How to make an (almost) mess-free rainbow with cotton wool balls

Here's a simple arty activity your toddler or preschooler can create using cotton wool and (nearly) all the colours of the rainbow...

how to make cotton wool rainbow main

“I can make a rainbow!” Yes, you can – even if you’re only 2 – with this fun and easy art idea, using cotton wool balls and watered-down paint.

MFM crafter mum Abi Walker created this rainbow activity with her daughter Maisie, 2 – and shared some great step-by-step how-to pictures with us.

We found this a relatively mess-free activity. As the paints were watered down, we didn’t get absolutely covered in paint and it was easy to keep on top of
Abi Walker, MFM crafter and mum of Maisie, 2

Abi also says that Maisie found using the pipette easier than she’d expected – and using the medicine syringe was even easier. “I though it would be a challenge for toddler hands,” Abi says, “but it worked well – Maisie managed fine with both.

“The whole activity was great fun. And we even managed to get a few rainbow prints from it onto some more paper before it dried – which was another exciting addition!”

Here’s how to make your cotton wool rainbow

how to make a cotton wool rainbow materials
Pic: Abi Walker

You Will Need

  • A4 piece of card (or larger)
  • A pencil
  • Double-sided sticky tape
  • Cotton wool balls (lots!)
  • Paints in rainbow colours
  • Plates or containers for each colour paint
  • Pipette or child medicine syringe

Total time:

Or as long as your child needs

Step 1

On your piece of card, draw the curved lines of a rainbow (you can do all 7 but we just drew 5), equally spaced and far enough apart to allow enough space to fit the cotton-wool balls. Cover each curved line with a strip of double-sided sticky tape. This makes for a fun peel-and-stick game.

how to make a cotton wool rainbow step 1
Pic: Abi Walker

Step 2

You should end up with something that looks like this.

how to make a cotton wool rainbow step 2
Pic: Abi Walker

Step 3

Stick the cotton balls along each sticky-tape line. Then put a blob of each colour paint into separate plates or contains and add a little water (not too much: the more paint, the brighter the colours).

how to make a cotton wool rainbow step 3
Pic: Abi Walker


Step 4

Use your pipette or syringe to draw up some of 1 paint colour and drop a little onto each cotton ball in the outer rainbow ring. Watch the water get absorbed! Repeat with the next ring and a different paint colour.

how to make a cotton wool rainbow step 4
Pic: Abi Walker

Step 5

Once all of your colours are done, leave in the sun to dry. This can take some time depending on how wet the rainbow actually gets. (Ours was soaked!)

how to make a cotton wool rainbow final
Pic: Abi Walker

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