Valentine’s Day Magic Paper Towel Experiment

Published: January 29, 2021 · Updated: March 8, 2024 by Sacha — This post may contain affiliate links. Read our full disclosure.

This easy Valentine’s Day science experiment is so simple to set up, and it’s sure to keep your little ones entertained! Plus, there’s no need to plan in advance or make a run to the craft store—this fun last-minute activity requires zero prep time and nothing but simple supplies that you probably already have at home!

Our kids had so much fun creating magic paper towel art in the lead-up to Christmas that we decided to do it again for Valentine’s Day!

The idea behind this experiment is very simple— simply fold a paper towel in half and draw the same design on both layers of paper towel. The top layer should be just an outline of your drawing (in permanent marker) while the bottom layer should be filled in with washable markers.

Once the drawing is done, drop the folded paper towel into a shallow dish filled with water and watch the magic happen! The marker from the bottom layer will soak through to the top and your outline will instantly be filled in with color.

One of the great things about this experiment is that it can be adapted in pretty much every way that you can think of. (Draw rainbows in the summer for particularly impressive results!) You can even use it to help your kids learn math in a fun way!

It’s also extremely easy to set up and requires only a few simple supplies, which is great for busy parents. Our kids can’t get enough!

Required Materials

Here’s what you’ll need to do this super simple Valentine’s Day science experiment at home:

Supplies to do this magic paper towel experiment.

How to Conduct a Valentine Magic Paper Towel Experiment (Step-by-Step)

1. Fold Paper Towel

Start by folding the paper towel in half to create two layers.

Paper towel folded in half.

2. Draw Design in Permanent Marker

Keeping your paper towel folded, trace the outline of a heart on the top layer of the paper towel using permanent marker.

Paper towel with heart drawn on top.

Note: I used a colored Sharpie because I happened to have it on hand, but if all you have is black, that can work too!

3. Unfold Paper Towel

Unfold the paper towel to see whether the permanent marker left a trace of your drawing on the bottom layer.

Unfolded paper towel with heart outline.

If an outline is present, you can move on to the next step. If not, fold your paper towel back up and trace over your design a second time, pressing down a little harder, until a trace is visible on the other layer of paper towel.

4. Color Bottom Layer

Once you can see a trace of your design on the bottom layer of paper towel, fill in the heart using a washable marker. Use a bright color for better results.

"I Love You" written on paper towel.

I also decided to write some text around the heart. If you do too, make sure to write the text using permanent marker rather than washable. Otherwise, it will turn into a black blur when it’s placed in water and you won’t be able to read any of it.

5. Fold Paper Towel

Once you’re done coloring in your design, fold up the paper towel again so that only the top layer is visible.

Paper towel folded in half with heart outline drawn onto the front.

Your kids will probably want to do this step, which is perfectly fine—but if they’re young like mine, you may want to double-check that the two designs are properly aligned once the paper towel has been folded!

6. Drop Paper Towel in Water

Fill the bottom of your dish with water and let your kids gently drop the paper towel into it.

Anything that was traced using permanent marker will remain unchanged, but the washable marker from the bottom layer will bleed through and give a sudden burst of color to whatever your drew!

Paper towel in water with bright-coloured heart.

And that’s it—so simple, but so fun to do! And because we happen to have a huge collection of colorful Sharpies and markers, we decided to create a whole rainbow!

Paper towel in water with two bright-coloured heart.

Related Science Experiments for Kids

Looking for more easy science experiments that you can do at home with your kids? Check out these articles:

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