In preschool we’ve been learning a lot about colors, but more specifically, color theory. Today I am sharing Part I of our color theory lessons.
I began this lesson by showing my preschoolers a piece of colored paper for each color of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. I invited the students to name each color and share their favorite. We looked at our clothing and named specific colors we found, as well as the room and some toys and manipulatives I’d brought to the preschool table in a basket.
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After several minutes of discussing what the students already knew about color and having fun finding specific colors, I again showed them the different colors of paper, naming the colors once again. Then, I removed the secondary colors (orange, green and purple) from the assortment and explained that the colors I removed can be made by just the few colors remaining, red, yellow and blue.
Without explaining any more, I showed the student large balls of play dough in the three primary colors. I told the students that they were going to use two colors to create a new one. Then, I invited each student to choose two colors from our primary set: red and yellow, red and blue, or yellow and blue. I placed a coordinating colored dot stickers on the table in front of each student so they could remember their choices.
The students smooshed, and squished, squeezed and kneaded the two colors of play dough together to make a new color.
This student is learning that blue and yellow will make green.
And this student is squeezing red and yellow to make orange.
Although, prior to mixing the colors none of my students (with the exception of William) knew what color they would end up with. This activity also lends itself to a great exercise in developing the muscles in the hands and arms. Most of my class are three years old, so kneading play dough was hard work for their little developing muscles.
A note on mixing colors: to get purple, you must use a cool red, meaning it can have absolutely no orange tint at all! if you mix a warm red with blue, you will get brown, not purple. I made home made play dough for this activity, using the red food dye I had on had, which was a warm red, so our purple didn’t turn out as beautifully as one might imagine.
Another note: blue is a fairly dominate color. This means that equal parts of blue and another primary color may not result in a true “rainbow” color of purple or green. To achieve a pure green or purple, you will need to use much more yellow and red than blue.
After the students had thoroughly mixed their play dough into a new color, I set out some child sized tools and they spent another 15 minutes or so simply working and manipulating the play dough.
After allowing the students a good chunk of time to play with their play dough, we cleaned up the tools and returned to the colored dot stickers on the table. I invited each child to share what colors of play dough they chose and what color they ended up with after kneaded the two colors together, and we compared the play dough to other student’s color choices.
This was the first of three activities that introduced the basic concepts of color theory to my preschoolers.
I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.