Use food coloring to educate and make non-toxic watercolor paint for children

Color recognition is one of the first things that a child should learn. Knowing one color from another is an important skill. Distinguishing one color from another is necessary when driving a vehicle; think about traffic lights. Working with electronics may involve using and manipulating colored wires. Numerous other jobs, from being a pilot to a firefighter, require mastery of basic color concepts.

Children should know that red, yellow, and blue are the primary colors. The primary colors can not be formed by combining any other colors. They are the source of all other colors. Orange, green and purple are secondary colors. That means they are formed by mixing two primary colors together. Tertiary colors like yellow-orange and blue-green are created by mixing a primary color with a secondary color. A fun activity using water and liquid food color is one way to teach young children their colors while allowing them to have fun and be creative.

Materials Needed:

  • 12 or more clear plastic cups
  • water
  • red liquid food coloring
  • blue liquid food coloring
  • yellow liquid food coloring
  • apron or clothes that can get messy

Instructions:

  1. Begin by filling three cups with clean water.
  2. Drop a few drops of red food coloring into cup #1 until the water turns the desired shade of red.
  3. Drop a few drops of yellow food coloring into cup #2 until the water turns the desired shade of yellow.
  4. Drop a few drops of blue food coloring into cup #3 until the water turns the desired shade of blue.
  5. Place empty cups alternately between the cups that contain the colored water.
  6. Pour a small amount of red water from cup #1 into one of the empty cups.
  7. Mix a small amount of yellow water from cup #2 into the cup that is now partially filled with red water. (The water should turn a shade of orange.)
  8. In a new empty cup mix blue and yellow water to make green.
  9. In a new empty cup mix red and blue water to make purple.
  10. Continue experimenting and making new colors.

Discuss the fact that red, blue, and yellow are primary colors. Explain that orange , green, and purple are secondary colors that can only come from mixing two primary colors together. Then explain that tertiary colors come from mixing a primary color with a secondary color. Finish by mixing all the colors together to show that black is a combination of all colors.

Mix larger amounts of food coloring with smaller amounts of water to create homemade, non-toxic watercolor paint for painting pictures. There are several variations for the activity. Add food coloring to vanilla (or any type of white) frosting to create edible “paint”. Use the colorful frosting to decorate cookies, cupcakes, or a full sized cake. Or, add food coloring to sugar cookie dough to make colorful cookie art.

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