Colour mixing is such an easy and inexpensive art activity for children of all ages and can easily be done by the youngest child.
As with all Montessori compatible activities, art should always be child led and about the process not the product especial in the years between 0-6.
For a toddler colour mixing can simply be a transferring work. Above, Quentin at 18 months carefully transferring blue food colour tinted water from one small jar to another with a long pipette. This strengthens fine motor control and concentration. He loved sucking up the water in the pipette and carefully squeezing it out into the other container. Sometimes we would adjust the amount of blue or yellow dye to affect the shade of green that would inevitably be made from his mixing but this was for the most part involuntary by him. He was simply absorbing what was happening.
For the 3-6 age group, an easy to carry tray with the primary colours and a slotted dish, a bowl to dump used water and a sponge for clean up make colour mixing exciting. Children at this age love to experiment with each of the primary colours and it’s still very much about the process here. In the classroom we talk about their favourite colour, what happens when you mix blue with red, red and yellow, yellow and blue, but for the most part they are experimenting and absorbing the experience of those experiments.
By the time the child reaches Elementary, multiple mediums such as paper to spray invite a child to continue their experiments. Small spray bottles and containers (the exact same ones from when he was 18 months), help a child keep their work contained and orderly.
A colour wheel is clearly understood by this point and the child can follow it to achieve the desired colour or make their own.
It is always fascinating to see the social and neurological development at each stage. At 7.5 years old, he commented on the imaginary tastes of his colours such as “root beer” above, and mint tea in a previous combination. It’s still amazing to see him quiet himself as he did in his toddler days and focus on the task at hand.
There are endless colour mixing ideas on Pinterest and around social media. If you haven’t tried it with your little one here’s some things to keep in mind:
- Keep it simple and age appropriate. Trying to explain the why and how of everything to a toddler won’t make it enjoyable
- Be prepared for spills. Sponges, bowls, towels and play clothes help make this successful for the youngest child
- Follow the child. Let them truly experiment with colour. If all they make is green over and over that’s ok.