Right from the start, when children start drawing and painting, they love markers. We bought coloured pencils and crayons for our nieces at home, but they soon explained it to us: “We have markers in kindergarten.” And this was not a statement, but a hidden message.
Why this fascination for markers is still a mystery to me today. Maybe because they look better on paper? Or because of the smell of the marker (some children really like the smell)? I thought to myself, let’s try markers because our little ladies didn’t ask for anything extravagant. I love a variety of school, and now office, gadgets and my nieces should have their markers too. The joy when I brought new markers home was indescribable! They drew and painted all day. New works of art are produced one after the other and each one is incredibly important and should be taken home with you, even if only one, a tiny flower is drawn on it. Sounds familiar?
In the meantime, in the heat of drawing, they naturally forget to put the marker caps back on to close the marker, because otherwise, it dries out. Although we remind the children to close the markers, we have to admit that small children forget this unintentionally and we cannot blame them. The problem arises when the markers no longer write and colour because the markers have dried up. “Teja, we need new markers,” my nieces remind me when they can’t draw their next big piece of art.
Children sometimes try to soak the marker with water, which works in the short term, but they write worse because the water is not solvent. Markers require organic solvents that dissolve the dye in them to dissolve it and allow the dye to flow. This is how the marker writes, but when it dries, it only means that the alcohol from the marker has evaporated and the undissolved, dried dye remains in the marker. I told my nieces that I have to go to the warehouse of my VseUk Institute, where we store the materials for the STEM science club Little Curious Minds to find something. I knew we should have had isopropyl alcohol and yes, I found it! So it was quickly decided – we will have the lesson of the Little Curious Minds at home!
Materials you need:
– 99% ethanol or isopropanol ( you can purchase it at craft stores or Amazon UK)
– Dried markers
– Sheet of paper
– High 2 DCL glass
– Knife to help open the markers caps (ADULTS USE ONLY!) or pliers, if you have them handy
– Syringe (buy in a pharmacy, smallest you can find)
– A smaller glass or plastic cup
– Paper towels
– Protective goggles (optional)
1. First, the children have to test all markers and put all non-writing instruments on a stack. Parents, teachers or other adults should remove the cap from the back of the marker. Sometimes you have to use a knife or pliers (as in the photo on the right).
2. Adults should pour a little alcohol into a small glass and give it to children. As a precaution, roll out paper towels on the table, as it is possible that the ink may flow a little through the felt tip of the marker or that you pour out alcohol. Whoops 😉 But don’t worry, they just disinfected the table.
3. Children now use a small syringe to add some alcohol to the pen. Hold the marker vertically so that the cap of the marker is below. Place the marker vertically (with the cap on) in the tall glass so that the alcohol can flow down through the marker and dissolve the dye. Leave it there for a few minutes.
4. When all the markers are filled with alcohol, test them. If any marker doesn’t write, add some more alcohol to it.
5. When all the markers are writing, the adults attach the caps back.
6. Markers are like new!
And why is that useful? We can use this procedure at home or in kindergarten or school and have a science day. I really wish I had known that before I threw dried markers in the trash can. Children test their accuracy this way, learn useful chemistry (my nieces quickly informed grandmother and grandfather that “the water in the markers doesn’t help because it doesn’t dissolve the dye inside, you know! “) and recycle their stuff.
So before you throw away the dried markers, you can set up a mini children’s laboratory at home that can become your afternoon project. My two girls have already told me that “it will be necessary to put the thing in the markers at home as well”.
Teja is trainer for our Science for primary school children: When complicated becomes fun and easily understandable course.