Sensory Art Play: Puffy Rainbow Clouds

Have you ever wished you could paint a cloud? Even if the idea never occurred to you, I guarantee your kiddos will love this activity. Not only will they be able to create a giant, puffy cloud in a seriously cool way, they’ll be able to add color to their hearts’ content and THEN dive into some ooey, gooey, foamy sensory play. Art, sensory, science, and FUN with only two household ingredients- what more could you ask for?

Puffy Rainbow Clouds: Sensory Art Play

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Puffy Rainbow Clouds

If you want to make a puffy rainbow cloud, you have to start by making a regular cloud. We accomplished this with half a bar of Ivory soap and our microwave. If you’ve never done the classic Ivory soap experiment with your kiddos, you’re in for a treat- basically Ivory soap is whipped into a frenzy during the manufacturing process to create its signature light and airy texture, and the air that is trapped inside the bar of soap expands when you microwave it and you end up with a giant puffy mound of amazing 😉 You can read more about the science behind the Ivory soap experiment at Steve Spangler Science.

*Looking for Ivory Soap? It is readily available in the USA in grocery stores, or you can find it on Amazon HERE. For UK readers, I’m not positive on a commonly found substitute (leave in comments if you have one), but you can find it on Amazon UK HERE.  If you are in Australia, I’ve heard rumors that Ivory soap is available at Costco there- someone check it out and let us know!

Ivory Soap

So yeah. Place your bar (or half bar- we wanted two separate clouds so we cut ours in half and did it twice) on a paper plate and stick it in your microwave. It took less than a minute for our soap to expand in a crazy cool fashion into the big fluffy cloud you see below…just set your microwave for two minutes and stop it when the soap stops “growing.”

Ivory soap cloud

The “cloud” of soap has a unique texture- kinda crunchy on the outside and airy/spongy on the inside. It’s pretty crumbly so treat it with care if you don’t want to destroy it right away!  After our clouds cooled, I carefully transferred them from the paper plates to our favorite Ikea mirrored tray so the twins could get a closer look.

clouds on mirror

After that, I mixed up jars of colored water using a few drops of food coloring per jar- I’d prefer to use liquid watercolors but we were running low.  I gave the twins a few pipettes (another art/sensory staple of ours- find them HERE on Amazon) and let them loose to paint their clouds any way they pleased.

Painting clouds with pipettes

It was so fun! The colored water soaked into the soap clouds just perfectly. It was neat to watch the color feather out through the spongy material.

Painting clouds with pipettes

We ended up with big puffy colorful clouds just as we had envisioned. Will thought they looked like coral reefs and started telling stories about all the anemones that lived there. Syd preferred to imagine that the clouds were home to rainbow ponies. Either way, I was happy the activity sparked their imaginations.

a bowl of puffy rainbow clouds

We left the clouds on the mirrored tray until they got soggy and then transferred them into some clear bowls before the serious squishing began.

squishing cloudsThere was giggling…

squishing and smilingand pouring…
pouring colored water  and more giggling.Laughing

Once the colored water and soap was combined we ended up with a fluffy, foamy, fragrant mush that the kids played in foreeeever. 

soap mush

You’ve really got to try this. Trust us. It’s soapalicious!

Developmental Skills

This activity had lots of opportunities for developmental stimulation- for more about the benefits of sensory play you can check out Sensory Play: Is This Really Necessary? or Building Language with Sensory Play. Coloring the clouds with pipettes offered great fine motor practice. Open-ended experimentation with the properties of the materials (combining the soap with the liquid, etc.) presented opportunities for problem solving, cause and effect reasoning, formulating hypotheses, etc. which stimulate cognitive growth. Slightly older kiddos will enjoy delving a bit more into the science behind the Ivory soap experiment as well.

More Good Stuff for You

If you liked our puffy rainbow clouds, here are some more activities to try:

Sensory Art Play: Puffy Rainbow Clouds


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  1. Soapalicious, indeed! Looks like a blast!

  2. What a beautiful post — and I can’t believe how easy it is!! Lovely :)

  3. Oh how I love this! So clever! Adding to next week’s to do list!

  4. Looks like so much fun. Can’t wait to try this!!!!

  5. I am trying this. looks like lots of fun

  6. This looks great! Does anyone know another soap I could use? Don’t think you can get that one in the UK.

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Ayla! Just added some purchase information for Amazon UK to the beginning of the post- hope that helps! Ivory is “whipped” so it contains a lot of air (it actually floats while other brands of soap sink) which is why it expands in the microwave. If there are brands of soap that behave similarly in the UK (i.e. float in water) they might be worth a try, but I can’t guarantee they will work.

  7. Liz Robinson says:

    Please tell what Ivory soap is?
    What is the version I could use in the uk.?

  8. This is just beautiful and looks like tons of fun too! I’ll be sharing this on The Crafty Crow soon!

  9. We love this and have done it for years! I wrote about it last year and even included the same Steve Spangler link with the science background info. :)

    • Stephanie says:

      Hah! Looks great! We pretty much paint everything with pipettes these days for the fine motor benefits and because my twins are so engaged by it, so for us this was a natural progression from the basic experiment. My son had actually made an observation that morning about how the clouds looked like they had been painted (they get up with the sun) which is what spurred the idea at our house! Glad we all have good ole’ Steve to link to, eh? Great minds, I always say 😉

  10. Anyway to do this without a microwave, in a regular oven?
    Please respond if you can to my email.. thanks!!

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Chaya,

      I think you need a microwave for this to work properly- the oven would probably just burn up the soap. Sorry I don’t have better news for ya :/


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