Color is a fascinating subject for children. We used paints and food dye to explore color mixing, shades, tints and tones.

Color Theory for Kindergarten

It all started one morning when we were working on paintings to send to the kids’ grandparents. The watercolors kept swirling together in the tray and on their paper. It started a conversation about color mixing.

After we’d finished up with the watercolors, I got out some thicker paint and bottles of food dye. I told them about the three primary colors and we talked about how all colors can be made with different amounts of those three colors (plus black and white.)

We dropped food dye into clear bottles of water to test it out, making green, purple, orange and brown.

We ended up mixing in a little math with our color theory. As we mixed the colors, I wrote down the formula for making each color.




And then




It was accidentally a great reminder about the transitive property of addition! We saw that it really didn’t matter which order we put the colors in the bottle. It was also practice with the idea of breaking down numbers to add them. I’m always looking for different ways to use math. My goal is to really weave it in with whatever we do and talk about concepts in a variety of ways.

We noticed how the colors mix together in the same order as the rainbow:

Red–> Orange <–Yellow–> Green <– Blue–> Purple <–(Red). This is how we make the color wheel!

This is a really great video explaining the color wheel and how colors coordinate together.

Next we used the paint to play with shades, tints, and tones. Colors can be changed by adding white (tint), black (shade), or both (tone).

Grey is a shade of black - Color Theory for Kindergarten

And R(3) was pumped because she discovered how to make PINK!

Pink is a tint of red - Color Theory for Kindergarten

I also showed them how I can manipulate colors on my computer to do design work. They at peering over my shoulder when I work anyway so I may as well explain some of what I’m doing!

graphic design color mixing

Although this wasn’t a planned lesson or a big project, I wanted to share it with you all as an example of how our child-led homeschool works. Oftentimes, a topic of interest comes up in our daily life. If I know I have some useful items on hand, we will dive on in. If there’s still more to learn (or we don’t have the materials we need), I’ll ask if they want to learn more about it later and I’ll make a note to get books or other resources.

I’m not going to lie, it’s tough to keep up with. These kids are interested in a lot. Sometimes I get discouraged because I just can’t keep up! I try to do my best and most importantly keep things focused on the learners.

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