Kid-Tested Easter Egg Dying
Dying Easter eggs is one of those traditions that I always knew I wanted to pass down to my kids, who are now 4.5 and 2.5 years old. However, because of their ages I’ve been looking for alternative dying techniques that are less likely to result in my kids and kitchen covered in dye from inevitably spilled cups. I decided to try out a few of the approaches that seem to be the most popular out there on the internet and assess how well they worked for our family. I hope the assessments below help you decide what might work best for yours!
Two quick notes before we get into it:
First, how to properly hard-boil an egg seems to be one of those things that is continually up for debate. You probably already have your favorite method for this, but in case you’re still looking for one, here’s how I do it:
- Place eggs in a single layer on the bottom of a pot.
- Cover with cold water that’s at least an inch above the eggs. Add ½ cup of vinegar.
- Bring to a boil. Cover the pot and remove from heat.
- After 15 minutes, add the eggs to an ice bath and let sit for 5 minutes.
- Remove and pat dry.
Also, even though the techniques I tried are relatively low-mess, they still use food coloring, which is a staining nightmare. If you plan to try any of these, be sure to cover your space with newspaper or a plastic tablecloth so you don’t need to worry about little spills or splashes.
Shaken Rice Eggs
Materials: food coloring, uncooked rice, zippered sandwich bags
Instructions: Put a cup of rice into a bag with 8-10 drops of food coloring. Close the bag and shake lightly to distribute the coloring. Add the egg to the bag and reseal. Roll/shake the egg around so that the dye transfers from the rice to the egg.
Assessment: This approach has the least amount of prep work and the lowest risk of mess. However, getting color onto the egg required more pressure than I expected. As a result, my kids got frustrated that their eggs weren’t getting colored, and they needed quite a bit of assistance. Aesthetically, these eggs have a clean, simple look. As a heads up, the rice in the bag is not enough of a buffer to protect an egg from breaking if it’s hurled from a highchair onto your kitchen floor. (Thanks to my daughter for this unexpected factoid!)
Whipped Topping Swirl Eggs
Materials: food coloring, whipped topping (thawed), zippered sandwich bags and/or a glass baking dish and spoon
Instructions (bag): Put a few scoops of whipped topping into a bag with food coloring (2-3 drops per color). Add the egg and seal the bag. Roll the egg around so that the dye transfers from the whipped topping to the egg. Let egg sit in the bag for 10-15 minutes, then remove and gently wipe off the whipped topping with a paper towel.
Instructions (dish): Fill a baking dish with whipped topping. Add food coloring (2-3 drops per color) in a small area and swirl with a spoon. Add an egg and use the spoon to roll it around in the dyed area. Repeat the process in another section of the dish. Let eggs sit for 10-15 minutes, then remove and gently wipe off the whipped topping with a paper towel.
Assessment: This is the only method I’d tried previously, and I find the bag version to be the most effective approach for the littlest helpers because the whipped topping is easy to manipulate, and the bag keeps the mess contained. My daughter successfully dyed eggs this way last year at 17 months old. I’m a bit conflicted on the dish version. You run a real risk of muddy colors if you over-mix the whipped topping and/or use too many colors. Whipped topping is also likely to make its way out of the dish depending on how enthusiastically the eggs are being rolled. Last year we used a muffin tin instead of a baking dish, and while I liked the ability to keep color combinations separate, my then 3.5-year-old needed help to roll the eggs around with a spoon because of the limited space. Overall, I like this approach, but I don’t love it.
Fizzy Volcano Eggs
Materials: food coloring, baking soda, vinegar, glass bowl, spoon, paint brush, eye dropper
Instructions: Create baking soda “paint” by combining 1 tbsp of baking soda with 3 drops of food coloring and enough water to create a consistency that is easily spreadable but not too thin (roughly 1 tsp). Repeat with as many colors as you want to use. Place the egg in a bowl and cover it with a thick layer of baking soda paint. Then squeeze vinegar onto the egg and watch it fizz! We used an eyedropper, but a small squirt bottle or spray bottle on the stream setting would work, too. Continue adding vinegar, turning the egg until all of the baking soda is gone. Move the egg to a drying rack, rinse the bowl, and repeat with your next egg.
Assessment: My 4.5-year-old talked about this constantly for the remainder of the day, and I was a big fan of it as well. The colors are bright and vibrant, plus it’s a mini science experiment. There is a mess risk with this approach, but a high-rimmed bowl should minimize this. I’d recommend this approach for kids that are 3+ years old. We’ll definitely be doing this method again for our Easter plate!
Paper Towel Dyed Eggs
Materials: food coloring, paper towels, pipe cleaners or twist ties, spray bottle of water
Instructions: Wrap egg in paper towel and seal the top with a pipe cleaner or twist tie. Add drops of food coloring to the paper towel then spray with water so that the colors run together. Leave egg to sit until the paper towel is dry.
Assessment: The sample I’d seen of these had a tie-dye look, but mine ended up with a pixelated pop art feel. My husband said they reminded him of old-school video games. I think my error was not wrapping the paper towel tightly enough around the eggs. Also, these take a long time to dry. Even though the instructions are to let the paper towels dry, mine were still quite damp after an hour or so, so I just unwrapped them. Be sure to wear gloves when removing the paper towels or you’ll end up with dyed hands! These were easy, the colors were vibrant, and my son enjoyed using the spray bottle. I would make some modifications to how I wrapped the eggs and try this approach again.
Each of these approaches had pros and cons, and each resulted in a different aesthetic. I hope our experiments helped you pick a method (or several!) to try out this Easter. My final suggestion is to put a little Easter grass on the serving plate with your decorated eggs. My mom always did this when I was growing up, and I think it adds the perfect festive touch.
Happy Easter to you and yours!!