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Sun Art for Kids and Toddlers

Sun Art for Kids and Toddlers

You can make your own homemade solar print paper which is excellent for making sun art with kids and toddlers. Of course, you can always buy solar print paper, but this a fun way to create beautiful, homemade prints in the sunshine.

Whether you do this with homemade or store-bought paper, it is an interesting way for children to learn about the strength and dangers of the sun (UV) along with the features of shadows. They also make beautiful shadow pictures that are wonderful to use for things such as bookmarks or for decorations in a scrapbook.

What you need

  • Card paper
  • Turmeric
  • Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol)
  • Plastic or metal tray (one that isn’t nice as turmeric can stain)
  • Tweezers (helpful to turn and pick up paper)
  • Drying rack
  • Paper towel
  • Leaves, flowers, grasses and other objects to create a shadow

To make photosensitive paper:

  • To make sun-sensitive paper, pour a thin layer of rubbing alcohol into the tray. Then sprinkle turmeric over the entire area until it looks saturated and evenly covered.  
  • If your tray is smaller than the paper size, cut the paper into pieces that will fit into the tray.
  • Submerge the paper into the liquid and turn it over several times until the paper turns completely yellow. 
Card paper submerged in turmeric and rubbing alcohol.
  •  Hold the paper up over the tray and allow the liquid to drain off before placing it on a drying rack. *Turmeric can stain easily so keep a paper towel handy for any quick wipe ups of spills. It takes a few minutes to dry (rubbing alcohol dries quickly).
  • Repeat for as many pieces of paper as you would like to make. 

*Turmeric dissolves better in rubbing alcohol than water so you can get better colours and the paper also dries faster.

  • To make sun prints, first collect objects such as leaves, sticks, rocks, grass, flowers, etc.
  • Next, find a sunny spot, that will stay sunny over the next three or more hours. It works best to use an area that isn’t too windy, especially if children are using things that can easily blow away. Lay the paper out and arrange the objects on the paper. 
  • You may want to check back on the paper from time to time to see what is happening. When it looks like the paper has faded significantly, you can remove the objects and see the shadow picture!

*This homemade sun print paper takes at least 3 hours to ‘develop’ in the sun. It works best on very sunny, high UV days. It also works best if done during the midday sun when the UV strength is at its highest.  

Questions to ask

What do you notice about the weather today? What do you notice about shadows? Tell me everything you know about the sun and shadows.

What do you think is going to happen to the paper when we put it in the sun? What do you think will happen when we put leaves, etc. on the paper?

What do you think would happen if we put sunscreen on the paper?

Is there anything else you would like to try?

What they get from it – Sun Art for Kids and Toddlers

This sun art print activity is a fun, hands-on way for children to learn about sunlight and the power of UV light. Children can also learn about shadows and make beautiful artwork using them.

Take it further

Children may want to test out different sunscreens on solar print paper. If you leave it out in the sun, will the suncream protect the paper from fading? Can you compare different sunscreens to see which works best?

Older children may want to experiment and see if they can find other substances that can make photosensitive paper.

Photosensitive paper made with turmeric can also be used for ‘magic colour change’ paper. You may want to see my post, Acid and Base Experiment-Turmeric pH Indicator. You may want to see some of my other posts with turmeric such as Turmeric pH Indicator Experiment for Acids & Bases.

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