Monday, March 17, 2014

Montessori Color Mixing

So excited were my cousin's daughters, 5-year-old Elisha and 4-year-old Adah, in discovering that mixing some colors up make brown in our Painting Fun with Fruit Peelings activity that I thought it would be fun for them to do Color Mixing, a Montessori favorite, when they came over last Saturday.

This work requires some meticulous and careful preparation. Just be patient with the preparation, enjoy experimentation, and be thrilled in testing the material yourself first; and you'll relish your child's reaction to and appreciation of (what fulfillment!) the material even more.

Added Note: It's also best to let your child practice with water pouring activities first before they take on this work so that the focus will really be on mixing colors because they can already pour successfully.

- Template
- Food coloring in primary colors red, yellow, and blue (We'll transfer the food coloring in little containers that allow the children to squeeze out small drops of liquid--more manageable for the children. I'll show in a bit.)
- 1 small clear pitcher
- 6 small clear glasses/beakers (Make sure to check that water pours out of it nicely.)
- Preferably, a rotating tray that fits the 6 small glasses/beakers (I got mine locally, at Saizen; and it's actually a Japanese tray for condiments. If you can't find a rotating one, any round tray would work still.)
- Coffee or cocktail stirrer or a small spoon
- Cloth or sponge (Make sure to get one that absorbs well so the children can clean up and pack away successfully. Saizen carries absorbent microfiber towels which I used. They also have the sponge I like--the one that's hard when dry and only softens when wet.)
- Plastic placemat
- Tray
- Apron (We always use an apron for water activities, for food preparation, for art.)
- Tape, marker, scissors, colored paper (red, yellow, blue, black) for preparing the material's control of error

Download the template and cut the strips with the colored circles. 
I made strips with blank circles as well, just in case your child would want to experiment making different color combinations later on.
Preserve blank strips, too--this will be useful.

Using a funnel/pipette/syringe, transfer red, yellow, and blue food coloring into containers like this one I got locally from Beabi (their dropper bottles will work as well).
Put a red circle on the bottle so that the children know that that particular bottle contains red food coloring.
Also, I put numeral 3, reminding the children that they need 3 drops from this bottle. Note that you would have to experiment just how many drops of food coloring you will need for your particular Color Mixing material so make sure to try the whole activity yourself first before letting the child have a go.

As control of error, put red, yellow, blue, and black circles (the same size as the base of your 6 glasses/beakers) around your rotating tray, just as in the picture. You can laminate these circles or tape them down entirely to protect them somehow from spills.

Another control of error is putting dashed lines along the glasses/beakers. This is a tricky part (be patient). 3 glasses will have one dashed line; 3 will have two dashed lines. A little tip: I put tape on the the glasses and write on the tape so that I don't mark the glasses directly.
IMPORTANT: These lines determine just up to where the water would go. We tell the children to pour "just up to the line" so it is important to test the placement of your lines with the levels of water you'll need. You'd want to have enough water on the single-dashed-lined glasses so that you'd have enough to mix with other colors, but still have some left for reference. To get a better idea, look ahead at the PRESENTATION part below. If I didn't make sense right there, I encourage you to try the material yourself and you'll get what I mean.

Now put the glasses on their places on the rotating tray: Glasses with single dashed line go on top of the red, yellow, and blue circles. The ones with double dashed lines go on top of the black circles.

Also put a line as control of error on your pitcher.

This is how I/the children would prepare their work area. Notice that I did not put the food coloring right there. In the classroom, I usually like to keep the bottles of food coloring and have the children ask for them just so I know that someone is using the Color Mixing material. If you'd rather put the food coloring on the tray, immediately ready for the children, that would work too.

There. A half-way congratulations to you if you've managed to get everything we need and to make all those controls of error!

Now, in Montessori, we present every new material/work to the children first before they can do it by/for themselves.

1. Start by wearing your apron and putting everything you need on the work table, just as in the picture above. Make sure that the red on the rotating tray is nearest you (at 6 o'clock). 

2. Take the pitcher and put water up to the line. From the pitcher, pour water into the small glasses that have single dashed lines. You may rotate the tray as you pour, bringing the glass you'll pour into close to you at 6 o'clock.

3. When all three single-dashed-lined glasses have water, rotate the tray so that the red circle is at 6 o'clock. We'll start with red. Get the bottle of red food coloring and put 3 (or whatever number you need) drops of red food coloring into the glass that is on top of the red circle on the rotating tray.

4. Take your stirrer and mix the food coloring. Make sure to wipe the stirrer with your cloth/sponge after every stir.

5. Rotate the tray and move on to yellow. Do just as you did with red--drop food coloring into the glass and stir. Then move on to blue.

6. Now that we have all our primary colors, we'll move on to the double-dashed-lined glasses on top of the black circles on our rotating tray where we will mix the colors (anticipation!). Rotate the tray again so that the glass between red and yellow is nearest you, just as in the picture below.

7. I always like starting from the left so pour red water onto the empty double-dashed-lined glass, up to the first line. Then pour yellow right in, up to the second dashed line. Mix with the stirrer. 

8. Sometimes the colors are not as obvious inside the glass as they are on paper, so I added this step. Take the strip with red and yellow circles and dip that into the water.

Also test the paper/card stock you'd use, by the way.

There's our orange!

9. Rotate your tray clockwise again, bringing the glass between yellow and blue near you at 6 o'clock. Do the same thing.

I'd just like to point out how yellow and blue make the most noticeable combination as you can see them make green very clearly. So if you want to start your child with a simpler color mixing activity (so you'd have just 3 glasses), I think it's best to start with combining yellow and blue. The presentation there is simpler--just have a tray, line up 3 glasses--left for yellow, right for blue, middle for mixing--and do what we've been doing here.

10. When done with every combination (red and yellow, yellow and blue, blue and red), we may then pack away. Just pour the contents of the glasses back into the pitcher, Bring the pitcher to the sink and pour out the water from the pitcher. Using the cloth/sponge, wipe down the pitcher, glasses, stirrer, tray, placemat, and every spill (let the children clean up and pack away their own work).

Note: If you're up for some painting, you can hold step 10 for a while and mix in a little cornstarch with the water in your 6 glasses and Color With Cornstarch with fingers or paint brushes! Or you can pour in your colors in 6 other containers (ones you use for painting), pack away the Color Mixing material, and then proceed to paint!

The children can keep these color strips. They would remind them how they discovered and experienced colors mixing together. Better than just memorizing, yes!

I asked you to preserve some blank card stock so that the children can dip those into the glasses with primary colors if they like (they do).

That's how I do color mixing in my classes. Discover more ways and have some more fun.

Oh, and in case you're wondering about Haku, the cat...

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