Mixing up bright and colorful M&M paint in preschool

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After exploring our M&M book and counting activity, we saved our M&Ms for this next super, super, and I mean super fun color sorting and painting activity…

The children started by sorting all the M&M colors into clear plastic cups…

Because the children worked together as a group, the color sorting went fast. There were lots of M&M’s to sort out…

Once the colors were all sorted, we stopped for a minute to compare which color of M&Ms we had the most of then rearranged the cups from the most full to the least full. We discovered we had lots more blue then we had of any other color. We had to divide our blue M&Ms into two cups…

Then each child chose a color of M&Ms to help prepare our M&M paint…

To make the M&M paint, we added water to the cups of M&Ms.  Only add just enough water to slightly cover the top of the M&Ms

The children then stirred each cup of M&Ms with a paint brush until the water in each cup turned the bright color of the M&Ms. The color continues to brighten or thicken up in the water after a few minutes of stirring…

Then the children began to paint with the colors.  The only rule today was that when the children traded cups of paint colors, the paint brush needed to go with the cup so the colors would stay bright and pretty for our paintings…

The children loved the idea of painting with M&M paint and made beautiful paintings with the M&M paint.  After awhile, we could see that the color of the M&Ms had now changed from being different colors to being all white.  The chocolate candies did not get mushy in the water – it felt like you were running your paint brush through a cup of small pebbles. It was a wonderful experience in color and texture and science and art…

The paint is similar to water color painting, so the water absorbed into the paper very quickly and the painted paper dried very quickly…

The children painted and painted, then asked for more paper and painted some more…

The children took their time with the paint and began by creating beautiful rainbow-like designs with all the colors.  After the children had painted for awhile, Ms. Abby sat down to paint with them (it was just too irresistible to only watch) the children decided that they wanted to make a painting like Ms. Abby’s…

I think this was the first time the children in our class painted scenes rather than just designs and as the children continued to paint, the paint continued to hold its beautiful color and the M&M’s in the cups began to turn from the color white to the color brown…

I wondered if the M&Ms would get mushy, but they never did. The children continued to paint with the colorful water paint and we did not have a problem with the chocolate getting on our brushes. I thought that was quite surprising…

Perhaps since the room was cool or because the water was cool the chocolate didn’t melt as we painted. I even let the M&Ms sit in the water for almost an hour after school was over and the chocolates never melted or got too mushy for painting. If you wanted to mash the chocolates up you would have to reach in and use your hands to pinch or squeeze them…

I can’t express to you what a wonderful activity this was overall. From the counting and sorting we did earlier in the day all the way through to the M&M sorting and painting activity, the children stayed engaged and were loving the process…

Let’s talk about clean up

The M&M paint wiped off easily and cleanly from my table after the children went home for the day. No staining and no heavy scrubbing was necessary.  The paint brushes rinsed out easily and I noticed they were only slightly sticky to the touch from the M&M paint. After almost an hour of use, I was surprised that everything wasn’t sticky – but it wasn’t. The children’s hands were also not sticky from the paint but even if they had gotten sticky, the paint was easy to rinse off of hands too. AND the paper was not sticky to the touch…

To clean the cups, I strained the left-over M&M paint while pouring it down the sink then threw the chocolate candies in the trash.  I didn’t want to fill my sink with the candies. Then I rinsed out the cups with water but then decided just to throw them away. These particular cups tend to crack easily after so much use…

I chose to use clear cups so the children could see through them to look at both the color of the paint as well as the changing color of the candies.  I think the only thing I would change in this entire process is to use taller clear cups so the brushes don’t tip out quite so easily…

I hope you will give this a try and if you do, remember to only add just enough water to slightly cover the amount of M&Ms you have in the cup.  This way the water will be more concentrated with the brilliant colors of the M&Ms…

I can easily say that my class would give this activity a rating of a 10! I know this because as they were leaving I heard, “Mommy, we made M&M paint today!”

I am linking up with The Play Academy and No Time for Flashcards: Link & Learn today!

By |2012-01-20T08:00:51+00:00January 20th, 2012|

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. Leeanne A January 20, 2012 at 8:40 am - Reply

    How inventive and fun – I would be tempted to eat them first and not get to the activity! LOL

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. January 20, 2012 at 8:57 am - Reply

      Haha – we did sneak a few before mixing up the paint but once I told the kids we were going to make M&M paint – that was all she wrote! The kids couldn’t wait to paint!

  2. Cheryl Golangco January 20, 2012 at 8:51 am - Reply

    I agree with Leanne! It’s so tempting to eat!!! haha :p

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. January 20, 2012 at 8:57 am - Reply

      LOL Cheryl!

  3. Melissa @ the chocolate muffin tree January 20, 2012 at 9:11 am - Reply

    What a fabulous idea! I know we would enjoy this! My daughter would want to eat the m and m’s ! You are so creative and inventive!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. January 20, 2012 at 9:44 am - Reply

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing with your readers too Melissa!

  4. Dina January 20, 2012 at 9:17 am - Reply

    Wow! I love this! I’ve done m&m sorting, but never thought to make it into paint! Have to try it one of these days!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. January 20, 2012 at 9:43 am - Reply

      I hope you will give it a try!

  5. Rob Floyd January 20, 2012 at 10:02 am - Reply

    I’m thinking I would have eaten the chocolate after the painting fun! 😉

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. January 20, 2012 at 10:06 am - Reply

      Haha! It did look kind of yummy, but since the entire class just painted with them – I wasn’t so tempted:)

      • Rob Floyd January 20, 2012 at 10:33 am

        live on the edge! 😉

      • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. January 20, 2012 at 10:36 am

        Next time, I will remember to save you the left-over chocolates:)

  6. Amanda January 20, 2012 at 1:10 pm - Reply

    I LOVE this! I never would have thought to make paint with M&M’s! I’m so pinning this for later when my son is a bit older. Thanks for the idea!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. January 21, 2012 at 12:56 am - Reply

      Thanks for the pin:)

  7. Jackie January 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    Wow! Cool. I didn’t know you could do that. That would be great for times when you have a lot of leftover candy that you aren’t thrilled with your kiddos eating! (like halloween)

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. January 20, 2012 at 10:50 pm - Reply

      It sure would! LOL!

  8. JDaniel4s Mom January 20, 2012 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    This is such a great idea! Crafting and snacking at the same time.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. January 20, 2012 at 10:51 pm - Reply

      Haha – extending the snack time experience with a little art!

  9. Cathy@pre-schoolplay January 20, 2012 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    Brilliant idea! Never thought of using sweets to colour paint. Will have to pin until they are a bit older as they eat everything now, even things that aren’t edible!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. January 20, 2012 at 10:52 pm - Reply

      Haha – my grandson is at that same stage Cathy:)

  10. Teacher Book Club January 20, 2012 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    This looks great! How old do you think a child needs to be to handle M&M’s? Would you do this activitiy, the painting part, with younger kids?

    I hope its OK, I shared this with everyone I know!


    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. January 20, 2012 at 11:33 pm - Reply

      The children in this post are 4 and 5 year’s old but I know that my 3’s could handle this too. I think children under 2 would depend on if you are working in small groups or one-on-one and how concerned you are with them taking a little taste:) This paint happens to be non-toxic:)

  11. Joy January 21, 2012 at 3:57 am - Reply

    Wow, wow, wow! This idea is amazing. I absolutely love it. It’s a great way to use the M&Ms your children used for the counting and sorting activity. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. January 21, 2012 at 9:58 am - Reply

      You are welcome Joy:)

  12. Heidi Butkus January 21, 2012 at 10:02 am - Reply

    I love this and pinned it to my science ideas Pinterest board! But how many bags of MnM’s would you need for a whole class of 24 kids to do this?

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. January 21, 2012 at 10:17 am - Reply

      I guess the best way to think of it is if you were to give each child their own individual sized bag of M&Ms to sort then have the children all work together to combine and sort the M&M’s by color. You would then have more than enough for the children to add water to each color and most likely even enough to split the colors into two different cups of paint ending up with twice the paint. The key is, no matter how many M&Ms you use in a cup – only add just enough water to cover the top of the M&M’s – and no more. The more water, the less brilliant the paint color… The children can then share the cups of paint and one cup goes a LONG way…

  13. Mariss January 21, 2012 at 12:12 pm - Reply

    Sounds like an awesome idea… but my chocolate cravings say.. Oh.. what a waste of good chocolate.. 🙂 But a worthy sacrifice I suppose in light of the experience for the children. I wonder if other semi-hard colored candies such as Skittles would work as well. You would not have the melty chocolate possibilities and perhaps the dissolved sugar in the candy would add a interesting addition? Using candy that is non chocolate will keep any chocoholics from having fits seeing good chocolate go to destruction without being consumed first. 🙂

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. January 21, 2012 at 12:15 pm - Reply

      I haven’t tried this with other candies Mariss:) Since I am not that avid of a chocolate lover – I am not so traumatized by using the M&Ms for paint rather than eating! LOL!

  14. John Bowman January 21, 2012 at 11:25 pm - Reply

    That is just plain cool, Deborah! Very nice multi-purpose activity.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. January 22, 2012 at 12:31 am - Reply

      Thank you John:)

  15. Susie January 22, 2012 at 12:51 am - Reply

    Skittles would be a great idea for classes that have students with peanut allergies. Please let us know if you give it a try!

  16. Ayn Colsh January 22, 2012 at 9:47 pm - Reply

    I love this idea! I use m&m’s so much in my class–this is just ingenious!!!! I can’t believe the chocolate doesn’t get all over the paint. I can’t wait to try it!

  17. Lisette Poissant February 23, 2012 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    Thank you for your beautifuel idea. I try it this morning. The kids separe the M&M by color and we said a magic formula ABRACADABRA… and they mix everything . It was wonderful to see the expression on these faces went they saw the color of the water change and when the white candy change to chocolate ohhhhhhhhhh!!!! They talk a lot. The kids loved it and that experience smell nice to, the kids ask me at lot of time Can we eat some, I same a bag to eat after the activity. We had a great experience because of you. Thank you very much. Please excuse my english, I am not used to write in english. Have a nice day

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. February 24, 2012 at 11:08 pm - Reply

      I love how you made this such a magical experience Lisette and your English was well done!

  18. Jane @ Mama Pea Pod February 25, 2012 at 10:05 am - Reply

    How brilliant! We’re about to try this – with a twist! 😉 Will let you know how it goes!

  19. johannah March 29, 2012 at 10:35 am - Reply

    Can’t wait to try this! I have done M&M color game but this looks too neat pass up

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 29, 2012 at 7:35 pm - Reply

      I have done this in several teaching workshops too and teachers are always amazed at how terrific it really is. Be sure to use very little water – it only takes a small amount to make the paint rich and thick!

  20. Aby January 28, 2018 at 10:57 am - Reply

    Does it matter what kind of m&m’s you use…peanut, chocolate or crispy, would they all work the same please?

    • Deborah Stewart February 3, 2018 at 3:13 pm - Reply

      The plain M&M’s work best:)

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