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Color mixing is one of Z’s favorite activities right now. He has just learned how to use a medicine dropper and he is loving the traditional Montessori color mixing activity.
So today, as part of the 12 Months of Montessori Learning series, I’m sharing five different color mixing activities and one simple activity to create different shades (which lead into Montessori color tablets.) Plus, you’ll find a lovely roundup of additional ideas and inspiration at the bottom for color mixing.
Why is color mixing important for a child?
12 Months of Montessori Learning
Part of it is Science. Part of it is Practical Life (using a medicine dropper, transferring, etc.)
Part of it is Sensorial. The training of the eye to perceive different colors and shades as they transform and appear right before your very eyes. Imagine being able to watch a chameleon change colors; the experience is downright magical. There is a tremendous joy that floods a child’s spirit when he discovers a transformation happening in front of him.
So it’s not just about academics; color mixing is also a process that helps to develop a love of learning.
Primary color mixing activities
I wanted to expose Z (3 years old) to various ways we can mix primary colors to demonstrate that no matter what medium we use, the results are always the same.
1. Colored water and medicine dropper
I prepared 3 little cups of water mixed with food coloring. You’ll only need about 1-2 drops of blue and red, whereas about 5-6 drops of yellow is needed. I put a medicine dropper (or you can use pipettes) and a few plastic shot glasses on the tray for him.
Alternatively, a complete set is available here.
I created a color mixing chart for him to use as a guide. He mixed 3-4 squeezes of each color into an empty shot glass. When he discovered the new color, he would place the correct color on the chart.
Download your free color mixing chart printable here.
You can find the step-by-step instructions here.
For toddlers, you can create a simplified version with only 2 colors to mix — click here for inspiration.
Tip: Keep in mind some food coloring do stain clothes and hands. Ours does, so we wore our “indoor clothes” that we didn’t mind staining.
2. Acrylic paint and paper
I put the primary colors acrylic paint on a palette, and he mixed the colors directly on watercolor paper. Mixing directly on paper is much more difficult and requires a lot more work from a child. You can still see some of the primary colors but I think that creates a nice effect.
3. Coffee filters dipped in colored water
This was a fun experiment to do. The colors mixed really well and the kids got a kick when the colors soaked upwards.
4. Milk, food coloring and liquid dish soap
This is actually a science experiment but the colors mix nonetheless. We soaked a q-tip with liquid dish soap and pressed it in the center of the bowl. The kids were really excited to see the colors repelling! Towards the end, the primary colors got mixed to reveal a nice creamy shade of green. You can find the instructions here.
5. Laminated coffee filters
I think you could use colored tissue paper for this, but I didn’t have any on hand, so I used coffee filters instead. Just soak each one up with a primary color, let dry and laminate. It works extremely well up against a bright light, so we’re keeping this on our shelves for repeat work since it’s less messy.
Color mixing to create shades
I also wanted to show Z how mixing a color with white or black creates different shades.
We used acrylic paint for this simply because it’s inexpensive and we already have plenty of colors, including white and black, left over from our DIY Montessori continent globe project.
I created a simple hand-drawn template for him — 7 long rectangles on a piece of paper. It didn’t have to be perfect, because he is just going to paint over them anyway. They are there to serve as placeholders or rough guides.
We started by painting some un-mixed green paint in the middle rectangle.
Then I squeezed some white paint and asked him to mix it with his brush, then paint on the next rectangle. We did this 3 times so that the green would get lighter. He saw that the more white paint I squeezed, the lighter the green got.
(Tip: To create lighter shades, we had to squeeze quite a lot of white paint to get a discernible shade difference.)
We started a clean bowl of green for darker shades and repeated the process.
(Tip: For darker shades, just adding a little bit of black paint in between shades will be sufficient to create a discernible difference.)
Looking for more color mixing ideas and inspiration?
Here are some fabulous resources where I got my inspiration!
- 10 Colour Mixing Activities + Mix It Up Review by Study At Home Mama
- 25 Fabulous Color Mixing Activities by Mama’s Happy Hive
- 4 Montessori Color Mixing Lessons by Montessori Works
- Montessori Color Mixing Activities – Rainbows of Color by Living Montessori Now
- Milk and Dish Soap Experiment by Study At Home Mama
- Color Mixing by Pinay Homeschooler
- Color Theory Part 1 and Part 2 by Pinay Homeschooler
- 20 Edible Colors & Painting by Mama’s Happy Hive
- 2 Color Mixing Activities by Every Star Is Different
Amazing blogs involved in the 12 Months of Montessori Learning