June 10, 2015

play-doh smash: kindergarten color theory.

This activity was inspired by this post by Allison over at No Time for Flash Cards. As soon as I saw it, I knew we'd have to try something similar ASAP. Seth loves to paint with me, but he's always squirting out a little of every color and then mixing them a l l l l  t o g e t h e r ..... which is fine. I'm all about free play and experimentation in art. BUT. Try as I might, I haven't been able to get across to him that he's going to get the same poopy-baby-diaper color every single time if he doesn't exercise some moderation in his mixing choices.

The kid desperately needed a lesson in beginning color theory.

At the same time, I've been teaching him about science, and how to properly conduct a science experiment. With that in mind, I came up with this idea as an extension of Allison's color mixing activity.

Isn't is beautiful how art and science can relate?


I started by cutting three strips of white paper. On each strip, I drew three circles, in the form of a math equation, like this: O + O = O. I colored the first two circles in each equation with two of the primary colors and left the third circle blank. Then, I drew a line under the third circle.


On another sheet of white paper, I drew six circles in two rows of three each. On the top row, I colored each of the three circles one of the primary colors. On the bottom row, I used the secondary colors. Then I wrote the names of each color under the corresponding circle.

I filled a dish with 1-inch balls of primary colored Play-Doh, grabbed a handful of crayons and a pencil- and we were ready to begin!

We started by discussing the difference between primary colors and secondary colors. Primary colors exist on their own, without mixing two other colors. Secondary colors are created by mixing two of the primary colors together. Seth already knew that red, blue and yellow are called "primary colors", but he couldn't explain why.


(NOTE: I love that Seth was wearing his Batman cape when we did this activity. Our library's summer reading program has a superhero theme this year, and they are giving away these paper masks with the registration kits. Seth was inspired to wear his reversible superhero cape around the house for several days in a row last week, and he named himself "SuperBat". Love that kid's imagination!)

Since we were treating this activity like a science experiment, I asked Seth to make a hypothesis- a guess about which color pairs would create each of the secondary colors. We recorded each of his guesses on the reverse side of each the equation strips before beginning the experiment.


Now, the fun part! He began the experiment by squishing two primary colored Play-Doh balls together. He smooshed. He smashed. He twisted and bashed...


He was excited to see the new, secondary color begin to form! His hypothesis about blue + yellow was purple, so he was surprised when green began to form.


We saved orange for last, because I knew his hypothesis was correct and it would be a nice reward to see that he'd guessed one of them correctly. By this time, he'd decided smashing the Play-Doh against the window was fun. He squealed with delight when the color orange started forming! "Yay, Mommy! I got one of them right!"


I asked Seth to record the correct answers on the front side of each of the equation strips.


For the toddler set, the final product is a fun way to practice color matching. I just realized this week that Hawk is able to identify and match colors now! It never occurred to me that a child under two might be capable of identifying colors, probably because Seth was late to the game in that arena. My littlest is developing slower than average in his ability to verbalize his thoughts (Seth, on the other hand, has never been at a loss for words... #wink), but he blows me away with the ability to understand and follow directions like this!


For the final part of our color activity, I asked Seth to write the name of each of the secondary colors under the corresponding circle on the equation strips. He copied the spelling of each color off the color key I had made. I added this element to the activity to sneak in a little handwriting practice.


I adore that he left the second "p" off the word "purple". I try not to point little failures like this out to Seth right now. I think it's developmentally appropriate for a five-year-old to miss a letter or two when copying a word, and I want to be very careful to spend more time praising his successes instead of correcting the things he's done wrong. "It doesn't have to be perfect," is the mantra I repeat every day, both to myself and to him. Believe me, this is hard for both of us to grasp!


Now that we've done the Plah-Doh color mixing activity, I think that Seth will have more fun with our free painting projects. I can't guarantee that we won't still end up with brown gloopy messes from time to time, but I hope having a foundational understanding of color theory will encourage him to exercise a little more self-control with his color mixing choices!

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