The wonders of bright and colorful gelatin

Gelatin  squares create a fascinating and interesting exploration in color and texture through water play, science, and discovery…

The gelatin squares are cool and rubbery to the touch and because there is no sugar involved, they are not sticky….

To make gelatin squares, I followed the directions on the box of Knox Gelatine but reduced the amount of water so that the gelatin would be more play friendly. For each color, I used…
  • 1 package of Knox original unflavored Gelatine
  • 1/2 cup of cold water
  • 1/2 cup of boiling water
  • Food color

After mixing all the ingredients, following the directions on the Knox Gelatine box, I poured each color into an ice tray and refrigerated it for almost 2 weeks.  In the future, I think I will just pour each color into a cake pan and refrigerate then cut them into squares so it is easier to remove them from the pan. Removing them from the ice trays was a bit challenging….

I let the children help me remove the Gelatin squares from the ice trays and play with them as they went along.  The children loved feeling the texture and trying to stack up the squares as we took them out of the trays…

As you can see, some of the squares didn’t come out all that perfect but most of them did.  Some of the children used plastic knives to slice the squares.  We explored the squares in many ways so I wasn’t worried about making perfect squares for this process…

And some of the children made shapes on the table with the gelatin squares…

Although we stacked the squares together, they did not stick together. After exploring all the squares on the table for a bit, I set out a tub of COLD water and invited the children to explore the gelatin squares in the water.  They LOVED this and while playing in the water, the children made the observation that the gelatin squares were not changing the color of the water…

The children used their hands to explore the squares in the water and they also used plastic strainers (which I saved from frozen steamer dinner trays) to pick up the squares from the water.

The cold water did start to turn slightly green from the squares of gelatin but the children wanted to explore more color melting so we added a second tub of warm water. The children wondered if hot water would melt the gelatin faster so after we had played with the squares in cold water for awhile, I set out a second tub of very warm water (almost hot) for the children to see what would happen to the squares…

And we saw an immediate reaction to the warm water. The colors began to bleed out into the water as the gelatin squares started to melt…

Obviously we were not going to be using the gelatin squares for more than one day of exploration but it was all worthwhile and because it was such an interesting material to explore – I will gladly make more squares for future play…

As the gelatin squares were added to the warm water tub, theycontinued to melt until our warm water tub turned to a dark green…

This process provided a rich experience in language, science, fine motor development, and play. If you wanted to make the process last longer, then wait to add the warm water and just let the children explore the gelatin squares in several tubs of cold water….

In the end, our warm water tub turned a dark green from all the colors mixed together.  I also think we could have set out several tubs of warm water and had the children sort the gelatin squares by color into the different warm water tubs before mixing all the colors together….

Lots of opportunity to change this process up for future play and discovery!


Links to grow on…

Rainbow Gelatin Sensory Tub from No Time for Flashcards

Sensory Play with Jelly from Learning 4 Kids

Books available on Amazon…

By |2012-03-25T14:00:38+00:00March 25th, 2012|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. [email protected] March 25, 2012 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    We have never explored gelatin in water before. We will have to try this!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 25, 2012 at 2:35 pm - Reply

      This was a first for us too and we loved it!

  2. Mary March 25, 2012 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    I have also put unflavored gelatin into a large bowl, let it set and then turn the bowl upside down in front of the children as we are talking about it. Then it goes into the sensory table and the children use eye droppers with colored water and push the eye dropper into the Knox and watch all of the different colored water go down through the Knox. I get such a kick seeing them get SO excited. They really will get excited with the Knox squares, thank you for the idea!!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 25, 2012 at 6:05 pm - Reply

      Ooooh, that is such a cool idea! My class would love to explore the gelatin this way!! We may have to borrow your idea right back!

  3. Tina March 25, 2012 at 7:10 pm - Reply

    So this takes 2 weeks in the fridge to set? I have never used this before.

  4. alissa apel March 26, 2012 at 12:46 pm - Reply

    That looks like fun! We’ve done pudding painting before, but never messed with JELLO. I used these ice cube trays for baby food:

    They work great for frozen tempera paint! They have silicone bottoms. You can run the tray under warm water and pop the cubes out into the lid.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 26, 2012 at 1:47 pm - Reply

      I have some silicone trays but didn’t even think to use them for this!

  5. School Sparks Renee March 26, 2012 at 4:29 pm - Reply

    Deborah, This looks like a lot of fun. It’s also a great way to introduce colors as children explore the various jello squares. The pictures are terrific. Thanks. Renee

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 26, 2012 at 6:52 pm - Reply

      Thank you for stopping by Renee! I could have played with these myself all day!

  6. Kat G March 26, 2012 at 4:45 pm - Reply

    Two weeks in the freezer? Really? Can anyone tell me whether they’ve been able to freeze them up sooner? That seems like a really long time for gelatin to get around to changing states…

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 26, 2012 at 6:51 pm - Reply

      Oh no, they did not go in the freezer at all!! Make sure you know that. They were in the refrigerator for 2 weeks but only because I kept forgetting to take them over to the school. They can gel up in the fridge in a day but you might have better results if you let them gel for a few days.

    • Kat G March 26, 2012 at 8:20 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the response. Two weeks did sound like a lot. I’ll let it go overnight at least for best results. Thanks!

  7. Maria March 26, 2012 at 5:17 pm - Reply

    I can definitely see my kids enjoying these activity. Aside from the fun colors, they are safe and delicious. I am glad that I have learned something new to introduce to my kids. Thank you for sharing.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 26, 2012 at 6:50 pm - Reply

      Well – just so you know! Since we did not use flavored Gelatin – they really didn’t have any taste – but they were definitely safe!!

  8. Km April 5, 2012 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    Deborah I am giggling at your comment response… ” I could have played with them all day”. I was just thinking about how I loved to play with these as a young child. I don’t think I have matured much since then… Because it still looks fun!!!!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. April 5, 2012 at 7:02 pm - Reply

      The gelatin is so super cool and I am quite certain I haven’t matured much either:) I always love when you stop by Katherine!

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