A lesson in color mixing

A neat way to explore primary and secondary colors with your preschoolers!

All through out the year, I give my students lots of opportunities for exploring concepts such as color mixing but along with the freedom to independently explore, I will often take the time to sit down with my students and walk through a concept. This lesson in color mixing is an example of such a time…

A lesson in color mixing by Teach Preschool

Preparing the Investigation

Anytime there is a process that I want to guide my students through, I find it best if I really think through what approach will work the best. Will it be better to add a dot of color on each circle graph or leave the graph blank? Will it be better to prepare the colors of paint ahead of time or invite the children to add their own colors? Will it be better to use one brush with a cup of water or lots of brushes and no water?  Will my students find “Plan A” more  interesting and easy to understand or should I go with “Plan B?” What kind of information do I really expect my students to walk away with and remember?..

A lesson in color mixing by Teach Preschool

Remaining Flexible

As much as I think ahead, I almost always find that something doesn’t go as planned and so regardless of the plan I choose to go with, I know that it is important to remain flexible and not get too focused on the “lesson” but to instead stay focused on the purpose. Ultimately, the purpose in this lesson was to break down the process of color mixing and to open up discussion that promotes critical thinking and inquiry. We began by asking questions like “What do you think will happen if we mix red with blue ?” and then we searched for answers…

A lesson in color mixing by Teach Preschool

Beginning the Color Mixing

In this type of lesson, I guide my students through the steps to answer our questions. We began by painting red on one triangle then moved on to painting a second triangle with the yellow…

A lesson in color mixing by Teach Preschool

Honoring the Interests of the Child

In my mind, each child would skip a space in the color wheel to paint the two colors but my first error in planning showed up right away. The children went off in different directions with the two colors. Some painted side-by-side, some painted with the yellow right on top of the red, and others skipped a space. Did that mean this lesson was a fail? As Pete the Cat might say say, “Goodness No!” Colors come and colors go – so we just kept on plugging along….

A lesson in color mixing by Teach Preschool

Exploring Primary and Secondary Colors

Our oldest students began to catch on to how to apply and mix the paint on the color wheel so that they would be able to see every color on their wheel where our youngest students got a little confused about the idea of spacing out their colors. But the lesson still was a success as the children worked to intentionally select two different colors  and mix them together to make a third color…

A lesson in color mixing by Teach Preschool

And along the way, I realized that it was best for the children to use different paint brushes so that their colors would not get so muffed up on the brushes. So at the very last minute, we pulled out cotton swabs to use for mixing our colors…

A lesson in color mixing by Teach Preschool

Reflections on the Experience

I am sure you have had a lesson where the plan didn’t quite go as you had originally thought. Did you make an adjustment? Did you scrap the idea altogether? Want to tell me about it?  Leave a comment below and we will continue this discussion…

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By |2019-02-11T14:16:37+00:00August 7th, 2013|

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. Nichole August 7, 2013 at 7:21 am - Reply

    After being a classroom teacher for the past two terms, I’m back doing relief work this term and one thing useful about being a relief (or substitute) teacher is seeing what others have planned then asking yourself, would I have done it the same way? What would I change? Why would I change it?

    I did some colour mixing lessons in my class last term using ‘Mouse Paint’. We read then mixed colours using playdough then painted the colours in paint.


  2. Nour August 7, 2013 at 7:38 am - Reply

    This is REALLY a good idea. I will try it in my class inshaAllah.

  3. Wendy August 7, 2013 at 1:09 pm - Reply

    I find that working with preschoolers, the plans often go in the direction THEY want them to. I plan lessons that I think will teach science, math, reading, etc. I’m sure the children are learning by the progress they make during the school year, but my lesson plans often get altered to meet their needs or interests.

  4. Karen August 7, 2013 at 8:50 pm - Reply

    Love the Mouse books! We did a color mixing activity after Mouse Paint, where students chose two colors of fingerprint to see what would happen. One of my favorite lessons!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. August 7, 2013 at 10:04 pm - Reply

      Love that idea Karen!

    • Nichole August 13, 2013 at 7:21 am - Reply

      That sound like fun too. I wonder it it would work with ink pads too? Might do some experimenting. I love the Ed Emberley Finger print books.

  5. carol August 10, 2013 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    Very creative way to get them to think outside the box.

  6. Marcia Fowler January 28, 2014 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    I’m glad you showed your initial intent and what really happened. I’m doing a day of mixing tomorrow with preschool and I’ll keep Q-tips handy. Thanks!

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