My husband put a snowball in a dirty puddle the other day and the four of us – 2 kids, Mom and Dad – stood mesmerized as we watched the dirty water slowly creep up the snowball. So fascinating that we did it again and again.

Which made me think about having a little more fun with some food coloring.

Remy and I took 4 snowballs inside for a test-run yesterday. We added a bit of water to 4 containers and then a drop of food color into each one. Of course you could have fun mixing the colors too (even make your own mud-brown puddle).

Our test-run was FAST! In fact, so fast that the color went up the balls before I could snap a picture. I got wise with the yellow one and held the camera in one hand and snapped an instant after putting the snowball into the container.

All of this leads to great, “science-y”, questions that you can talk about with your kids:

  • Why did the muddy water creep up the ball so much more slowly?
  • Does ball-density matter?
  • Does ball-saturation matter?
  • Does depth of water matter?
  • Where is the water that was in the container?
  • For older kids – what is capillary action? How did the water go up?
  • Remy’s question was – can I eat one? Which made me think maybe I could have used broccoli soup and hit the “science” and “nourish your children” birds with one snowball.

Actually, it just occurred to me that it might be interesting to add the drop of color to the corner of the container and not mix it. Then put the snowball in the opposite corner and watch color get sucked across the container. Next time.

When Zander got home from school, we took the experiment outside and for once I said “it’s OK to play with that yellow snow“.

The one time you can play with yellow snow - capillary action

If you’re looking for another great food-coloring and capillary action experiment, this one with carnations looks fun!