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Picture book inspired colour learning activities

With summer holidays coming up we’ve put together a post to inspire you to read some fabulous picture books and have fun with learning with colours.

Teaching colours and colour mixing is one of my favourite learning activities, there are so many different ways you can learn about colours and colour mixing. When our daughter was younger a variety of wonderful picture books inspired our colour learning activities which included crafts, science and baking.

David McKee - Elmer - Story Snug

Elmer by David McKee

Elmer biscuits: Bake elephant shaped shortbread biscuits then cover them with a thin layer of icing before adding coloured sprinkles or making a patchwork pattern using Smarties or M and Ms.

Elmer inspired candle holder: Stick squares of tissue paper on a jam jar using wallpaper paste. It’s a simple activity for the littlest of children (my daughter made hers when she was two) but I’ve done it with children up to the age of ten. If you are worried about young children using glass you can stick tissue paper or sticky paper squares to an elephant template. I use the template from teachers.net.

Patchwork challenge: Make sure that each square in a craft is not stuck / painted or coloured the same as the one next to it (which can be quite difficult and requires some thought!). A fun activity is to make patchwork lego boards, often children like to look at a picture of Elmer to see if they can copy his colours on their board.

Mouse Paint - Story Snug

Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh

Mouse Paint Mice: Make your own Mouse Paint mice by mixing colours and painting mice. A fun activity which can promote lots of discussion about primary colours and how they can be mixed to create secondary colours.

At the End of the Rainbow - Story Snug

At the End of the Rainbow by A. H. Benjamin & John Bendall-Brunello

Rainbow Weather Hat: Cut a thick strip of card for the headband. Glue five strips of coloured paper together to make a rainbow then staple it onto the band. Add a picture of the sun and some cotton wool clouds and your headband is ready to wear. When I made this with a group of children one of them brought in strips of silver tinsel to stick under the headband to make ‘rain’ hair.

Crepe Paper Rainbow: Tear different coloured crepe paper into small pieces, arrange them in a rainbow shape on a thin canvas then spray them with (not too much!) water using a plant sprayer. Leave the picture to dry overnight then peel off the crepe paper. The colour bleeds onto the canvas to make a rainbow.

Rainbow food plates: These always look so appetising and are really healthy too! We’ve used the following fruits and vegetables (and cheese!) for ours.

  • Red: baby tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, peppers, cranberries, apples, cherries, dried cranberries
  • Orange: carrots, oranges, peppers, satsumas, clementine, kumquats, apricots, mandarin oranges, physalis, dried apricots
  • Yellow: bananas, peaches, sweetcorn, pineapple, grapefruit, cheese cubes
  • Green: grapes, cucumber, celery, apple, kiwi fruit, olives, peppers, broccoli, fresh peas, apples
  • Blue: blueberries
  • Purple: grapes, olives, blackberries, raisins

Mix It Up - Story Snug

Mix It Up! by Hervé Tullet

Handprint picture: We recreated the handprint picture that Hervé Tullet includes in Mix it Up. Drew your hands on white paper, cut them out then stick them on white paper with Blu-Tack. Using watercolour paints fill the paper with fingerprints. When the picture is dry pull the hands off.

Mixing primary colours: Fill a shallow bowl with milk then drop three drops of liquid red food colouring slightly away from the centre of the bowl. Add three drops of blue and three drops of yellow so that the colours form a triangle. Squirt a small amount of washing up liquid into the centre of the triangle and watch what happens. (You can read about why the colours mix when you add the washing up liquid here). It was fascinating watching the colours move but it took a while for them to really mix together.

Sugar flowers: Mix 300g icing sugar and an egg white together. Put six spoonfuls of icing into six bowls. Use food colouring to mix the primary colours first then in the remaining three bowls mix two primary colours together to make secondary colours.

Airlie Anderson - Cat's Colours (Child's Play Library) by Airlie Anderson - Story Snug

Cat’s Colours by Airlie Anderson

Spotty Cat: Cut out a cat template on white paper so that children can recreate Cat using paints, pens or crayons. My daughter chose to cut out and stick coloured spots out of sticky paper and tissue paper.

Cat's Colours craft - Story Snug

We haven’t included all activities for each book in this blogpost, there are more if you click on the book titles.

Some of our other favourite picture books for stimulating discussions about colours include…

Do you have any favourite picture books to teach colours? Or any colour learning activities blogposts that you would like to share in the comments?

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