Handprint color mixing in preschool

I have a student in my class that LOVES  and I mean LOVES to mix his colors.  For any activity that we explore, he will ask if he can mix the colors. I struggled with this at the beginning of the year because everything he was taking home was ultimately turned into a muddy lovely shade of brown. But then I realized that I need to instead focus on helping him learn about these colors and how they blend together – even if they turn into a muddy brown…

For one of our color mixing processes, we did a simple but very fun color mixing activity that focused on the three basic colors – red, yellow, and blue.  Each child started with a sheet of paper and two colors of paint – for example, we started with red and yellow…

I painted one hand with red paint and one hand with yellow (our students love getting their hands painted) and then invited them to make one red and one yellow handprint in the corners of their paper….

Then we freshened up the yellow and red paint. Next, I asked the children to tell me “if you have red paint on one hand and yellow paint on the other hand – what color will you have when the two are mixed together?” The children would shout out their guesses and for the most part, the children guessed correctly but it didn’t matter if they did or not because now we were going to find out for sure…

I invited the children to rub their two hands together really, really good then see what color their hands now were.  We discovered that red and yellow make orange! Then the children made orange handprints on the remaining white part of their page…

Once we completed this process for yellow and orange, the children washed their hands and we repeated the process with two new colors.  The children now knew what the process would be and were very excited to repeat the process for the colors red and blue…

And once again for the colors yellow and blue. For each new set of colors, we started with a new sheet of plain white paper. I have saved these to make a color book for the children to take home later…

The children loved rubbing the two colors of paint together in their hands and because the process was so much fun, they asked if they could now try all three colors of paint.

So we went with it to see what the results might now be. We added red to one hand then blue to the other hand then a dot of yellow inside the middle of each hand so the children could plainly see all three colors to begin with…

We made two handprints at the top of our page with a blob of yellow in the middle then rubbed our hands together and finger painted some more…

And we discovered that all three colors make – well, it all depends on your perspective here:)

And then the children decided they wanted to continue color mixing, so we added a few more colors of paint and paint brushes to all the paint and let them have at it.  By the way, our hands were quite pruny now from all the handwashing between each color mixing activity but the children still wanted to proceed

They added a dot of each color at the top of their page then painted their own hands…

Rubbed our hands together once again…

And made more handprints…

Super fun and a great process for exploring color mixing….

Books I recommend for this activity…


Colorful Links to Grow On…

Fun with colorful bubbles

The color game

Colorful fine motor play

Mixing colored water

By |2011-12-28T09:00:32+00:00December 28th, 2011|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Rachelle December 28, 2011 at 11:04 am - Reply

    Thank you for this!!! My son is a color mixing FIEND!!! Oh my, that child mixes everything! I have a hard time w/ the mess of mixing tempra on hands, but it looks like a ton of fun.
    I had him mix colors by eye dropper & food dye into ice cube trays. He enjoyed that quite a lot.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. December 28, 2011 at 5:35 pm - Reply

      You are going to give him a very big treat if you let him try color mixing with his hands:)

  2. Pam December 28, 2011 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    Love this idea…and I’m pretty sure there must be some requirement to have at least one child in every classroom who MUST mix all the colors together…no matter what! 🙂 I can’t wait to try this with the kids- they will, not only, love the idea of creating the new color/ experimenting with color mixing, but also the sensory aspect of the hand painting and hand rubbing. and I love the idea of creating color books with these- what a great way for the children to recall their experience and review the color mixing later on as well!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. December 28, 2011 at 5:36 pm - Reply

      This was so much fun Pam and educational too. It gave me a chance to really break it down but not make it boring in the process!

  3. Scott December 28, 2011 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    I, too, love this idea. This is the first time I’ve seen painting each hand a different color and then rubbing them together to mix them. Thanks for a great activity Deborah.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. December 28, 2011 at 5:37 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome Scott – I was thinking next time we should throw in a little glitter too – just for you:) LOL!

  4. Sheryl @Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds December 28, 2011 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    Oh, you reminded me I did this many years ago! I completely forgot about it! (I’ll blame it on old age – tee hee…) I will definitely pin this one. Thank you!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. December 28, 2011 at 5:37 pm - Reply

      Isn’t it funny how old ideas can come back around and seem fresh and new again?

  5. Cheri December 29, 2011 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    I love how clear and concise (and simple?) you make this look…I’ve done this in different ways before BUT your pics are sooo helpful to me, the visual learner, I will be mixing colors YOUR way asap with my pre-Ks and Kinders!

    Thanks, I always look forward to your blog in my emails!
    Cheri 🙂

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. December 29, 2011 at 2:52 pm - Reply

      This really was simple even though it is still involved. I found adding the hand rubbing and free fingerpainting time gave me the chance to stay a step ahead on the kids as they moved from one color to the next:)

  6. abbie December 29, 2011 at 2:09 pm - Reply

    Love this idea. Absolutely need to try this out with Sam, she will love mixing the colors and getting her hands all messy!
    Thanks for sharing.

  7. Rebekah @ The Golden Gleam December 30, 2011 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    Fun!! Great and fun idea to teach children about colors!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. December 30, 2011 at 9:39 pm - Reply

      Thank you Rebekah!

  8. Jill January 5, 2012 at 11:17 pm - Reply

    I love this! what a great idea! I love that you let the kiddos paint their own hands! I wish I was brave enough! Each day I get better and better so maybe in a few weeks 🙂 or when its nice enough to do it outside!

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