Coffee Filter Flowers – Chromatography Science Experiment for Kids

This chromatography science experiment for kids is simple way to learn about separating colors using markers and coffee filters.

Chromatography Science Experiment

This fun science activity is a great way for kids to explore chromatography in a simple, easy way.

You only need a see-through cup, coffee filters, markers and some water for this activity.

Some markers work better than others. We found that the thicker they are, the better they work. We like using Mr. Sketch markers for this experiment.

As always, make sure you supervise the kids and be sure to ask questions about what they think will happen with each of the ink colors. 

Make sure you scroll all the way down to get the explanation of how this works and to see the video demonstration.

Instructions for Chromatography Science Activity

Supplies Needed:

  • Clear Cup
  • Marker
  • Coffee Filter
  • Water

*Tip: You may want to use 2 filters together if the water is not rising up the filter fast enough.

  1. Fill a clear cup with water. Fill it about 1/3 full. Make sure you have enough water for the filter to absorb. 
  2. Grab a coffee filter and draw a circle on it. Outline the circle 2 or 3 times at least to make sure it has enough ink.
  3. Fold the coffee filter in half once, and then in half a second time. Make sure there is a good point at the bottom.
  4. Spread the top of the filter out a little so the filter doesn’t fall in the water. Then insert the tip into the water. Make sure the marker part of the filter is not put into the water in the glass cup. It helps to have a glasses that are pretty small. Our glasses were even a bit too big.
  5. Watch the filter absorb the water and the colors move up the filter! This will take some time, but is fun to watch and see what colors come from each different marker!

The kids definitely loved this science activity! They enjoyed trying different ink colors to see which combination of colors came from each. This activity kept them entertained for over an hour as they tried different combinations.

Video of Chromatography Science Experiment

How does this simple science activity work?

Chromatography is the separation of a mixture by passing it through a medium in which the components move at different speeds.

In our science activity, the medium is the coffee filter which allows kids to see the particles traveling at different speeds and the separation of the colors.

Chromatography has two phases. A mobile phase where a mixture is dissolved in the substance (water) and carried through the stationary phase. In our case, the stationary phase is the coffee filter.

The water carries the molecules up the water filter and the different molecules move at different rates. This causes the different colors that make up the ink to separate at different speeds and allows us to see the variations of color!

Extend the Fun

The kids also extended the fun by trying multiple ink colors on one filter. They loved seeing all the different colors moving up the filter.

After they were done, they waited for all of the filters to dry and have used them in various craft projects since.

This science activity would be a great addition to your simple science lessons and is a fun way for kids to learn about chromatography.

I hope you and the kids enjoy this exciting science experiment!

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