Last year I was searching for something different than the tired old Easter egg packets with the tablets, something that would get the kids more engaged and that would use only natural dyes. I came across a very cool project, tried it with the kids, and was stunned by how well it came out. Here’s how to do it.
First, prepare your dyes. Fill a number of pots with just enough water to cover an egg, then add your dye ingredients. You have a wide variety of choices.
- Onion skins will give you a rich rust-brown color, redder if you use a combination of yellow and red onions.
- Red cabbage produces a blue-gray color.
- Turmeric powder give a deep orange-yellow. Add about 4 tablespoons per pot.
- Beets will make your eggs a light red.
- Spinach, as you may have guessed, produces green eggs. The more spinach the darker the color.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment with others – green apple peels, fruit teas, orange or lemon peels, frozen berries, etc.
Boil your ingredients in covered pots for about 30 minutes, set aside and let cool. When cool, strain into a bowl, pressing the liquid out of the solids, then return the liquid to the original, rinsed pots. Discard the solids, or better yet put them in the compost bin.
Next, take the kids outside to gather a variety of leaves and blossoms, ones small enough to fit on an egg. My favorite turned out to be grape hyacinth blossoms, but just about anything will work. The more highly defined the leaf or bloom the better – dandelions, for example, don’t work as well as daisies.
Once you’ve gathered a good selection, bring everything inside and lay it out. Take some old pantyhose and cut them into 4-inch strips.
Place your leaves and flowers one by one on an egg (some things stick better if you dip them in water first). Take a strip of pantyhose, place the egg on it, then pull the hose tightly, making sure everything is still in place, and secure it with a twist tie or a piece of string, trimming off excess hose. Do this for all of the eggs, letting the kids place the vegetation on while you tie up the covered eggs.
Bring your dyes to a gentle boil, and add 3-4 tablespoons of vinegar to each one. Then gently lower your eggs into whichever color you want, making sure that the dye covers the eggs completely. If not, add just enough water to do so. Boil eggs for about 30 minutes, then set aside to cool. The longer you leave them in the dyes, the deeper the colors will be, but we were pretty impatient and took them out as soon as we could handle them.
Undo the ties, and let the kids slip the pantyhose, flowers, and leaves off the eggs. Each one is a mini Christmas present, and it’s incredibly cool to see how each came out. If you want the eggs to be shiny, take a paper towel with a bit of oil on it and gently rub each egg. We didn’t bother with this step.
You’re done, and now you’ve got really cool, eco-friendly Easter eggs to put on display. You’ve also taught your kids that you can do amazing projects just by going out and finding things in nature, and that not everything – in this case the dyes – has to come from the store.