The idea of dying eggs with small children always sounds like it should be fun, but if memory serves, particularly in the early years with my first two children, fun was overshadowed by the stress of liquid dye and fragile eggs and tiny attention spans.
I have dyed eggs with my children for nineteen years, and along the way, I learned a few tips that help make the process enjoyable for everyone involved. Today I want to share these tips with you in case you find yourself wanting to dive into egg dying with littles.
Here are a few of my favorite strategies I use for dying eggs with littles…
Hard boil all of the eggs the day before you plan to dye them.
The boiling and cooling process takes some time, and littles do not need to be involved in this unexciting step. Once the eggs are boiled and removed from the hot water, allow them to dry and cool at room temperature. You do not need to refrigerate them, as long as there are no cracks in the shell. If you do have some eggs with cracks, throw those out.
Plan for a minimum of 12 eggs per child.
Dying eggs goes very quickly, and having twelve eggs per child makes the process more fun for everyone. The younger the child, the more eggs required, in my opinion.
Keep the empty egg cartons.
I like to snip off the lid of the egg carton and store the boiled eggs in the empty carton. I give a carton of boiled eggs to each child, and it keeps the eggs from rolling everywhere. We also use the egg carton to hold the finished eggs while they dry.
Do not tell your children that you plan to dye eggs until you are sitting down to do it.
The idea of waiting and delayed gratification are not developmental skills young children employ well, so do yourself a favor and keep the activity a secret until you sit down to do it. They will be delighted, and you won’t have to repeatedly answer the question, “How much longer?”
Set up the dying table while they sleep.
In the same vein as keeping it a secret, I found it was so helpful to plan to dye eggs after my children took an afternoon nap. This way everyone was fresh, and it gave me time to set up the table and mix the dye while they slept. Allowing small children to walk into an established station that is equipped and ready for their creativity makes the process go so much smoother.
Have a small bowl of a fun snack for them to enjoy while they wait.
The majority of dying eggs is waiting. You pick up an egg, plop it into dye, and then wait, which is not much fun. Small bowls of fishies or cereal or grapes gives them something to do while they wait. I have also used coloring sheets to pass the waiting time as well.
Try to have one adult for every two littles.
With four children, I could not manage egg dying alone. I always made sure I had another adult present to help little hands. Around second grade is when my children were able to independently dye eggs without any help, which means adult supervision is required for toddlers and pre-schoolers.
Use a paper-towel-lined sheet tray for each child.
Containing their workspace is so helpful. I use one sheet tray per child and line it with paper towels. On top of the paper towels I put their egg carton with their hard-boiled eggs and a metal egg dipper. The paper towels helped catch drips, and the sheet tray helped them keep their work in one area. I also put the cups of dye on sheet trays in the middle of the table. Spillage is inevitable, and a sheet tray will save the day, containing any stray liquid. If you want to take it one step further, use a plastic table cloth to catch all the drips and make clean up a snap.
Make sure each child has their own metal egg dipper.
I cannot emphasize this enough. Even if you have to purchase multiple dye kits, make sure each child has their own metal egg dipper. Plastic spoons don’t work well because they catch too much of the liquid and it ends up getting everywhere. The metal dipper easily holds the egg and is the perfect tool for dropping and lifting it out of the dye.
Keep the options to a minimum.
I know there are lots of ways to decorate and embellish eggs, but with toddlers and pre-schoolers, the options are best kept to a minimum. The goal with littles is to take an egg, dip it in a color, wait, and then remove it from the color. End of story. When your children are older, it might make sense to add other things like wax crayons and stickers and glitter. I find those options to be too much for younger children.
Use the cheep dye kits.
I always purchased the classic Pas kit, and for four children, I purchased at least two kits. It is important to remember that they will dye multiple eggs at once, so you need to have multiple cups of each color. Dye kits are cheap, and it was worth the extra couple of dollars to have lots of open cups so everyone could have access to all of the colors.
Set your expectations ridiculously low.
The activity will be over faster than you think. Dying eggs will not take an afternoon. It will take fifteen minutes, and someone is probably going to get frustrated. Small children do not have the attention span for long creative processes, and so, after all of your careful prepping and planning, they will be finished faster than you imagine. This is to be expected. As my children grew and matured, they would linger longer, trying different dying techniques or adding stickers to their finished eggs. But even then, it was a relatively fast event.
Let them do whatever they want.
There is not a wrong way for littles to dye eggs. I spent a couple of early years stressing about how the finished eggs looked. I quickly learned this was a fool’s errand, and instead I embraced all the wonky color combinations, the ridiculous embellishments, and the imperfect nature of the finished eggs. I used the finished eggs as decor around our house, and in hind sight, the silly eggs were the best ones because they reflected the age and personality of my children.
My children are no longer little, but they still enjoy the tradition of dying eggs together. It is particularly satisfying to see them enjoy the creative process now that they are older. You’re never too old to enjoy dipping eggs into cups of colorful dye!
Mary Kay B says
I did similar when my children were little. Pre-planning and pre-setting up makes all the difference in the world! I miss those days. 🐰
Angela DeQuesada says
Thank you Katherine! This is a helpful guide for attempting to dye eggs this year with a 3 year old boy. Like the sheet tray idea!
Ann Christian says
This brings back memories! From our 2 girls’ early elementary years until probably 6th grade, our family enjoyed dying eggs with another family of 2 girls the same age. Specific details in planning are long forgotten but those evenings of dying and dinner were such fun! Our older daughter even tried her hand at Pysanky egg dying; I still have two in the china cabinet! The last 2 or 3 years we gathered, the other mom and I gave the children extra RAW eggs to dye and we blew them out afterward. Our girls are now 39 and 41 years old. I have about 4 dozen hollow eggs that I display in baskets each spring.
Katherine Sasser says
Ann, I love hearing stories like yours! I feel like I am right on the edge of the looking back period, and I find myself increasingly thankful for all the years of doing things like dying eggs and decorating gingerbread houses. As my children get older, those little years become sweeter, and it reminds me to continue to invest in creating space for connection. Thank you for sharing.