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Magic Milk Painting for Earth Day

A favorite art activity/science experiment for Wild Thing is what he and I call Magic Milk Painting. This simple activity involves putting milk in a dish (pie dish, baking dish or similar) and then adding a few drops of dish soap and of food coloring. The result is awesome - the color magically moves. The swirl happens on its own, no mixing or stirring is required. 

The magic happens because the detergent lowers the surface tension allowing the food coloring to move through the milk. The detergent disrupts the protein and fat in the milk. Steve Spangler explains the scientific reaction quite well and shows the proper method (using a Q-Tip), but we never do it that way! We decided to see how the movement of the colors might change if we used different milks, since we happened to have almond milk and soy milk at home. (Many stores have a small box of soy or almond milk for $1 and many dollar stores now carry soy milk if you want to try this out and do not already have those milks on hand). Here are images of how the different milks reacted and differed - in general, we saw the most motion from the cow milk and the least from the almond milk. We used blue, yellow and green in order to evoke an image that, perhaps (we hoped) looked something like the Earth, and the cow milk one created in a pie plate eventually did. 

At the beginning, this is how it looked.

After a few minutes, this is what the three trays looked like.
Our most Earth like image from the day.

Wild Thing took this photo close up of the cow milk tray.
He enjoyed also blowing the liquid and encouraging even more motion.
In the end, Wild Thing and Caterpillar ended up stirring it all up -- creating a very cool blue-ish green colored liquid that proved very fun to splash hands in and stir up with spoons. I definitely recommend having some magic milk fun at your house too!  

Sharing at: Montessori Monday, Tuesday Tots, Discover & Explore, Artsy Play Wednesday, Mom's Library, It's Playtime           

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  1. Great idea to try it with the different types of milk.. and it does look so earth like!

  2. We've never tried colors in milk before- how pretty!

  3. These are beautiful. I've always wanted to try this project.

  4. This is very cool! I love that you turned it into an Earth Day project!

  5. That is a great way to celebrate Earth Day. The process must have been really fun and the colors looked a lot like Earth when they were swirled together. Pinned it.

  6. Very nice! I think this would be a lot of fun!


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