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7 min read

Colour mixing activities are a fun, hands-on way to teach children how primary colours turn into secondary colours.

Colour mixing also helps children understand:

  • Cause and effect (“I mix this red with blue and it makes purple”)

  • Making predictions i.e. hypothesizing, comparison, observation, problem-solving skills (“I’m trying to make purple but it’s still too blue. What can I add to make it look more purple?”) 

  • Critical thinking skills

    Below are 7 colour mixing activities you can do at home, ranging from mess-free (a printable) to paint mixing. 

    Activity #1: Coloured Water Transfer

    Materials: 

    Purpose: To explore the chromatic sense, learning to perceive difference between primary and secondary colours and the gradations of each while also developing/strengthening fine motor skills.

    How To Do The Activity:

    1. Transfer the coloured water with the eyedropper. If your child has never used an eyedropper before, take some time to show them how to use it.
    2. Mix the colours into an ice cube tray or small empty bowls. The Jumbo Test Tubes also work well for colour mixing because they're clear and allow you to see the colours correctly (versus using a coloured bowl). 

    Notes:

    • Your child can explore this activity independently but it could get messy if the liquids are spilled. Alternatively, you can work closely with your child and talk about the colours as they mix.
    • You can do with this activity with paper towel or basket coffee filters. Have your child transfer the coloured water onto paper towel or the coffee filter with eyedroppers and watch the colours will bleed together. Just be sure to cover the surface underneath with a mat or garbage bag so that colours don’t bleed onto table.
    • We also sell this Colour Mixer set that has everything you need for this experiment: KidzLabs Colour Lab Mixer

    Activity #2: Colour Mixing with Paint (includes mess-free version for infants)

    Materials: 

    Purpose:To explore the chromatic sense and develop/strengthen the fine motor skills. It’s also an opportunity for creative expression.

    How To Do The Activity:

    1. It's a good idea to prep wet clothes or paper towel so you have them easily reachable when your child is done with the activity. 
    2. Provide the primary coloured paint in small bowls along with paint brushes for your child to transfer to paper.
    3. Explore colouring mixing while they paint and talk about the colours they're making.

    Notes:

    • A mess-free version of this activity is to add the paint to a large freezer bag. Remove air, close bag and tape the bag down on all 4 sides to the table or floor. Allow your child to use their hands to move paint around and mix the colours inside the bag. To turn it into a piece of art by putting a piece of cardstock in the freezer bag before sealing it up. Click here for a mess-free finger painting kit.
    • For a medium-mess version, use washable paint and do the activity in the bath or outside. 
    • To reduce the mess, you can prepare wet cloths or paper towels before starting this activity. A splat mat underneath your child's work table will also reduce the clean up.
    • You can also do this activity with shaving cream by putting the shaving cream in 3 small containers and adding food colouring to each bowl (the 3 primary colours). Use a baking tray or something with a large surface for child to transfer shaving cream to (with a paint brush) and then mix the coloured shaving cream around. Warning: your child will likely want to explore this activity with their hands.
    • For younger children, you could use a homemade finger paint recipe instead of store bought.

    Activity #3: Spray Bottle Colour Mixing

      

    This is an outdoor activity because of potential mess. In the winter you can do this on the snow and in the other months you can use paper outside or an old white sheet to make a giant mural.

    Materials:

    • 3 small spray bottles (or squeeze bottles, like these. The squeeze bottles are easier for toddlers to use)
    • Water
    • Red, blue, and yellow food colouring

    Purpose: To explore the chromatic sense and develop fine and gross motor skills. Spray bottles are GREAT for developing fine motor skills.

    How To Do The Activity:

    1. Fill each spray bottle with primary coloured water.
    2. Invite your child to spray the different colours, noticing how they mix together. 

    Activity #4: Gross Motor Colour Mixing

    Materials:

    • A see-through plastic container with a secure lid (it doesn’t have to be see-through but it will keep the child more engaged if they can see what’s happening).
    • A piece of paper
    • Paint in each of the 3 primary colours (or just do 2 at a time)
    • A marble 

    Purpose: To explore the chromatic sense and develop gross motor skills.

    How To Do The Activity:

    1. Cut the the paper to just fit inside the container.
    2. Add a dollop of 2 of the primary colours at a time into the container, along with the marble.
    3. Close the lid and shake, dance, jump, etc.
    4. Watch the colours mix together inside the container.
    5. When finished, carefully remove the paper and talk about what happened.
    6. Repeat the activity with 2 different primary colours. 

    Activity #5: Playdough Colour Mixing

    We tend to discourage children from mixing different colours of playdough together but it’s a great learning opportunity. You just need to provide them with the right colours to avoid it becoming a brown blob.

    Materials:

    Purpose:To explore the chromatic sense and strengthen the hands. Working with play dough is AMAZING for fine motor skills.

    How To Do The Activity:

    1. Prep a few balls of the same colour so your child can explore the activity as long as they want.
    2. Invite your child to use their hands to mix 2 of the colours together to make a secondary colour.

    Notes:

    • For a mess-free version or for children who are still mouthing, put 2 coloured balls in a small ziploc bag, remove air and seal it with tape. Your child can mix the colours inside bag.

    Activity #6: Melting Coloured Ice Cubes

      

    Note that this is an activity you will need to prep ahead of time.

    Materials:

    • Red, blue, and yellow food colouring
    • 1 ice cube tray
    • 3 small bowls and 1 larger bowl
    • A pair of tongs 

    Purpose:To explore the chromatic sense and develop observation skills. This is also a good opportunity to learn about the science behind changes in the states of water at different temperatures (i.e. it's frozen when it's cold and liquid when it's warm).

    How To Do The Activity:

    1. Add red, blue and yellow food colouring to water in an ice cube tray before it freezes.
    2. Remove ice cubes from tray and put each colour in its own bowl.
    3. Give your child the opportunity to transfers the ice cubes into the larger bowl with tongs and watch the colours mix as they melt. You can speed up the melting process, by adding a bowl of warm water and an eyedropper (or a spray bottle) to squirt over the ice cubes. 

    Activity #7: Mess-Free Colour Mixing Printable

     

    This printable is a great way to explore colour mixing but note that your child should learn about colour mixing in a hands-on way first, otherwise this will likely be too complicated for them. 

    Materials:

    Purpose:to explore colour mixing and understanding of the difference between primary and secondary colours.

    How To Do The Activity:

    1. Cut out all the coloured circles on page 2 of the printable. If your child is old enough and interested, they can cut out the circles on page 2.

    Simplified Version:

    2. The adult fills in the primary colours on the left side of the printable. The child adds the correct secondary colour on the right side of the equal sign. 

    Blue circle + yellow circle = Empty circle
    Red circle + yellow circle = Empty circle
    Blue circle + red circle = Empty

    More Challenging Version:

    2. Leave all three circles empty for your child to complete the combinations on page 1. You can provide your child with page 3 to check their work after. 

    Notes:

    • A hands-on way of using this printable is to use it with paint rather than cutout circles.
    • You could post page 1 that your child has completed or page 3 (the reference sheet) in your child’s art area so they can refer to it while working with art materials.

    For MESS-FREE colour mixing materials, check out the products available in our shop:

    Colour Mixing Science Experiments

    For even more colour mixing activities, check out last year's post, 5 Science Experiments You Can Do With Your Toddler.

    Three of the experiments in this post are great for exploration of colour mixing:

    • Magic Milk - just use food colouring that is primary colours
    • Baking Soda and Vinegar - just use food colouring that is primary colours
    • Creeping Colours

    With all these activities above, once the child has an understanding (and is able to recognize/identify) the primary and secondary colours, you can move on to tertiary colours - Tertiary Colours: Red-Orange, Yellow-Orange, Yellow-Green, Blue-Green, Blue-Violet, Red-Violet, which are formed by mixing a primary with a secondary.

    If you want to explore different gradations of the primary and secondary colours, you could also add white to the playdough and paint activities.

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