Intro to Colour Mixing – Science Explorations for Toddlers

That title is a bit of a mouthful. But the word explorations is really important, after all, that’s what science really is, exploration and discovery. And why should big people have all the fun! Toddlers, although small in body, are big in curiosity so in my mind toddlers and science are a perfect fit. Whether food colouring and toddlers are a perfect fit is still up for debate, but I think some little dyed red hands (and maybe some carpet) are a worthy sacrifice for some sciency fun.

Science certainly shouldn’t be a focus in the toddler years (think practical life for the majority of toddler work) but it is a curious and intriguing world and, well, I love science. LOVE. I really can’t help but get excited about science so over the year I hope to be able to share with you some toddler approved explorations into some of the basics of science, life cycles, magnetism and that sort of thing. Again, that word explorations is really key. This is not a lesson, I am not expecting Little Bean to be able to spout off facts and neither will I be trying to drill in information. This is a hands on exploration of a concept, a little bit of guided yet doing-it-on-her-own discovery. It’s been such a great joy already to see the excitement of discovery on her pudgy little toddler face.

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To tie in with our colour theme this month, Little Bean and I did a little bit of colour mixing. Is it art or is it science? To be honest, I think it’s both but for the purposes of this post we’ll call it science and I’ll hope I don’t offend any artists out there. Our exploration into colour mixing consisted of two different experiments: paint mixing and mixing coloured water.

Paint Mixing

Combining both art and science, our first foray into the world of colour mixing was with paint. Little Bean loves painting so it seemed a logical place to start.

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To keep things as simple as possible we focused on one secondary colour at a time. I set out a palette and a paintbrush and Little Bean went to get some paper. We are working on cleaning the brush between colours at the moment so I also set out a jar of water and some kitchen roll. In one section of the palette a put some red and yellow for mixing. Trying to make the experience as un-abstract as possible, I also put some red and yellow in separate compartments. This allows for an easy comparison between the original colours and the mixed colour. The physical mixing of the two colours together also helps make the experience more concrete. For toddlers, concrete = good, abstract = bad (well, at least not so good).

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Then I just sat back and let her get on with it. She painted with some red, then painted with some yellow. Then she delved into the mixing. When I excitedly asked her what colour she had made she responded with “um…red!” *Internal deflated sigh* As it turns out, orange is actually not that dissimilar to red. Make sure to use plenty of yellow so as to make the orange a bit more….orangey. We had done the same experiment a few days earlier using blue and red to make purple, and that was a lot more successful.

With an older child you could use a sheet to record findings, such as this one fromTwinkl.

Mixing Coloured Water

A few days after our paint experiments we used some food colouring in water for more colour mixing fun, this time with a practical life element i.e. the pouring and wiping.

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This was Little Bean’s first experience with food colouring. As such we had a cloth on hand to mop up any spills. Needless to say, it was necessary.

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I first set out the three jars, the empty one in the middle and two with water at either side. I set these up on the windowsill so that we would be able to see the colours with the natural light coming through. I dropped a little of the food colouring into the water and Little Bean gave each jar a stir to ensure even dispersal. Then Little Bean poured half of the blue into the jar, followed by half of the red. And, as I’m sure you can guess, we ended up with some purple.

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We had a look at the three colours then I made a point of doing it again myself so she could watch. I emptied the middle jar and poured in the remaining water from the other two, SLOWLY. This way she could see the water gradually becoming more purple, which she really enjoyed. “Puurrpllle,” she muttered. She wanted to do this again and again, so we also did this with some other colours.

We had a lot of fun with our colour mixing. If you’re looking for some more fun, hands on ways to explore colour mixing, I’ve found some great ideas around the blogosphere:

Peace, Nat

P.S. This post is linking up with Montessori Monday!

(Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. Please see my about page for more information.)

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One thought on “Intro to Colour Mixing – Science Explorations for Toddlers

  1. Pingback: Montessori Inspired Activities for Toddlers – Colours – Living with my Little Love

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