Get Your Hippie Tie Dye Kid Style- Exploding Color T-shirts

My boys are big fans of experiments.  I have a whole shelf in the pantry dedicated to housing ingredients for experiments.  But I felt like we were doing the same old things.  I needed some new ideas, so I ordered a couple of kid-friendly science books.  One that I love is called Tinkerlab:  A Hands on Guide for Little Inventors by Rachelle Doorley.

We’ve tried a lot of the ideas in this book with good results on most.  But my new favorite is color exploding t-shirts.  It’s easy, inexpensive and yields very cool results.  You need a white t-shirt (I found ours online for less than $2 per shirt), permanent markers, a piece of cardboard large enough to fit inside the shirt, rubbing alcohol, and an eye dropper.

The first step is to draw a picture or pattern on the t-shirt.  I explained to my boys that the colors would burst, so to draw something that might look good upon expansion- stars, flowers, fireworks, etc.  My youngest son made a random pattern.  My oldest drew lava, which was perfect.  We used a variety of permanent markers- some from the $1, Sharpies, and Bic.  The Bic maintained the brightest color upon washing.  The dollar store variety retained the least.  But all the markers worked.

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Second step is to use the eyedropper to place the alcohol on the shirt.  This is where the color starts to expand.  The more dropper you put, the greater the expansion.  Play with where you drop the liquid- what happens if you do it on the side as opposed to the center of the line?

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Last, dry, wash and wear!

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I made an example shirt for a class I’m teaching thinking I would never wear it afterwards.  But it actually turned into a cool t-dye tank, perfect for working out or as a swimsuit coverup.


You can take it a step further and discuss the science behind the spreading ink.  Don’t worry- if you’re not sure how it works, Steve Spangler has you covered.


2 thoughts on “Get Your Hippie Tie Dye Kid Style- Exploding Color T-shirts

  1. Wow! So fun. This is one of my favorite activities. So easy, so creative and so much science. Thank you for sharing it and giving us some link love back. We will share this on our Pinterest boards.


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