and put one drop onto a paper plate. Ask her to brush the drop with the paintbrush — the color should move around, with the oil/water mixture gliding over the plate.

What Your Child Learns

Through this activity, your child observes how oil, water, and dye interact. She might notice that the oil and water do not blend together, nor do they have exactly the same consistency. Use these observations to spark an "I wonder" mindset. "Why does the oil feel slippery?" or "Why does the water stay separate from the oil?" Dig deeper by exploring other liquids.

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About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
Mom and kid fingerpainting