Reuse Markers to Create Liquid Watercolors

What You Need:

  • Markers
  • Jars with their lids
  • Water
  • Large measuring cup
  • Paintbrushes
  • Paper for painting
  • Labels for the jars (optional)

What You Do:

  1. Gather your markers and ask your learner to separate them by color.
  2. Have your child place the markers tip-down into jars by color, ensuring that the marker tips are inside the jar. Use larger jars for the colors that have more markers.
  3. Have your child use a measuring cup with a spout to pour water into each of the jars. Add more or less water depending on how concentrated you want the color to be.
  4. Ask your child to observe how the ink seeps from the markers and diffuses throughout the water. Ask them, “What are you noticing? What’s happening to the water? Is the color of the water what you expected?”
  5. Leave the markers soaking overnight. The next day, ask your child to carefully stir the liquid with the markers and to make observations about what they see. After a night of soaking, the color should be completely diffused throughout the water. Ask your child, “What’s happening to the water? What do you notice is on the bottom?” Sometimes, the ink will sink to the bottom, depending on how many markers are in the jar.         
  6. Have your child paint a picture using the liquid watercolor paint. As your child paints, have them make observations about the watercolor paint. Ask them:
    • Are the colors as dark or vibrant as you imagined they would be?
    • Are there colors you wish you had?
    • Are there colors we can mix to make a new color?
    • How is the watercolor paint the same or different from the paint you usually use?
  7. Have your child label the jars, listing the color and making sure to write that it is watercolor paint. This label will help prevent accidental ingestion.
  8. Store leftover liquid paint at room temperature in the same jars you used for the activity. Firmly place the lid on each jar to keep the paint fresh and prevent spillage.

This activity is great for teaching your children to reuse as many materials as they can. Upcycling is often good for the environment, and it shows children that they be resourceful with different materials. If you’re ever in a pinch and want to add interest to your child’s art projects, this activity offers a colorful, thoughtful touch.

Note: Just as drawing with markers can leave some staining, this liquid watercolor can stain clothes.

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