Tie Dye for Kids

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When summertime rolls around, tie-dyes emerge from the woodwork. Everyone has the pattern on shirts, socks, bandannas, and more. You probably have one such item tucked away in the depths of your closet, but why look for it when it’s a fun and easy project to create with your kids?

When school lets out, if you’re like most parents, you don’t have a lot of easy or simple activities to do together with your children. This craft is something fast and creative, with tried and true success.

tie dye

So where do you start? Is it messy? Do you need tools? Fear not – here we have a chemical-free method you can apply in your very own kitchen!

There are no side-effects of pursuing this project with children offering helping hands, and because this recipe uses Kool-Aid, it is kid-friendly even for toddlers!

The dye will still stain, however, so if your children are too young to watch where they drip, you might want to supervise or take it out into the yard.

How to Tie Dye

This project won’t take more than thirty minutes and the instructions are just as kid-friendly as the recipe!

One dye idea for kids (other than the stereotypical shirt) is dyeing their backpack (so long as it is made of a dyeable material such as cotton, linen, rayon, or other natural materials), or even beanies.

Just watch out – your house might turn into a multi-colored party if you let the kids loose!


You and your kids will need the following to do this project:

  • Kool-Aid packets in varying colors.
  • Glass or plastic bowls in medium sizes.
  • Vinegar.
  • Rubber bands.
  • Tie-dye item.
  • Ironing cloth or spare t-shirt.
  • Cool water.

tie dye for kids


First, pour the colors from the Kool-Aid packets into the bowls. Keep the colors separate and add 1 oz. of vinegar to each color. This will work as a binding agent and will help the colors blend more evenly.

Mix this concoction until the crystals of the Kool-Aid dissolve. If the colors don’t seem bright enough or you are worried the item you’re dyeing is too big for the amount produced, simply repeat the process by adding cool water until all the bowls have a decent amount of liquid and brightly-colored dye.

Next, grab your rubber bands and the item waiting to be colored. Wherever you want the spiral of color to start, pinch there. Now twist and spiral your item until it is an oblong shape, twisted together into a spiral.

Take your rubber bands and wrap them around the item – for a total of three or four times. Be sure to overlap the bands until you have six or eight divided sections of material.

Whatever oddly lumpy shape your children create will be its own unique beauty when done, so feel free to experiment!

Thirdly, don your gloves (check that your kiddos are wearing a pair too!) and dip the wedge-shaped section that sits between the rubber bands into whatever color you desire. Then soak a different section in a different color, and so on until you’re satisfied.

tie dye

If you want one total color, simply plunge the entire item into the bowl. Otherwise, feel free to unleash you and your kid’s creativity, and see what cool designs you can get by soaking each section in a different color. Leaving white spots is fine too!

Once the item is dyed, you will need to set the colors. If you have one, take an iron (on medium-heat) to the shirt. Do not forget an ironing cloth or another spare t-shirt if you don’t want to dye your iron!

The heat will set the colors fast and the t-shirt will stop the heat of the iron from melting the dye into its metal surface, so be sure to have that protective layer.

Once ironed, leave the item to air-dry for 24 hours. If your children (or yourself) can’t wait, it’s not imperative to leave it that long. The iron helps set the colors so firmly that even just two hours is good enough to stop too much fading – but there will be some.

Here’s a video showing more details on how to tie-dye with Kool-Aid.

Notes on Tie-Dye for Kids

With Kool-Aid being the main source of dye, you don’t have to worry about excessive heat or bad chemicals.

Older children and pre-teens can follow this recipe themselves (the iron isn’t necessary if the cloth is left alone overnight), and you get a beautiful homemade item out of the time spent together!

Even though this is an easy project, there are still some tips to follow to make the end result that much better.

Do not prewash the item in fabric softener. Also, Kool-Aid flavors that have darker-colored dust, such as red or purple, tend to come out easier.

To make the project really have that authentic summer camp feel, take the items and your kids outside and the mess is cut in half!

Do you have any tips on tie-dye?


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