Absorption and color mixing

This time I had an idea of the game first and while preparing understood that we can discuss some interesting and useful topics while playing. Water absorption and color mixing are two interesting and almost magical topics for kids, and this activity perfectly proves it.

Some parts of this activity should be prepared in advance!

What you need:

  1. A piece of cardboard
  2. Contact paper
  3. Glue
  4. Scissors

Various white, wooden, and transparent things like:

  1. Cotton balls
  2. Plastic bag
  3. Plastic lid from berries or spinach (something you want to dispose)
  4. White paper
  5. Paper towel
  6. Wrapping paper
  7. White pipe cleaners
  8. Popsicle sticks (I used mini)
  9. Wooden blocks (not necessary at all – they work similarly to #11)
  10. Colored water (I use water colored with food colors) or liquid watercolors
  11. Three glasses, jars, or any containers for #14
  12. Droppers


  1. Take a piece of cardboard, it can be one side of a cereal box. I used two sides of the Lego box this time.
  2. Glue contact paper to the cardboard using glue. Do not use sticky side of the paper! We need it later for the activity.
  3. Cut contact paper so that is fits the cardboard perfectly. (You can do it before gluing, depends on your preference)
  4. Make sure that glue is not coming from the sides and put under the press for some time.
  5. Gather all the necessary things #5-13, cut into pieces, and put on the table. I would not recommend to put colored water on the table yet, kid(s) would be distracted by it, wait until the first part of the activity would be finished.

Game process


I was preparing all the materials with kids in the same room. So, while doing that I started the discussion about absorption. I named the materials I had and asked the boys which of them would absorb the water. I also asked if there are some from which I will be able to easily wipe the water.


After that we tried to figure out why it happens. I told them about the molecules and that everything consists of them. If the molecules hold to each other very firmly (I showed it to them using my fists as an example), then they would not allow water to come in. But if the molecules have some space in between (I made little holes between my fingers), then water can come in and that is what absorption is. For 4 and almost 6 year olds this explanation was clear and I think enough to understand the basics of the process.

Sticky part

While talking we slowly moved to the table, peeled off the cover from the contact paper and started to create. You can also discuss absorption, while kids are sticking materials to the contact paper. I asked my boys to try to take all the various materials I prepared, but as I’d noticed later one boy took mostly cotton balls and another used lots of wrapping paper. My 20 month old also came into activity from time to time, but was not too excited about it.


I also asked the boys to cover all the surface of the contact paper. My 4 yo came to an idea to push on it with the cotton balls. As he discovered, after touching the surface little pieces of the cotton balls sticked to the surface, which made it not sticky anymore. At the same time, it looked like there was almost nothing on it. We all found it very interesting, and my older son did the same thing on his board.


When the surface of our boards was completely covered, I put the colored water on the table and gave droppers to the boys. It was simply a long period of exploration.


Boys looked at how the colors are mixing, how the cotton balls absorb the water, lots and lots of water; they looked how differently paper and paper towels absorb it, how puddles appear on the surface of the plastic, and how the water flows down the cardboard, when they put it on the side or make an angle.


Boys also tried to use two droppers, they tried to make some fancy patterns with the colors on the pipe cleaners, and watched how the wet cotton detached from the surface of the board.


Still sticky?

This last discovery led me to a question: “How do you think, is the surface of the contact paper still as sticky as it was when we started?” My 4 yo peeled off some paper and paper towels right away and checked the level of stickiness underneath. The surface was NOT STICKY! It was an interesting discovery which led to a new turn in the game. Boys started to detach everything from their boards, they also made puddles, and ‘mud,’ how my 4 yo called it. They had lots of fun making mess around. Even my 20 mo ran to the table to take part in it.

All this fun lasted a little bit less than an hour. I think that it was a great mixture of learning, sensory fun, fine motor development, and creative exploration.

After the activity I asked the boys what they loved the most about it.


4 y.o: “To make MUD, MUD, MUD!”

6 y.o.: “To make patterns, but I didn’t like that everything fell apart.”

So, my middle son loved the last part the most, and his older brother liked it the least. They are so different, but still enjoyed the activity!