Tie dying with young students
  • I recently tie dyed shirts with approximately 40 pre-k students (ages 3-5) and wanted to share our experience with you and also offer advice to those who are considering doing this activity in your own classroom.

    We dyed the shirts in anticipation of an upcoming fieldtrip - the shirts are very easy to spot and make the students recognizable as one of our own, even from a distance. I found that it is a really great science based activity (involving color, color mixing, and patterning). Also, it's a great way to incorporate art into your curriculum and demonstrate that art doesn't have to be something that gets hung on the refrigerator or placed on a shelf... art can involve everyday use.

    Another benefit is that the project is nearly fail-safe when you use primary colors that blend well. Even those students who went off in their own direction and didn't necessarily follow the instructions verbatim got beautiful results. Some of my students only wanted to use two colors instead of three, some put "polka-dots" on their shirts; in the end each one came out looking awesome.

    I know it seems like a very intimidating and time consuming activity, but really it is very worthwhile and alot of fun (even for the teachers)! Really, if you keep a few tips in mind you'll find that this project is quite manageable. You'll find that the students love doing it, and that they are so proud of what they create! This has been a very exciting week, and we have had a lot of fun.

    For me one of the most exciting things about this activity was actually rinsing the shirts. Initially I dreaded it, but once I got started I found that I could hardly wait to take off the rubber bands and hold the shirts up to see what the students had made. I literally had to stop and appreciate each and every one of them because they were all absolutely amazing!

    Overall, if you're considering tie dying as a classroom activity, I encourage you wholeheartedly to go for it! Go ahead, be bold, daring, brave! It's not that hard, and with preparation you'll find that it's not really messy. Tie dying is an activity that even the youngest child can do and create something beautiful; your students will be very excited by this project, and really proud of the results!

    Every teacher knows that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. With this in mind, I offer the following advice:

    - Have the students supply their own shirts, but keep a couple extras on hand for those who don't bring one or bring in something unusable (blended fabrics, dingy shirts, etc.)

    - Write the students' names on the inside of the collar on the back with a permanent marker

    - Purchase one kit with a video if you would like to; other than that purchase the components separately (it saves alot of money).

    - Make sure that you properly clean and store materials that can be reused, further cutting costs in the future.

    - Again, use primary colors or colors that blend well. The Procion MX colors are absolutely brilliant!

    - Have enough adults around to work on a one-to-one basis - I strongly recommend this, especially when you're working with younger students.

    - Protect your surfaces and your students. I'm proud to say that we did not dye any surfaces, shoes, or even kids in the making of these shirts.

    - Have the students work atop wire racks (cooling racks for baking work nicely) inside plastic tubs; This way you don't have to constantly wipe down the table and the tubs will catch excess dye.

    - Get a couple five gallon buckets to soak your shirts in as well as to put the shirts in as you rinse them out.

    - We made spiral designs, and since the shirts were so small I was able to tie them with three rubber bands, thereby creating six pie pieces that the children could "color in"... it saves them from having to estimate or visualize.

    - Leave plenty of time to tie the shirts if you're doing that yourself. I might also recommend doing a scrunch pattern; young children would need adults to put the rubber bands on them, but older children could probably handle this themselves. If something goes awry, an adult can help the student fix it. If you're doing spirals, read the information about tying on this site, watch a video of it, and practice... having well tied shirts makes a big difference in the end result.
  • I wish I could include a photo of the class, but it would require obtaining a release from each childs' parent or guardian. You'll have to take my word for it... the shirts look awesome!
  • Laurah,

    Thank you so much for sharing your success story and for encouraging other teacher to explore the world of tie dying. Your enthusiasm is contagious - and rightly so! Your advice is right on point and your comment about the activity's science and art application are perfect.
    We wish you were able to share photos, too, but absolutely understand the privacy issues.

    anet
  • I am very much excited to see the photos laurah. I want to try also dying my shirt 'coz I want to express my artmanship on it. I'll share it you if I've done so.