What happens when you mix red and blue? Kids will learn this and more in this creative hands-on color activity that uses a playtime classic: playdough!
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Kids LOVE color…the more, the brighter, the better!
You know what else my kids love? Playdough. We have made dozens of batches of playdough over the years (using my very favorite playdough recipe), and my kids just don’t get tired of it.
To capitalize on their interests, I combined these two kid-friendly things into a creative hands-on color mixing activity for my three boys.
Why playdough is perfect for color mixing:
Sure, you can mix colors using paint. We certainly have. But playdough adds even more to the experience of color mixing for kids. First, it takes longer to mix the playdough together, which strengthens the muscles in kids’ hands. Second, it helps them more clearly see the process of the separate colors slowly merging into something new and different.
Ready to give it a try?
What to know before you get started:
Before jumping into this activity, make sure you print the color mixing experiment pages. The first page is a color wheel to help kids explore color theory and see the relationship between colors. The second page is a “color recipe” page where kids can become “color inventors” and keep track of the new colors they discover while mixing.
Note: the playdough may stick to the paper a little bit and leave behind residue, so if you want to be able to do this activity more than once, you’ll want to laminate the pages or put them in plastic sheet protectors. We just used them as is, and tossed them when we were done.
You’ll also need to have playdough in the primary colors. You can make homemade playdough advance, or (even better) let the kids help! My kids love took cook with me, and since playdough only has a few simple ingredients that can all be dumped in a pot together, it’s a great one for kids to help with.
Got your playdough and your printables? Let’s play!
Playdough Color Mixing for Kids
What we’re learning:
- color identification
- color theory (primary vs. secondary colors)
- cause and effect
- fine motor skills (playdough mixing is great for strengthening little fingers!)
- Red, yellow, and blue playdough (this is the BEST homemade playdough recipe, or buy it here)
- “Playdough color mixing experiment” printables
- Give your child the color wheel page and three balls of playdough (one each of red, yellow, and blue).
- Invite your child to place the playdough on the matching color spaces on the wheel. (Help as needed.)
- Explain that today you are going to explore the relationship between colors. Ask your child: “What do you think will happen if we mix together two of these colors, like red and yellow?” Rather that validating or correcting your child’s answer, simply respond with an inviting, “Let’s find out!”
- As your child mixes, you can talk about what’s happening and make observations together: “I see orange!”
- By now, your child has probably got the idea, and you can step back and let them explore more freely as they mix the other colors.
- Once they have filled their wheel, invite them to experiment further. What additional colors could you make by mixing the secondary colors (orange, green, and purple) with the primary colors?
- Use the “color recipes” page to invent new and interesting color combinations. My kids loved coming up with creative names for their colors, like “swamp” and “sunshine strawberry.”
Want to keep learning? Invite your child to make a playdough creation using as many colors as possible. My kids had fun making rainbows, pizzas, houses, etc. So many options to play and learn!
Note: The above “plan” is just one way this activity could go. If your child wants to mix colors differently, you can try to redirect a little, but don’t push them to do this activity exactly the way you think it “should” be. That’s the quickest way to kill a child’s interest in an activity.
If they want to mix yellow and blue first, let them! If they are determined to mix all three together, go with it! All of that experimenting is learning, so allow them to go “off course” as needed. (I often have to remind myself of this when doing activities with my out-of-the-box thinkers.)
You can obviously set limits about keeping the mess within a set space. You can also help them think through things like, “If you pinch off just a little red to mix with the blue, then you’ll still have more left to experiment with other colors,” but let them have ownership of the activity. Nurture the curiosity that is leading them to ask questions and experiment!
Our favorite color books that pair perfectly with this activity:
Want more color activities? Try one of these:
- Rainbow color scavenger hunt for preschoolers
- Four Corners Preschool Game about Colors
- The Sneaky Leprechaun: A St. Patrick’s Day Game for Preschoolers