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Color Mixing for Kids: St. Patrick’s Day Activity

Color mixing with food coloring is a fun activity for kids and adults

Do you have kids at the age to learn colors and color mixing? Do you need a rainbow activity for St. Patrick’s Day? Do YOU need an activity, using household ingredients, that will teach both colors, color mixing for kids, scientific theory, and potentially cause 4 boys six years and under to pause for more than 10 seconds? You don’t? Good for you for making that life choice that shrinks the human population. For the rest of us breeders read on!

Color Mixing Activity for Children

Mixing color activity for children
Let’s not ask why we have so many pint glasses from so many breweries…


Coffee (optional)
Husband (Can I say optional? This post certainly wouldn’t have happened without him)
Kids (Needed unless you just love color)
Way too many pint glasses for adults to own (regular glasses will do)
Liquid Food Coloring*(Yellow, Red, Blue)
Paper Towels*
Post-it Notes* or Scratch Paper

Step 1 The Set-up

Groggily slug down coffee while the kids tuck in breakfast and vaguely note that husband is exclaiming that today we will “Science”. Watch as Adam starts setting out 7 glasses, fills 4 with water, and raise eyebrow as he hands you paper towels.

Joking aside, line up the seven glasses and fill every other one 80%-90% full with water. Since we aren’t doing rocket-surgery (yes, you read that correctly) I think we can combine all the set-up in one step. Fold 6 paper towels lengthwise twice. Set out your droppers of food coloring and call over the kids.

Step one in a color mixing activity for kids
Picture just in case anyone needs help folding paper towels. See optional coffee above if this step is hard to complete.

Step 2 Paint the Town Red

I’m not sure there is anyone in the world who doesn’t like to watch food color mix into water. The kids will love to come watch. In the glasses of water drop 6 drops of red in the first glass, 8 drops of yellow in the next water, 6 drops of blue in the following, and 6 drops of red in the final water glass. Your line up will be: R0Y0B0R

Step 3 Patience and Hypothesis

You are going to take your wicking paper towels and place them from glass to glass as seen in the next photo. Adam could weigh in on why the paper towel needs to be a certain length, as I never read the original info on this activity. Suffice to say it is better if it touches near the bottom of both glasses.

Our small children immediately got ants in their pants because the process takes a bit for the colors to start moving. This is the perfect time to grab some post-it notes and teach kids about having a hypothesis. First, we discussed what they thought might happen. I may have mentioned the words water and cohesion and then realized that was a little nerdy even for my kids. So we decided that maybe the colored water would magically move. IF that happened we took guesses on what color each glass would turn. I stuck the sticky notes down in front of the empty glasses and wrote everyone’s guesses. Found out that no one knew what colors mix to make secondary colors… I have failed my art degree yet again!

Color wicking and mixing in a child friendly activity

Step 4 Free Play

Let the kids go play, use their imaginations, etc. Not very moment needs to be structured with activities! About the time someone is getting annoyed that someone else is smacking them with a lightsaber, ‘borrowing’ their toy car, or knocking down their carefully crafted block tower it will be time to look at the results. Even though they were in plain sight the whole time, the kids were so excited to see that the water had moved and mixed colors. They simply had forgotten to look!


Color activity for children
These are not photoshopped! I was so surprised this color mixing activity worked so well.

Side Notes

I found it incredibly interesting that each of them had thought they guessed all the colors correctly. I had to show them their initial guesses on paper… I sense that I may not be the only person who will have to be right in this household.Color mixing with food coloring is a fun activity for kids and adults

Color mixing activities for kids