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Science Experiments for Kids With Food Dye & Colored Markers

by Erica Loop, studioD

If you think that science is the stuff of college courses, think again. Your preschooler is more than ready to stretch her scientist's wings and start refining her inquiry skills with fun-filled experiments that feature food dye and colored markers. While these vibrant artsy favorites are ideal for crafting, your little learner can also use them for exploring the science of color, life sciences and more.


While learning is primary when doing science lessons with your child, safety is something that is definitely key. Although most food dyes and colored markers are fairly child safe, take precautions to make sure that there are no risks involved during the experimentation process. Always supervise your child at all times and instruct him never to put anything in his mouth. Also, only use materials that are clearly labeled non-toxic. Make sure that the markers have the Art and Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) certification seal that says they are non-toxic and safe to use.

Color Science

Set up a science experiment that allows your young scientist to explore what happens when one color mixes with another. Ask your child to make predictions before starting the exploration. Use "What will happen if...?" phrasing. Ask her, "What will happen if you mix yellow and blue together?" Fill three clear plastic cups halfway with water. Help your child to add two or three drops of food dye in each cup, making one red, one blue and one yellow. Add a second color to each of the cups to see what will happen. As an alternative, try using wet paper and markers. Wet a piece of white construction paper. Draw a line with a red marker, then add a yellow line over it to make orange. Continue creating new colors.

Color Flower Experiments

Have you ever seen a neon orange or kelly green flower? If these shades don't sound like they come from nature, you are correct. Show your child how plants absorb and use water -- one of their main nutrients -- by trying a color dye experiment. Fill a glass with water. Add a few drops of food dye to the water. If you don't have food dye, rest a colored marker in the water and allow the ink to bleed into the liquid. Place a cut white carnation in the water and watch as the color creeps into the petals. Ask your child to explain how he thinks the color got from the water to the flower.

Oil and Water

Test the chemical properties of oil and water with your little learner, adding an extra layer of educational excitement with a color activity. Add a few drops of food coloring to a shallow bowl of water. Pour in a tablespoon of cooking oil. Ask your child to tell you what she sees happening. Does the oil mix with the colored water or stay its own color? Give her a spoon and have her stir up the mixture to see if it comes together. Pour the mix, or make a new one, into a clear glass container such as a tomato sauce jar. Put the lid on the jar, shake it up and observe to see if the color and oil will mingle together.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

  • Visage/Stockbyte/Getty Images