Primary and Secondary Colors: color work for preschool

My guess is your preschooler already knows his primary and secondary colors. They can probably rattle them off and they may even know that secondary colors are formed by mixing primary colors. 

Sonny knows his colors, but he gets a kick out of pouring liquids and mixing colors, so we combined the two activities. This work is engaging for Sonny because he has experience with pouring, carrying trays and carrying containers of liquid.  As we prepare for the activity I ask him a series of questions to spark his interest for the upcoming work. 

How do we make green, orange and purple? Can we make different shades of green? Can you make a dark purple?

Let the learning begin

I prepare the environment by adding food coloring to water for the primary colors. One pipette is placed in each primary color jar. Sonny prepares by wearing an apron and placing a vinyl mat on the table to protect the surface.  He carefully and slowly takes the tray to the table, the tray holds 3 empty jars and 3 jars with the primary colors. 

We follow these simple steps for setup:

First remove the primary color jars from the tray and set them in front of your body. Next remove the empty jars from the tray and place them to the right side of the mat. Remove the empty tray from the mat so that there is more space to work. The pipettes can be used to mix colors in the empty jars. This motion emphasizes fine motor movement and the child must squeeze and release the bulb to collect water in the pipette. Timing is also essential for this work, release the water at the wrong time and it will end up on the table or in the wrong jar. 

Sonny observes that the harder he squeezes the bulb the more liquid he collects in the pipette. Once Sonny is done using the pipettes he enjoys pouring the water back and forth in the jars. The final color of most of the jars is a brown color because he mixes all of the jars. Before he mixes all the colors, we have  a conversation about mixing primary colors intentionally to acquire the desired secondary color.

materials needed

  • 6 or 7 small clear containers (we used Beech Nut baby food jars)
  • 3 or more pipettes
  • Small tray
  • Vinyl mat or placemat
  • Small cloth (for cleaning spills)

your turn

Being that this is low cost work and can be set up with minimal effort, it is an ideal activity. There are days that Sonny will work this material for 30 minutes. Granted I refill  the primary colors several times but he doesn’t mind. Any opportunity to pour water down the sink is a win in his eyes. He enjoys walking to the sink to pour out the water just as much as he enjoys mixing the colors.

I hope your child(ren) will enjoy this engaging and educational work. Please leave a comment and let us know how you practice  color work in your home. 

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