Homemade Henna Ink Activity

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Updated on Sep 26, 2013

Henna, the art of drawing on the skin with a semi-permanent ink made from the henna plant, has been a tradition in African and Asian countries for centuries. People decorate themselves with henna “tattoos” to celebrate holidays, festivals, weddings and other life events, but nowadays is often used for cosmetic purposes as well. In this activity, your child can learn how to make her own homemade henna ink and create designs for beautiful body art!

What You Need:

  • ¼ cup henna powder (available at Middle Eastern/Indian grocers or beauty supply stores)
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup brewed coffee or tea
  • 1 teaspoon eucalyptus or tea tree oil
  • Plastic bowl and spoon
  • Plastic wrap
  • Frosting applicator
  • Fine-tipped paintbrush

What You Do:

  1. Have your child measure ¼ cup henna powder into the bowl. She should smash any clumps with her spoon. If the powder is too lumpy, help her sift the powder until it becomes finer.
  2. Next. she can pour in ¼ cup lemon juice and stir. 
  3. Have her measure and add ¼ teaspoon of eucalyptus or tea tree oil. She can add ¼ cup or less of brewed coffee or dark tea as needed. The end result should have the consistency of toothpaste.
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit for 6 hours, but not too much longer so it doesn’t get hard.
  5. Next she can apply the henna ink! Have her wash and dry her skin first. Keep henna away from clothes as it will stain. Have her spoon the mixture into a frosting applicator, or turn a sandwich bag inside-out and snip a tiny hole in one corner to make a pastry bag. Let her carefully pipe a picture or abstract design on her arm or leg. She can also use a fine-tipped paintbrush to draw the designs. 
  6. Once she’s done, she can lightly brush away any dry flakes to leave behind a smoother design. Let the design dry, and it is okay if cracks appear when drying. Result: henna happiness!

(NOTE: Some homemade henna ink mixtures leave behind a design in a brown/green tint rather than the usual reddish brown color seen at fair and festival henna booths. Your results may vary depending on your ingredients!)

Beth Levin has an M.A. in Curriculum and Education from Columbia University Teachers College. She has written educational activities for Macmillan/McGraw-Hill and Renaissance Learning publishers. She has a substitute teaching credential for grades K-12 in Oregon, where she lives with her husband and two daughters.