Tie-Dye: The Ultimate Summer Activity

Tie-Dye: The Ultimate Summer Activity

By Michelle Mady

The most quintessential summer activity for many of us growing up was creating something tie-dyed. I remember going to Girl Scout camp and spending the better part of a day creating my new tie-dyed t-shirt. That summer, I tie-dyed everything I could find: shirts, bandanas, even my bathroom sink (oops!). There’s something about tie-dye that brings along all the thoughts of summer.  

That summer, I tie-dyed everything I could find: shirts, bandanas, even my bathroom sink (oops!). There’s something about tie-dye that brings along all the thoughts of summer.  

Although the colorful patterns can come in so many different combinations, tie-dyeing can feel a bit stale after a while. So how can you keep it fresh and feeling like a new and exciting activity? Better yet, how can we create the same tie-dye feeling without the tie-dye hassle? And, what do we do with the leftover dye?


The traditional tie-dye patterns can be found all over the place. That bullseye pattern is the easiest pattern to achieve and the most iconic look. However, did you know that by bunching the fabric in different ways, making the elastics tighter (or looser) and even changing the placement of the elastics can make a huge difference in the design?

Have your child bunch up the shirt in a silly way. Wrap elastics in random spots. Our favorite? Put a fork on any part of the shirt and twirl it like pasta! It makes a “pizza” shape, and you can wrap the elastics like you are “cutting” the pizza. There are a million ways to create new designs, so look up new ones or create your own!


Maybe you are dipping your toe into this and are not ready for the full-fledged mess that this activity is bound to bring. I have the perfect “intro to tie-dye” activity for you. Let your child color on a paper towel or coffee filter with markers. Then, hand them a spray bottle with water to blend the colors together. VIOLA! Tie-dye!

Spray bottle still a bit more than you have time for? Place that paper towel or coffee filter on top of a bowl of water and watch it create a masterpiece. You can even just let your child color with markers on a baby wipe and let it do its magic without any extra steps.

There’s also an easy way to increase the “wow” of these pieces. Grab a black piece of construction paper and cut out a cute design from the middle, like a heart, flower or letter. Then, tape the tie-dye art to the back and hang it in a window. It becomes a beautiful stained glass piece.


If you’ve ever done some tie-dyeing, you know there’s a ton of product left over after a few t-shirts. Instead of tossing it, get a start on unique gifts. Grab some white beach towels, painter’s tape and spray bottles. On the towel, write out a name or make a picture with painter’s tape. Lay it out flat and fill the spray bottles with the leftover dye.  Then, spray the towels completely. Once dry, take off the tape and check out that custom gift!

You can spray tie-dye anything: pillow cases, bed sheets, even onesies or bibs. It is a great way to use up the extra dye. Unless you think you will save it for the next day and then inevitably knock it over by accident, spilling it all over your porch. At least my porch always has that summer feeling, even three years later.


About the author: Michelle is a mom of 5 children ranging in age from 5 to 15.  As a toddler and preschool teacher, she shares experiences, activities and guidance to other parents, as both a parent and as a professional early childhood educator, at any stage of their parenting journey.

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