We are always on the lookout for simple science activities to do with our kids. It doesn’t get any easier than this walking water science activity! Kids of all ages will be dazzled by the magic of watching colored water move along a paper towel from a full glass to fill up an empty glass.
Getting Walking Water Ready
Setup is super simple for this activity. We began by gathering the following supplies:
- Six jars of equal size (we used pint-sized mason jars)
- Food coloring in primary colors (red, yellow, and blue)
- Paper towels
We started by adding about 20 drops of blue food coloring to one jar and then filling it with 2 cups of water. Then we added 20 drops of yellow food coloring to another jar, filled it with water, and then added 20 drops of red food coloring to a third jar and filled it with water.
We arranged our jars in a circle so that there was an empty jar in between each filled jar.
Then we tore off six paper towels. The brand we used is Viva, but I have read that many other brands work just as well. If you find that your walking water science experiment isn’t working you may want to try a different brand or thickness of paper towel.
Our paper towels are the smaller “choose your size” kind. If you have the full sized paper towels you will only need to tear off three of them, and then tear each of those in half.
We folded each paper towel into length-wise quarters. This is the perfect size for each towel to reach from the bottom of one pint-sized jar to the bottom of the next jar.
Making Water Walk
We arranged each paper towel so that one end was submerged in the colored water of one full jar and one end was in an empty jar. This meant that each jar had two paper towels in it and all the jars were connected in a little circular paper towel circuit. We predicted what would happen and recorded it on the free printable below.
Within 30 seconds we could see colored water creeping up the paper towels! Little by little the water moved along the paper towel until it finally started dripping into the empty jar. With two different primary colors dripping into each empty jar we quickly created the secondary colors; orange, purple, and green!
After about one hour our jars looked like this:
We checked on our walking water frequently and observed how more and more water was transferred from the full jars to the empty jars. After leaving it overnight we noticed how all of the jars contained exactly the same level of water.
After the experiment was completed, we completed our recording sheet. It was so much fun!
The Science Behind Walking Water
The colored water moves up the paper towel by a process called capillary action. Capillary action is the ability of a liquid to flow upward, against gravity, in narrow spaces. This is the same thing that helps water climb from a tree’s roots to its leaves at the top.
Paper towels are made from plant fibers called cellulose. In our walking water experiment, the water flowed upward through the tiny gaps between the cellulose fibers. The attractive forces between water and cellulose fibers make this possible.
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Download Your Walking Water Science Experiment Printable Below!
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