I am so excited to take part in Camp PBS Parents again this year ! Last year we had lots of fun with nonstandard measuring and drawing with rocks!

Today, I want to share this walking water experiment—which I’ve wanted to with my kids for ages. I’ve tried it a little bit here and there without much success. This time we made sure to find out what wasn’t working and why.

Of course, we added in a little learning into the fun by mixing colors in the process! My kids were super excited to see what colors we would make.

What You’ll Need:

  • paper towels, the cheaper, less absorbent the better; toilet paper works too.
  • 3 clear jars or glasses.
  • water
  • food coloring (use two primary colors to learn about color mixing)

How to Set Up:

Fill two of the jars full with water.  Add in food coloring to each jar. We added red and blue.

Fold a paper towel in half multiple times to make a long skinny strip (about an inch or so wide).

Dip one end of the paper towel strip into the jar filled with colored water and lay it over the edge of the jar and placed to drip into the jar that’s still empty.

Set up a walking water experiment for the kids

I learned from Megan of Coffee Cups and Crayons the perfect solution for a walking water experiment. The absorbency of the paper towel plays a major factor in how long it takes. Her solution takes a couple of minutes for the water creeping its way over to the empty jar.

A walking water experiment for the kids to explore mixing colors!

My solution, on the other hand, took 20 minutes for the water to travel to the top of the first jar and well over an hour to see any drips into the empty jar.

A walking water experiment for the kids to explore mixing colors!

We eventually tried toilet paper and had some better luck with it. The water walked much faster than with the paper towels, but still not nearly as fast as Megan’s did. The absorbency of the paper plays a big part.

A walking water experiment for the kids to explore mixing colors! (Plus tips to make it work!)

The boys were shocked when we came back later that day to check on the progress. The water had completely mixed into the middle jar! What color did red and blue create? Purple!

Walking water experiment

Tips for Making Water Walk Faster:

  • At first we tried ripping the towels into strips, but it didn’t soak up nearly as fast.
  • Fill the jars as full as possible.  The water will not have to move up as much before letting gravity do its job.
  • Use thinner, cheaper paper towels. The less the paper towels absorb, the better.
  • Prop up the filled jars on books to make them higher than the destination jar. Gravity will help move it along faster.

More Adventures in Learning:

About Jamie Reimer

Jamie Reimer

Jamie learned to be a hands on mom by creating activities, crafts and art projects for her three boys to do and shares them on hands on : as we grow. Jamie takes the creative outlet as a way to get through the early years of parenting with a smile!

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  • Ellie

    Nice traditional science experiment, but be sure to explain the science of WHY water moves this way. This process is called ‘capillary action’, the water uses this process to move along the tiny gaps in the fibre of the paper towels. It occurs due to the adhesive force between the water and the paper towel being stronger than the cohesive forces inside the water itself. This process can also be seen in plants where moisture travels from the roots to the rest of the plant.