Fun chromatography craft for kids

Fun chromatography craft for kids
Reading Time: 3 minutes

This fun chromatography craft for kids is ideal for those ‘I’m bored’ moments over the summer holidays or if you’re stuck inside on a rainy day and are looking for indoor activities for kids. Through making these simple colourful paper flowers using coffee filters and washable markers, children also get to practise fine motor skills, so gather up a few supplies from around your home and let’s get started!

What is chromatography?

Chromatography is the science of separating mixtures, which are in gas or liquid form, by letting them climb slowly past another substance, which is typically a liquid or solid. With the washable markers and coffee filter trick, we have a liquid (the washable ink) dissolving in water climbing over the surface of a solid (the coffee filter paper). Capillary action makes the water travel up the coffee filter paper where it meets and dissolves the ink, and the dissolved ink slowly travels up the paper. Scientists use chromatography techniques in labs to observe mixtures and solvents when testing food and drinks, forensic testing and even developing vaccines. Pretty cool!

You’ll need:

  • Washable markers
  • Coffee filters
  • Cups of water
  • Paper plates and kitchen roll
  • Straws
  • Tape
Art supplies needed to make coffee filter paper flowers activity to show chromatography

Do this activity:
Place a paper plate on a table and a coffee filter on top (this is to avoid the marker ink seeping through onto the table surface). Choose one marker or more per coffee filter. Because your child will be dipping the centre of the filter in water, encourage your child to draw a circle around the edge of the fold where the crease meets the centre. There are no rules on where to colour so let your child get creative because part of the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths) process is letting young minds adventure through the materials given to them at hand.

Folding a paper coffee filter into a half, quarter, eights, and sixteenths in Learning Resources fun chromatography craft for kids also shows fractions

Fold the coffee filter in half, a quarter, an eight and a sixteenth (you just worked in a quick lesson on fractions!).

Coffee filter tip placed in in a shallow bowl of water for Learning Resources fun chromatography craft for kids

Dip the tip of the cone into water and allow the filter to absorb water and watch as it flows up the paper. Avoid immersing the filter as it needs to be damp enough for the colour to run upwards, but if it gets too wet, the filter will go soggy. Try this with different colours – your child could even mix colours.

Two round filter papers placed on kitchen roll for Learning Resources easy STEAM chromatography craft science experiment for kids

Once the colour has seeped up to the outer edges of the filter, carefully flatten the filters and place those on a sheet of kitchen roll to dry.

To make the coffee filter paper flowers, pinch the filter to bunch the petals

Make the flowers
Once dry, pinch together the centre of the filter to bunch up the filter into a flower shape. (PS. This action doubles as a fine motor skills activity.)

Fasten the dried coffee filter paper to a straw to finish off the chromatography STEAM experiment for kids

Secure the flower to a straw using a piece of tape. Pop in a vase for everyone to see!

A vase of flowers made using coffee filter papers and washable markers to show kids basic chromatography science

Tip: For another quick and easy chromatography science experiment idea for kids, watch TheDadLab’s video on how to make art with science using kitchen roll and washable markers.

For more fun activities, check out our easy science experiments for kids. Keep checking in with us because there’s lots more Summer Camp learning through play coming your way.

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