Changing Colors

Learn about nutrition with carnations and color!

CIY carnation activity

Photo credit: PaintCutPaste.com

A fun way to teach kids about how our body uses the nutrients we give it is with a simple experiment involving carnations and food coloring.

You’ll need several white carnations (as many as you’d like to experiment with), food coloring, water and a few vases.

The experiment

Fill the vases up about a quarter of the way with water. Add about 10 to 20 drops of food coloring and stir it into the water. Cut off about an inch from the bottom of the stem of the carnation and place it in the vase. Now we wait. You can fill several different vases with different coloring if you’d like.

Every few hours, check back on the carnation to see if anything has changed. You might want to have your child keep a small notebook of observations.

How long does it take before the coloring starts to appear on the carnation’s petals? Consider coloring a picture of the carnation every few hours to note the changes. You can also use your phone to take pictures along the way so your child can compare the flower’s progression.  Does the carnation ever fully change colors? If so, how long does that take? Does the carnation stop changing colors? Do some colors move faster to the flower than others?

So how does this relate to your body?

Think of the colored water as the food and nutrients you take in. Think of the carnation as your body. When you eat or drink, it’s not just about how yummy it tastes. It’s about nourishing your body. The food travels down your throat into your stomach. Think of this like the stem of the carnation. The food is digested in your stomach and then the nutrients are sent out to your body to give you energy, strength and help you grow. Just like the flower sends the colored water out to the petals.

Unlike the carnation, your body needs more than water to live. Your body needs a well-rounded diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins. It’s also suggested to eat a colorful diet. Can you try to eat all colors of the rainbow?

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heather burrows mdDr. Heather Burrows is a pediatrician with a long-time association with the University of Michigan. After completing an undergraduate degree with distinction in Cellular and Molecular Biology, she earned a doctoral degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology and then graduated from the U-M School of Medicine in 2000. She next completed her residency in pediatrics at Mott Children’s Hospital. Her husband Bob is an Internal Medicine Hospitalist. They have a daughter Rose and a small dog Poppy. Her other interests include camping and sewing of all kinds. She sees patients at the East Ann Arbor Health and Geriatric Center.

mott blog - clv 2015 - camp thumbCamp Little Victors is the virtual summer camp program from C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.  Each week, for six weeks, participants receive an email full of ideas and activities to help keep families busy, happy and healthy all summer long.  Learn more and sign up.



best children's hospitalUniversity of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.