Colorful Sharpie Tie-Dye Science
With a few simple materials on hand and Sharpie® markers, kids can turn scraps of fabric or plastic into works of art. Sharpie Tie-Dye is a great way to add colorful and creative STEM to the holidays and winter break.
Pairing science, technology, engineering, and math exploration with creative hands-on projects and activities is a great way to get kids excited about STEM, even if the project is presented simply as a fun "to do" craft or family activity. Using permanent markers, like Sharpie®, and alcohol, kids can create cool tie-dyed projects. From canvas shoes or bags to t-shirts to pieces of plastic or ceramic, kids can make colorful works of art and learn more about chemistry and solubility at the same time.
As a STEM activity, families can use the basic Sharpie tie-dye procedure and explore different variables as part of the process of understanding and perfecting the technique. This project requires familiar materials and is a relatively low-mess alternative to traditional tie-dying. Can you get the same kinds of patterns and designs with Sharpie tie-dye? Watch what happens when alcohol is added to colored circles of permanent marker ink. How does the ink spread? Does it always spread the same way? How can you use what you observe to create new designs—or to get the designs you envision?
Science Buddies' STEM Activity: Make Tie-Dye T-shirts with Permanent Markers guided family science activity helps kids understand the science behind the process of Sharpie tie-dye by putting a simple question to a hands-on test—will Sharpie tie-dye work the same with water as with alcohol? Why or why not? (A version of this activity is also available on the Scientific American site.)
Once you have explored basic STEM questions, you and your kids can move on to examining other variables. For example, does the type of fabric matter? Does the type of alcohol matter? How does the process work with non-fabric materials like glass, ceramic, or even plastic?
Kids who love tie-dye projects may also enjoy these Science Buddies STEM projects and activities:
- How to Make the Boldest, Brightest Tie-Dye!
- Dye Eggs Using Silk Ties for Egg-cellent Colors
- Staining Science: Make the Boldest, Brightest Dye!
- Weekly Science Project Idea/Home Science Activity Spotlight: Tie Dye
- Tie-Dye Using Permanent Markers: Weekly Science Activity
- STEM Activity: Dye Eggs Using Silk Ties for Egg-cellent Colors
For other great ideas for science activities you and your kids can do at home over winter break (or any time!), see the following:
- Paper Circuits Bring Light to Seasonal Greetings
- A Geodesic Dome for the Season
- Fun Science Picks for Winter Break
- Build a BlueBot Over Break
- Science and Engineering Activities for the Winter Break (Or Any Time!)