Preschool Color-Mixing Activity

(Source: The “cornstarch and water” activity in Ann Pelo’s The Language of Art: Inquiry-Based Studio Practices in Early Childhood Settings.)

Now that G is three, we suddenly have a preschool-aged child in the house instead of a toddler. This is exciting, as different activities are opening up for us. At our latest parent-child art class, N and I did some color mixing. (If you’re interested, you can read more about that class–although not the color-mixing–in my post on my other blog.) G asked to do some color mixing of her own, so I set up the activity using the one in Ann Pelo’s book as a guide.

Materials: Red, blue, and yellow colored water (I used very watered-down liquid watercolors; you could also use food coloring in water); a dropper for each color; white mixing tray (white shows the colors better); cornstarch

First, I showed G how to use the droppers–squeeze the end, put it in the color, let go of the end, and then squeeze out the color where you want it.

She mixed all three colors in the first cup, first making purple and then, “Brown!” Then she mixed the primaries individually, eventually creating purple, orange, and green.

Mixing colors is really magical, isn’t it? G has done it before, with paint on paper; this was just a different way of seeing it. As each color was created, she delightedly named it. When she’d mixed some colors, she said she was ready for the cornstarch.

According to the book, the cornstarch will separate the colors out again as the individual colors adhere to separate grains (bits? granules?) of the cornstarch. Erm, not so much, at least not for us. We mixed it up, but still, the purple cornstarch looked purple; the green, green; and so on. G decided to mix colors on top of the cornstarch and see what happened then.

Then it became obvious to me that she needed a bigger mixing area, so I offered a bowl.

Ah, much better. So much more space! I scraped the cornstarch she’d already colored into it, and more colors were added. Then more water, then more colors…

Then more cornstarch, and more water, until she ran out of room.

She had a fine time with her concoction-making, watching the colors mix and periodically dipping a hand into the very watery ooblek she’d created. When she was done (when the foil container was full), she used the remaining colored water for some painting…but that’s another post.

*Note: Don’t rinse your cornstarch down the drain, in case it decides to firm up on you down there. Throw it in the trash instead.

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6 Responses to Preschool Color-Mixing Activity

  1. What a great experiment, Amy. I have the same experience of scaling up to bigger and bigger bowls ALL the time. This became especially clear last week when my 3-year old recently went straight for the big tub, telling me that she needed it for a project, and she was right!

  2. Pingback: After the Color Mixing | kids in the studio

  3. I make plain playdough (no color) and give them the washable Crayola markers to draw on it and mush the colors together to make new ones – really fun!

  4. Pingback: Favorite Projects of 2011 | kids in the studio

  5. Pingback: Making Goop « Project: Preschool

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