Monday, 26 August 2013

milk magic - when science and art collide

It was a cosy and rainy day around the house so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to do a little activity with the kids. Now don't be thinking I do this kind of activity every day or anything!! But sometimes time and energy and creativity collide and this was just one of those special occasions ;)

I had seen a friend post some pics of 'milk colour swirling' paintings she had done with her kiddos on Facebook  - mixing food colouring in milk with straws then dipping paper into it to make prints - I remember doing this when little! So I had tucked that neatly up my sleeve to do with the kids 'someday'.  When I googled it to see if I needed to do it any way in particular, I came across this awesome blog/idea which took milk painting to a whole new awesome level - and made it a bit of a science experiment too!!!

According to this nifty little blog, you could dip a toothpick into dishwashing liquid then into the milk, and somehow magically it would disperse the colours around it. I didn't even understand how that could work but was keen to try it out....

I gathered two eager little ducklings (whilst the littlest ducky was napping) and a few supplies. I love when you spontaneously do something fun with the kids and with no planning it all, it takes just two minutes to gather the supplies from around the house. It sure does not always go so smoothly but lovely when it does! Seriously - you can try this yourself and it's so easy because you probably have everything you need right in your kitchen and cupboards!

What you need: A couple of roasting (deep sided) oven trays, food colouring, toothpicks, straws, dishwashing detergent and paper (thick is good). Note the eager little hands!
Oh I just realised I fogot to list and photograph the major ingredient - MILK!!!! (Whole is best).

Lily and Eli were so excited to try out our experiment/art project! And I took a lot of photos 'cos it was just all so preeeeeeeeeetty :)

We poured about a centremetre of milk in the trays. A few drops of colour (the kids chose what they wanted) and then
they opted for some straws to disperse the colour....

But then we decided to try out this crazy toothpick idea! The kids dipped the tip of a toothpick into a little ramekin of dishwashing detergent and then dipped the toothpick into the midst of their milk and food colouring drops. To be honest I really wasn't sure what would happen or if it would really work but lo and behold to our absolute wonder and amazement.....

Cool, huh? Within seconds, the colour would start radiating out. Lots of 'ooohs' and 'aaaahs' were heard!

The technical explanation is 'The reaction of the soap disrupts the surface tension of the milk causing the colors to radiate away from the toothpick'. It is such a great mix of art, science and fun!! The kids loved 'experimenting' and I was pretty much mesmerised by the pretty swirling colours and was actually itching to do it myself (must get my own tray next time!!). 

Now enjoy some more pretty :)

Why not just drop the toothpick in, thinks Scientist/Artist Lily

Bubble blowing time

Once the milk got super murky, I gave them a fresh tray. All up we probably spent 45 lovely minutes with two trays of milk for each kid. So it didn't use up too much milk. However, I was kicking myself for tossing over a litre of souring milk just days before... this would be a great way of using it!!

Scientist Eli decided to try the syringes....

For her second tray, Lily only wanted 'a drop' of Milk so she could have fun dripping it around. Although I assemble
the activity and can't help but present some ideas, I *try* and let them follow their own creative path for
the most part. Is is when I step back I really see their imagination unleash with all sorts of ideas and experiments!

The only 'failed' bit of the activity was when we tried to do prints. I don't know what went wrong but we just ended up
with vague coloured smears on the paper, though I tried to dip quickly and carefully! I didn't actually look up how to do this part so maybe I missed some essential element as I have seen kids do very clear prints before. Anyone got tips? Anyway, no big deal, we had fun doing everything else!

Let's focus back on the pretty colours :)

A super fun, easy, creative, beautiful scientific experiment -  yup, let's call that a successful rainy day activity!


  1. hey this is gorgeous and easy!! can't wait to give it a try. thanks for the awesome photos to help me along :)

  2. it's a so good activity!!! thanks for sharing

    1. my pleasure - we had such a fun time w it, hope you do too :)

  3. Do you have to use milk? Would water do? I remember doing something like this at school. I think it was water and a special kind of paint, maybe oil based?

    1. Hey Tuli... Hmmm I am no scientist BUT I would think you do need to use milk for this one (and full cream is best) because I am pretty sure its the detergents contact w the fat in the milk that causes the reaction, so water wouldnt really cut it (maybe water and oily paint would work, but i dont think water and detergent would). I did cringe at the 'waste' of the milk but tried to just use minimal amount. Good way to use up expring milk perhaps?? :) xx

  4. I love this! Thanks for sharing Kate - we'll give this one a try!
    I had little luck with bubble printing onto paper when we did it too... maybe the type of colouring/paint people are using? I'm going to give this a shot and let you know how I go! :)

  5. What fun!!! Next time we have milk about to go off I'm definitely going to do this with the boys, thanks for sharing!!

  6. Wow! What an awesome activity. My kids would love this :)


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