Paint Mixing Experiment

So, as many of you may have heard I am currently teaching full time with a Head Start program in Wayne County.  I created this experiment, which I’m sure many have done in a wide range of variations, to meet the needs of many preschoolers working on color recognition and to also provide an open ended experiment experience.  Such activities promote critical thinking and problem solving skills, as children are posed with questions like “What do you predict will happen when we add this color?  Let’s form a hypothesis.”  As we reflect on the activity, children are reasoning based on their observations.  As educators, it is our job not to teach only by providing children with the knowledge, but by providing them with the materials needed to create the memories and learning themselves.  Facilitate, not dictate.  Teach, not tell.

Try reading the book Color Dance by Ann Jones or other books related to colors.  That one is just my favorite because of the illustrations and simple, but informative text.

Step 1:  Children are presented with a variety of small cups full of paint.  Each cup has a spoon with it.  Make a plan.  Pose questions such as, “What colors do you see?” and “Which colors are dark? Light?”  Invite conversation amongst the group.

Step 2:  As conversation slows, present a large mixing bowl to children and ask, “How can we make a brand new paint color?”  This is the “Do” part of the HighScope “Plan. Do. Review.” cycle.  Children are invited to take turns (a skill that your class must already be familiar with or this can be a great way to introduce such skills) adding their favorite colors.


As the facilitator, I used markers and paper to write down their ingredients.  For example, one child added three spoonfuls of green.  On paper, I drew three green spoons.  It looked something like this after the first 3 children added ingredients.  Hold the paper outward so children are aware of what you’re doing.  Ask, “How many green spoons should I draw?” as they answer ask, “Why?”recipe


Step 3: Once each child added their desired ingredients, we wrote the word “recipe” on the top of the sheet.

1460050_547859225297416_1304361881_nThen, we resumed taking turns as each child had a chance to mix the colors with a mixing spoon.  Teachers can mix first to model the expectation.  As the mixing continued, teachers ask, “What is happening?”  Jot down children’s responses for later documentation (or for COR anecdotal notes- YAY!).

1454990_545850565498282_2007216170_nOur final color!  The group of 6 children participating at this center were all 3 and 4 year olds.  They decided to name the color “baby poop green.”  I let them.  They were right.


Step 4:  As the excitement of mixing fades, invite children to explore their new hue by painting with it on paper.  Provide each child with a small cup to hold their own paint along with a painting tool (paint brush, Q-tip, fingers, etc…).

1467432_545850285498310_73163355_nThe group of children I worked with were excited about this activity.  I could tell this by the way one 3 year old the told their parent, “We made a experiment and made a new color and it was like baby poop!”  I can only imagine what that parent was thinking.  “What is my child learning?”  I used these pictures and much of the same information shared here to document the process of our experiment for families to know that while, yes, we made “baby poop green,” we also experienced the steps of the scientific method, early literacy skills (writing and reading the recipe) and let ourselves get creative, too.  As you plan activities, think about why you’re doing what you’re doing, rather than just “What are we going to do today?”  I find it helpful to look at individual child objectives as I lesson plan.  Then I know the “why” and I get to be creative on the “how.”

KDI Connection: The following KDI’s are connected to this activity.  (This will make sense if you are a teacher using a HighScope curriculum).

  • A. Approaches to Learning #2 Planning: Children make plans and follow through on their intentions.
  • D. Language, Literacy and Communication #26 Reading: Children read for pleasure and information.
  • E. Mathematics #39 Data analysis: Children use information about quantity to draw conclusions, make decisions, and solve problems
  • G. Science and Technology #47 Experimenting: Children experiment to test their ideas.
  • G. Science  and Technology #48 Predicting: Children predict what they expect will happen.
  • G. Science and Technology #45 Observing: Children observe the materials and processes in their environment.
  • G. Science and Technology #50 Communicating ideas: Children communicate their ideas about the characteristics of things and how they work.
  • F. Creative Arts #40 Art: Children express and represent what they observe, think, imagine, and feel through two- and three-dimensional art.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy your experimenting!  Early Childhood rocks!



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