Rainbow in a Jar

I remember doing this project when I was young– one of my favorites.  I loved the process of making it, the way the colors looked next to each other, how the layers undulated in the jar.   I remember begging my mother to let me do this more.  She claimed that it used too much salt – way too expensive.  Given that the salt I bought my children was $0.50 a canister and could make four of these each, I realize now that my mother was avoiding the mess–  Hrmmph.  Well, fair warning, this is a salty mess, but oh so much fun. And relatively easy to clean up with 2 or 3 sweepings.
I love getting ready for projects, so much promise and cooperation. 
 This project makes for a good easter centerpiece – so many pretty pastels.

Here’s the how-to:

Materials
Paper
Colored Chalk
Salt
Small Jars –We’re out of the baby-phase so no baby food jars in this house, but if you have them, they are ideal for this project. I found some old plastic craft jars I hadn’t used, so went with that. I highly recommend using glass as the chalk dust sticks less.
1.     Gather Materials.  My suggestion is to get a set of materials for each child – makes for less yelling and grabbing. I know we’ll use them again, too.
Plus, that way they get to label.
2.     Pour salt on a piece of paper, enough to make a layer about 1/4 “ thick in your chosen container. This is tactilely so wonderful – let your kids play with it – or design with it.
3.     Take your chosen chalk color and rub the chalk back and forth across the salt until you get the desired color saturation.
4.     Carefully, pour layer of colored salt into container.
5.     Use the opposite side or a new piece of the paper for a new color (these pages can be used for chalk drawings after the project is over).
6.     Pour layers at angles and around the jar to get interesting strata.  You can rotate the jar while pouring to achieve this.
7.      Repeat process with new colors until jar is completely full.  Take care not to shake the jar as this will mix the layers up – brown salt, no fun.   Add lid and Voila!
8.     Take a moment to relish in the happy feeling you get making something and appreciate the colors and layers and how they look.
9.     Display artfully.

  1. Beautiful! Great craft idea. I’ll have to give this one a try! Anne, your photography is wonderful!

    • SADIE

      OMG! i luv it! heres an idea, make a tiny one and tie and gold ribbon just under the lid with a bow at the back!! It looks beautiful! and i agree with belinda, your photography is good!

  2. Wow! I remember seeing this when I was a child at friends houses but I never knew how it was done.Great post and pictures! You give me ideas for my school job! Thanks!

  3. Monica

    Your house looks like so much fun!!

  4. Monica

    This is a great project!!! I’ll have to wait a couple of years (you can imagine what a mess it would be now at 3!), but it’s on my list of things to do!!! And I also really enjoy your photography.

  5. Darcy

    lovely! I’ve seen this project before but never where you color your own salt, what a great idea.

  6. What a fantastic idea! I love how colourful they are. I bet the kids at church would really enjoy making these. Niki xxx

  7. Tuna

    This would be fun to try with coloured bath salts and give as gifts.

  8. kelly

    thanks for sharing…great for a birthday party!

  9. Susan

    You’ve saved the day! I was trying to think of a craft to do with my troop of 6 y.o. daisy girl scouts and coming up empty until Design Mom linked you up!

  10. This is a great craft idea for the kids! With the week of rain that we are expecting here in San Francisco, I definitely will be trying this one.

  11. Stesha

    Awesome idea! Great summer craft project.

    Hugs and Mocha,
    Stesha

  12. Amanda

    Hi Anne. I love this! I am the crafts editor at Parents mag, and I’d love to chat with you about crafts for magazine. Thanks!
    amanda.kingloff@meredith.com

  13. What a FUN idea! I didn’t realize that the chalk would color the salt. So does the salt sort of work like sandpaper and make chalk dust that colors the salt?? So curious I think we’ll have to try it. You see the layered sand a lot, but this is more fun and simpler to be able to make all the colors yourself. THANKS for sharing!!

  14. calbrecan

    Thanks so much for sharing this. I tried it today with my Girl Scout troop and everyone loved the project. The results were beautiful! And several of the girls got creative and blended several colors of chalk together to make different shades. Fun project!

  15. anne

    Yay! so glad you did the project and it was a success. It is somehow so satisfying seeing your hard work poured into that jar in such beautiful ways, isn’t it?

  16. Rashmie

    I came here via the ‘wonderyears’. This is such a heart warming way of beautifying unused glass jars/bottles. I must try this. Your display on the window sill makes such a pretty picture. Thanks for the inspiration :)

  17. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this craft. Planning on doing it with my Brownie group for our year end party. Can anyone give a rough idea how long it takes? THANKS!

  18. anne

    Thanks for all your lovely comments.

    Jacquelyn, I would say it took us between 30 to 50 minutes or so to complete two jars each (more with clean-up time). I have one that rushes and one that is careful and one that is distracted all the time. The more kids you add, the longer it will take the whole group to compete. Have fun and send pictures!

  19. sarah

    We just did this today–SO fantastic!!! Thank you so much for the idea! Easy, fun–my 5 year old LOVED it!

  20. I have never heard of doing this before. What a great project. We are definitely going to try this.

  21. I can’t wait to try this with our art group! Thank you so much for sharing such a great and inexpensive project!!!

  22. Scott

    I remember doing this as a kid in an art class – it was a lot of fun an pretty simple. Let me add a few tips: 1) you can use “playground sand” too. 2) smash the chalk up first and then mix it with the salt or use powdered paint 2) you can use a pencil or end of an artist’s paintbrush to create designs like flying birds. Thanks!

  23. new to your blog … marked it on pinterest and just did it this afternoon with my littles. Thanks for the idea!

  24. Anonymous

    Wow! this blew my mind! i always wanted to know how to do this! My parents would always buy specific craft kits to make these, if only they knew it was this easy!

  25. Kristin

    Can you tell me how big the jars are that you used and where you got them? I would love to try this for a rainbow birthday party we’re having soon.

    Thanks!!

  26. anne

    Ohh – fun! The jars are about 3 inches high and an inch and 3/4 on each side. I think I got them at JoAnn Fabrics a long time ago. Small jam jars, babyfood jars, or condiment jars all work well for this too.

  27. Emma

    Hi, just added a link to this from my blog. Thanks for the inspiration.

  28. Anonymous

    Just finished this!! thank you so much for the idea!!

  29. Nana

    Vinyl tablecloths are your friend! They are so cheap, and make great floor covers which can then be picked up careful and the waste dumped easily into the trash. Great for finger painting, play doh, and I’m sure for this project as well.

  30. Anonymous

    My kids just did this project.My son is 11 and my daughter is 8.Great project for both of them. They really enjoyed it! Thank you!

    • anne

      Yay! I’m so thrilled to hear that! It is so much fun, isn’t it??

  31. Emily

    We did these as kids in the summer. Instead of rubbing the salt and chalk on the paper, we used old cool whip containers. It contained the salt a lot better and was easier on clean-up.

    • anne

      The cool whip containers is brilliant–definitely would help with the mess and the pouring!

  32. I LOVE THIS! We’re doing a Rainbow Birthday Party theme for our daughter and I think this is the perfect outdoor craft! Emphasizing the [outdoor] not inside my house with 30 kids! LoL Thanks for posting this!

  33. FANTASTIC! I used this idea as a craft activity for my daughters 5th birthday which was themed ‘Rainbows & Unicorns’. It was such a huge hit with children and parents alike and such a nice take home token for each of the kiddies… plus it kept all 26 children occupied whilst the food was getting prepped and served!
    Thanks so much for sharing!
    The Spangler
    @The Quick Unpick

    • anne

      Great idea for a party – so glad you all had fun doing it.
      Anne

  34. empty spice jars would be perfect for this project

  35. What a fun idea! We are definitely going to try out this project at our house!

    • anne

      absolutely! Have fun!

  36. We did this at Awana in the summer when we were kids…but we used sand and food coloring…then we had to bake the sand in the oven on low. When our colors were ready we used big glass display vases and we made like mountain ranges and birds in the sky…u take black sand and pour a little on the side of the glass and take a toothpick and push down in the middle of the black sand and u have a bird like kids draw on paper…it was so fun…never tried the chalk way seems like less work! ~~~

  37. Mike

    Just make sure the kids don’t salt their food with the rainbow salt shakers.

  38. Ashley

    So I want to start by saying this is an amazing idea :D

    I have a 3 year old and 5 year old so I needed a more fool proof method to use. I gave them a small sandwich bag for each color and the salt already poured into the bags :D let them stir until they get the color they want and then pour them into containers with a funnel :D the bags keep the mess off the table and saves paper. Also we can keep the chalk pieces in the bags to do this project again.

    • anne

      great idea Ashley. Thanks for sharing!!

  39. I love the idea! How can I follow this blog? I’m fairly new in blogging but I love the creativity I see in your blog :)

    • anne

      Hi Laiden. Thanks so much for your message! You can subscribe to my posts by RSS feed by clicking the button below my photo above. Or, you can subscribe by email. There is also a field to input that below my photo on the right hand side of the blog.
      xo anne

  40. Carola

    Thank for this creative idea. I found it through pinterest. The kids will love it! Wonder if we can use fine sand also? We live in the Bahamas and have loads of that resource! :)

    • anne

      You can use sand! The colors aren’t as vibrant but it works and it is awesome to use something right outside the door. I’ve done it at the beach before. You can also use the colored sand and glue to make fun colored sand paintings.

  41. Ellen

    I just did this with my 4 year old son. We both had a blast! So fun! Thank you for this idea!

  42. Neat project! I have heard of various ways of getting the colors before, but none quite like this. It sounds like a fun, simple way to do it!

  43. I am very glad to learn alot from you this meaningful knowledge. From an article describing your unique way , we can see that you are an approachable , humorous person

  44. Anonymous

    This looks so pretty to try. I am an artist as well and love the whole calming behind it as well. But I am wondering about one thing. The salt is no longer good to consume right? Also I am a gardener and I saw one lady saying how they were going to use it as a theme for her daughter’s birthday. But outside. Just be careful if a lot of the salt gets in one spot on the grass it will cause it to brown and die. Some salts are ok like Epsom because of the magnesium(plants love the stuff) . Anyways just wanted to comment on how wonderful and refreshing to the eyes they are. Thanks for the blog posting.

    • anne

      Hi, I know this is late to respond to this, but no, I would not consume it. It will have a lot of colored chalk dust included, and I wouldn’t eat it.

  45. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  46. Kim

    I am 42 and I did this in kindergarten….I have also done this throughout the years to decorate. It isn’t as much fun when you buy the already made colored sand.

    • Hi Kim,
      I agree – coloring the sand is my favorite part! My daughter just asked me to do this again! She loves it. Have fun!

  47. Abby

    Just wondering if you ummm can use sand cause looks fun but don’t want to waste money on salt and salt so please reply thank you bye

    • You can use sand. It makes more muted colors but its still fun to do and looks beautiful.

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  51. Alyssa

    We enjoyed doing this so much…..The only modification that I did was mix the salt and chalk in a 1″ high tupperware container so the mess was not so much. Thanks so much for the great idea!

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