On Father’s Day Weekend, my preschooler and I were busy filling up ice cube trays with food coloring and water and made a few spills. After mopping up our mess with some paper towels, we realized that we accidentally had come upon a beautiful paper towel tie-dye art activity. Don’t worry if you don’t have a fancy paint tray; we used a chip-and-dip tray we found in the Target $1 bins. You could also just put together a bunch of bowls from your kitchen. This activity is as easy as dip, scrunch, and unroll!


  • paper towels
  • water
  • food coloring
  • a watercolor tray or other holder for the colors


  1. Dip your paper towel in one color, and then dip and dip again into the colors of your choosing.
  2. Squeeze out all the excess water and unravel your striking masterpieces!

dip squeeze unwrap

This was a great opportunity to continue talking about the concepts of absorption and color mixing, which we've been doing lately. We noticed that the colored water seeped into the paper towels just like it did into the celery stalks of our Celery Capillary Action Experiment, and that we could squeeze out color from the towels just like we did with the sponges in our Sponge Painting Art Activity.

Since we used high-quality towels, the kids could keep dipping and squeezing over and over again. They made a game of soaking up water from the tray and carrying it over to a little wading pool to squeeze out into a swirling black liquid mess, which they were mesmerized with for the rest of the afternoon.

Chrissy Watson is a mother of two seeking the mindful life in Silicon Valley. She shares children's activities that encourage learning through play, baking, and craft ideas, and her journey discovering (and breaking) the laws of motherhood at The Outlaw Mom (TM) Blog. You can also find her debating about work-life balance at The Verdict and turning traditional thoughts on their head at Think Inside the Box.

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