Have you ever been fascinated by the way water can defy gravity? The Walking Water Experiment is an exciting scientific activity that showcases the concept of capillary action using simple supplies.
It's also an excellent way to introduce children to the world of color mixing, making it an experiment that's perfect for kids of all ages to enjoy! It is one of our favorite easy science experiments to get kids learning about the scientific method, making new colors, and interested in becoming little scientists.
Walking Water Science Experiment
So, what exactly is the Walking Water Experiment? It's a fun, hands-on scientific discovery that can be achieved with simple, low-cost materials and tools. By using just a few cups of different liquids and some scientific magic, you can watch as the water walks from one cup to another.
This DIY project is a great way to teach your kids about science and spark their interest in STEM, making it an ideal addition to any homeschooling curriculum or as a way to engage your kids in science concepts.
The Walking Water Experiment is a great springtime activity that can brighten up any homeschooling day. The rainbow experiment involves using primary-colored water to make a rainbow in a clear plastic or glass container. As the water travels through the paper towels, the colors mix and create secondary hues, just like the colors of the rainbow.
This activity is not only visually stunning, but it's also an excellent way to teach kids about capillary action, color mixing, and the science behind plant growth. With its vibrant colors and fascinating science, the Walking Water Experiment is a perfect addition to any springtime curriculum.
We've created a free printable to help your child predict what will happen and then record what they've observed, with 2 different designs. Use the one that makes the most sense for your brain – my husband and I came up with different layouts and couldn't agree on which is better!
Materials You Need
- Red, yellow, and blue food coloring
- Paper towels
- Glass jars
Prep for the Experiment
Line up all your jars in a triangle.
Pour water into each jar, about one cup each.
Add a few drops of red food coloring into one jar, a few drops of yellow food coloring into another jar, and a few drops of blue food coloring into another jar.
Stir each jar until the water has a vibrant color. Add more drops of food coloring if you need to.
Cut your paper towels into small rectangles just long enough to reach each water.
What to Do
Use your paper towel strips to connect your jars. Red to Yellow – Yellow to Blue – Blue to Red
Watch the paper towels carefully. What is happening to the paper towel? How does the water move?
Check back in a little bit. What do the paper towels look like now? Is the water in each cup the same color? Is the water level in each cup the same?
Observe what happens over the next 24 hours.
Instead of using 3 and observing the changes, use 5 or 7 jars. Fill every other one with water. Add food coloring to the jars with water. Do not use the same color twice in a row. In between each coloured water jar should be an empty cup or jar.
Follow the same activity instructions, but use paper towels to connect a water-filled jar with an empty jar.
What happens to the empty jars?
Try another brand of absorbent paper towels. Try different size paper towels.
How does the water walk if you use a straight line instead of a circle?
Lastly, what if you used different-sized glasses of water?
What is the Science Behind Walking Water
Have you ever wondered about the science behind the Walking Water Experiment? This hands-on activity is actually based on the process of capillary action. It demonstrates how matter can be transported in non-Newtonian fluids without the need for any external force. And the best part? It's so simple that anyone can do it!
The experiment involves colored water that travels up the fibers of the paper towel. The gaps in the paper towel fibers act like capillary tubes found in plants, which pull all sorts of fluids through their stems and leaves – including rainwater. It may seem like the water is defying gravity, but it's actually just following the laws of science!
As the primary colors mix, they create secondary hues, making the experiment even more colorful and exciting. The water will continue to flow as long as the towel fibers can absorb it. However, sometimes even science can't predict everything.
We conducted the experiment overnight and found an unsightly puddle underneath where we had placed it. Some of the paper towels sagged while others snapped in half, despite not showing any visible damage from being saturated with moisture. This makes us wonder if experimenting with different paper towel brands might yield different results!
How long does the walking water experiment take?
If you're looking for a quick and easy science experiment, the walking water experiment is a great option. This activity starts quite quickly, and it only takes about 5 to 10 minutes for the color to begin traveling up the towel and into the next jar.
After approximately 8 hours, the colors will have moved completely, and you'll start to see secondary colors forming. It's amazing to see the primary colors blend together and create new, vibrant hues.
Does it Matter What Kind of Paper Towels I Use
If you're wondering if the paper towels matter with the walking water experiment, feel free to use whatever kind you have on hand! We made sure to use a brand with thick paper towels, but these experiments will work just fine even if it's thin. You'll also want to avoid using hand towels or cloths that may leave behind fabric fibers.
How to Use This Experiment as Part of Homeschooling
Incorporating the Walking Water Experiment into your homeschooling program is a great way to make science more hands-on and engaging for kids of all ages.
For older kids, this experiment can be used as a starting point for lessons on plant biology, emphasizing the importance of organic materials and avoiding chemicals. It can also teach them how plants absorb materials and nutrients from the ground, making it an excellent addition to your botany lessons.
For younger children, the experiment can be a fun and exciting way to learn about colors, how they mix, and how to create secondary colors. As the colors travel up the paper towel, children will enjoy watching as the primary colors interact, forming secondary hues like purple, green, and orange. This can be a great activity to introduce the concept of color theory and encourage creativity in younger children.
Now that you've learned all about the Walking Water Experiment and Lesson Plan, it's time to get started! This easy and fun experiment is perfect for kids of all ages and can be done with just a few simple materials. It's a great way to teach kids about capillary action, colors, and mixing.
Plus, it's a perfect activity for springtime when rainbows are in the air. We hope you'll give it a try and let us know how it goes by leaving a comment below. And while you're at it, share your favorite fun science experiments that you've done with your kids!
Walking Water Experiment
- 3 cups of water
- Red yellow, and blue food coloring
- Paper towels
- Glass jars
- Line up all your jars in a triangle.
- Pour 1 cup of water into each jar.
- Add a few drops of each food coloring into their own jar and stir until the water has a vibrant color.
- Cut your paper towels into small rectangles just long enough to reach each water.
- Use your paper towel strips to connect your jars. Red to Yellow – Yellow to Blue – Blue to Red
- Watch the paper towels carefully. What is happening to the paper towel?
- Come back in a little bit. What do the paper towels look like now? Is the water in each cup the same color?
- Observe what happens over the next 24 hours.
- Followup Experiment:
- Instead of using 3 and observing the changes, use 5 or 7 jars. Fill every other one with water. Add food coloring to the jars with water. Do not use the same color twice in a row.
- Follow the same activity instructions, but use paper towels to connect a water-filled jar with an empty jar.
- What happens to the empty jars?
- Try another brand of paper towels.
- How does the water walk if you use a straight line instead of a circle?
- What if you put different amounts of water in the jars?