Mixing colors more than once!

Science activities that children initiate motivate teachers to extend and expand the activity. Children learn more details about their area of interest and make connections with other concepts when they work more than once on activities about the same concept, such as mixing colors. If you see a child noticing colors mixing at the easel, offer to bring out additional materials to explore color mixing.
See the October Early Years column, Color Investigations in Science and Children (NSTA membership required) to read about additional coloring mixing activitities.
When an activity is both easy to prepare and easy to clean up, teachers are more likely to see that it happens, and to encourage the children to repeat the activity. These two circumstances can come together in activities where children are mixing and separating colors with a variety of materials. Colored acetate (sold as clear wrapping paper in party stores) is dry, easy to store, and easy for children to handle over and over again to create new colors when they overlap the squares of color.
Mixing paint need not be messy if tiny spoonfuls are served onto a plate, mixed with a single finger, pressed with a paper towel or sheet of paper to record the colors achieved, and then washed off the plate to begin again. The young scientists repeat the process, discuss their procedures with each other, and record their results. Don’t worry that you are stifling their work by using small amounts on occasion. Children enjoy changes in scale, going small and going big!
In collaboration with their students, teachers discover new ways to explore familiar concepts. Tell about your color explorations in a comment so we can all learn.

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3 Responses to Mixing colors more than once!

  1. Marie Faust Evitt says:

    I agree that children enjoy changes in scale. In my classroom we often do big group projects and then similar projects on a small scale that children can take home or that I can keep in their portfolios. I have written a curriculum book for early childhood teachers that will be published by Gryphon House in late spring 2009 called Thinking BIG, Learning BIG: Connecting Science, Math, Literacy and Language in Early Childhood. Related to your example, Peggy, we do a lot of color mixing when we explore the topics of the moon and outer space. After studying photos of the moon, sun and planets, children fingerpaint representations. We talk about what paints they might mix to creat colors that approximate the various objects in the sky. We have several large linoleum circles (cutouts from countertops), round serving trays and smaller plastic plates that the children use as a base to mix colors. The children mix a few spoonfuls or squirts of paint on the linoleum or the back of the trays or plates. After they have mixed the paint as much as they want they wash their hands then take a sheet of paper and make a print of their painting. When they use the back of the tray or plate you don’t have to precut the paper so it fits inside. You can just leave the painting as a print on a full sheet of paper, or, after it is dry, children can cut around it. It’s amazing how realistic these paintings sometimes look. When children mix yellow and blue on the back of a tray and then make a print of it, the paintings often look remarkably like photos of the Earth from space with blue, green and white swirls. We do the color mixing over several days so children have many opportunities to explore color and size comparisons. Children who start out reluctant to touch the paint even with one finger often become more enthusiastic over time. The class can create a whole universe for a classroom wall. Marie Faust Evitt Mountain View Parent Nursery School author of Thinking BIG, Learning BIG: Connecting Science, Math, Literacy and Language in Early Childhood

  2. Norma says:

    One of the best experiments with mixing colors that I have found is using Karo syrup. We put a large drop of syrup in the middle of a paper plate and then add one drop of yellow, one of red, and one of blue food coloring on the karo syrup. Then as the child holds the plate up and lets the syrup run, the colors begin to mix and make other colors. They can keep turning the plate so that he syrup does not drip off. They get all different colors as well as shapes. This activity worked well for students who have trouble sitting still for very long and I have found that they are totally fascinated with the changing shapes and colors and will stay at this activity for a long time.

  3. Peggy says:

    Oooh, keeping karo on a tipped plate sounds like so much fun, and a good activity to explore viscosity of liquids as well as color mixing. Children could repeat the activity with water. Thanks for sharing Norma!

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