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Children’s Arts & Crafts: Color Mixing

I planned so many fun things with my preschooler while schools are closed. I am starting this series to share these activities and build a resource for parents who need some art-focused ideas. I hope these are helpful! Please remember that you know your child best, and that these activities can be adjusted to meet your child’s individual needs.

Color Mixing: Introduction to Primary & Secondary Colors

Primary Colors: Red, Yellow, & Blue Secondary Colors: Purple, Orange, & Green

Materials: Acrylic or tempura paint, aprons or paint friendly clothes, paintbrushes, paper plates or plastic palette, and acorns (or other surface that you would like to paint).

Let’s get started!

This activity can be done with anything from creating a paper plate color wheel, to cut out drawings of your child’s favorite characters.  Making a rainbow for Saint Patrick’s Day definitely crossed my mind.  The main purpose of the exercise is to focus on mixing primary colors to create secondary colors. 

We went on a color scavenger hunt/walk yesterday and ended up with a few wildflowers, several sticks, pinecones, and a million acorns.  His excitement about the acorns made them a great surface for color exploration. *We dried the wildflowers in the oven for a papermaking project later this week.

I sat out a few paper plates and red, yellow, and blue paint.  I explained that we were going to paint the acorns the colors of the rainbow, but we were missing some colors.  I began to ask my pre-schooler questions, encouraging him to think about what we were doing.  I kept the questions and instruction brief, knowing his attention span.

“What colors are we missing?” “Oh man, we are missing orange.  Do you think we can make orange?”  “What colors do you think can be mixed to make green?”

I helped him mix the paints together, but let him do most of the work.  His excitement about creating a new color was really palpable, and by trusting him to do his part, I reinforced his confidence in his creativity.

Once we had all of our colors mixed, we began painting his acorns.  Each acorn I painted was one solid color, but my preschooler enjoyed mixing and layering primary colors on his acorns, occasionally grabbing a pre-mixed secondary color.  Once dry, I super-glued string under each acorn’s “hat” and attached it to his moon phases stick (from a nature group project we completed earlier this month).

Since this was just an introduction to secondary colors, I do not expect my son to have a complex and deep knowledge of color theory or remember that red, yellow, and blue are called primary colors.  However, if anyone asks him what colors make green, he knows the answer.


  • For younger children: Focus on reinforcing color identification.
  • For increased depth: Children can choose their surfaces and have more autonomy with color mixing.  Ask children to be able to identify cool (blue, green, and violet) and warm colors (red, orange, and yellow).
  • Advanced: Identify analogous colors (colors sitting next to each other on the color wheel) & complementary colors (colors opposite on the color wheel).  Introduce tertiary colors. 
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