What: Eggs and cotton wool dyed with things from our kitchen or garden
How: We boiled three different dye-things in their own saucepans of water, with a little vinegar to help the dye set, added a few eggs to each pan and let them soak overnight (12-18 hours all up). Yellow is turmeric peelings (leftover from some turmeric-lime truffles I made), pink is beetroot peelings (leftover from feeding the kids beetroot!), and blue is red cabbage. We had lots of fun watching the cabbage change colour as we added the vinegar, then eggs (with an alkaline shell), then baking soda to counteract the excess vinegar either Kid 1 or Kid 3 “helped” me pour. The eggs are brown (like almost all eggs sold in Australia) so the final colours have that base, but we also boiled white cotton wool in the water, to put in the egg baskets, and that came out with clearer colours. The cotton wool isn’t something you can keep forever though. Especially the lot that was cooked in the cabbage water – that keeps the odour of boiled cabbage!
Boiling the cotton wool was good, to see the real colours of the dye.
Getting to play with the change of colour with the red cabbage was unexpected. We ended up doing that later as another activity – getting all of Daddy’s shot glasses and filling them with cabbage water, then adding various things from around the house to make a rainbow (which I’ll post on another time).
You could try dying with other things – onion skins are a common one (except the eggs are already brown!). I have dyers’ chamomile growing in my garden but we’ve never collected the shoebox of flowers you’d need for enough dyestuff. Turmeric, beetroot and red cabbage are reliable which is why I used them.
Lastly, of course, there’s the egg hunt, which was the real reason for doing this project!
How: Blow up and tie a yellow balloon. We had pale and gold balloons and ended up with one of each. I also had a card of yellow lace that the local fabric/craft shop was getting rid of in a $5/card sale. It took about a metre and a half of lace per balloon, cut into three pieces of varying length. Tape the lace around the balloon in layers so that the ruffles hang down. This is not as easy as it sounds. Kid 4 did a great job of concentrating but grew tired of it after three rounds of ruffles, Kid 6 liked the idea of as much ruffle as possible but really needs more Mad Stickytape Skillz so four was their limit. If you can, get the top layer of ruffle around the approximate middle of the balloon.
Then, draw a chick face on with permanent markers. I made the mistake of sending Kid 4 to raid my pen drawer for them, and they came back with all the pointy-tipped ones – and then managed to pop their balloon with one on the very last bit of drawing. There were many tears. Gentle is the order of the day, and possibly broad-tip pens! I blew and taped a replacement balloon so that they could both finish their project.
Extras: This was part of a morning of Easter crafts, where we did a whole bunch of egg and chick type activities (mostly $2 kits from the supermarket or chemist). Two more Kid 6s came over as we were nearing the end, and made themselves each a balloon too – a funny-face egg and a blue chick. They were very surprised to discover that we were using permanent markers and they couldn’t change their faces once drawn – that might be an interesting variation, to use normal textas and tell stories with changing emotions on the faces.
Eggs, chicks and religion: I don’t always focus on the egg side of things, because Easter here is not at nesting time – it just happened that way this year. We’ve had conversations before about whether you see nests and eggs in trees at this time of year, at the spring equinox as well as Easter, and we might have a conversation about that later today again. As a non-Christian household I don’t go into the symbolism of rebirth at this point or discuss “the real meaning of Easter”. I stick to seasonal observations as much as I can with the kids. And today I choose to smile and skate past Kid 6’s determined pronouncements that a pet rabbit will hatch from their egg.