Inspired Lesson: Colors, Tints and Shades
Art/Math/Science/Language... I think.
Early last weekend, it clicked.
Matthew’s at the age now where concepts are just starting to finally come together. He knows now that eleven comes after ten and that one-teen is not actually a number. He’s finally figured out that if you ask him what shape an object is, that blue is not going to be the answer, even if the object actually is blue. The world is starting to make a little bit more sense to him now. But colors were tripping him up, and I just couldn’t figure out why.
We were playing a careless little game over the breakfast table the other day of Name That Color, and it was going pretty well. It always does at first. We’ll start the game with him nailing every color the first time around -- but eventually, every time, he’ll start looking at objects the same color of something he’d already identified correctly -- and just seem lost. I’ll tell him, “You know this, Bud. You already named it once before. Just a second ago. Remember?” He’ll make a guess, and the guess will be way off.
We got to ‘Puppy,’ a plush, rag doll animal with light colored fur and dark brown patches that follows this kid around more places than his own shadow. I pointed to puppy. “Brown,” he called. Then he pointed to a different spot on puppy. “Brown,” I answered, taking my turn.
“No, Mommy,” he corrected in a very authoritative sort of tone. “I already said brown. This part is brown. I said -- what is this?” And there it was -- our ‘aha!’ moment. The difference between tints and shades were throwing him all off. To him, I realized, if a color was a lot darker or a lot lighter than something else he’d already identified as that color, than it couldn’t possibly be the same.
And so, our mission this week was born. Colors, tints, and shades.
Identifying & Sorting
First, we established a color of the day for each day of the week. Everything on that day revolved around it’s respective color. We wore that color and dressed the baby in that color. We picked bath toys that color. We ate food that was that color, and then we added food coloring to whatever wasn’t already. Green applesauce one day, blue marshmallows the next. He got a huge kick out of it.
Each day, we’d set a few minutes aside to hunt down ten objects that were the color of the day. We’ve always played a casual little back-and-forth of Name That Color, but this gave us a numerical goal to reach and a specific color to focus on.* Not only was the repetition great practice, but keeping track of the number of items we had left to find was a challenge I didn’t even intend to incorporate, but that he really enjoyed trying to keep up with. It also gave me the opportunity to casually point out tints and shades before they were formally introduced. (Ex: When he’d point out something as being yellow, I’d get to say, “Great job, that is a dark yellow strap/ that is a light yellow bird. You got it!”) It didn’t take long for him to catch on and start asking if something was dark or light before he labeled it out loud.
*That one was kind of tricky. I knew that we’d have to do some basic identification practice first, and I wasn’t sure how to make it exciting for him. Oddly enough, I remember reading somewhere that boys respond especially well to rules. (I know, who’da thought, right?) It’s actually part of what draws them into video games or competitive sports. They have a natural compulsion to ‘conquer’ goals. Adding a few simple rules can turn a task into a game, thereby turning an accomplishment into a ‘win’. So to spruce this one up, all I had to do was give him the simple rule of needing to find ten objects, and a reward (a Diego sticker) for reaching it.
Everyday we found a quick way to sort through a group of colors. In the beginning of the week, we colored little fluted cupcake wrappers each a different color. Then we sorted gummy bear vitamins into them. Another day, Smarties candy. Another day, M&Ms. (You could probably add M&Ms to hamster poop and Matthew would think it was interesting. That one was a no-brainer.)
Another day, we laid a few sheets of different color construction paper on the floor, pretending that they were “garages,” and separated a basketful of HotWheels cars onto the colored paper that matched the car’s paint. (Point of fact: Hamster poop theory also applies to Hot Wheels.)
Colorful (Really Super Fun to Make) Snow-Cakes
We filled a cupcake pan and a casserole dish with fresh snow to bring inside. (Fresh snow is best because they will want to eat it, even though that’s not the intended purpose :-P If it’s fresh, they actually can.)
I laid a towel down over the dining room table, and then set the cupcake pan in front of Matthew. We mixed a few drops of red, yellow and blue food coloring into three different “snowcakes” in the cupcake pan (which took to the snow so well that they practically glowed, it was really cool!). We learned that these are primary colors. Matthew had a blast mixing the coloring into the snow, so naturally, when I told him to basically go nuts mixing the colors together to see what would happen next, he squealed like a little girl. We left a few of the cupcake holes on one side empty so that he could take a little from each primary color and put it into it’s own cup to mix. The results were flawless! We had primary colors on one side, and secondary colors on the other. And with the colors turning out so bright and vibrant, it was perfect for teaching him about hues -- the purest form of each color -- before we got into tints and shades.
*Before we mixed the primary colors together I asked him to make a prediction about what would happen. His answer? “It’ll make it really yummy like a snow cone!! *chomp, chomp noise*”
I had Matthew pick three of his favorite color “snowcakes.” We pack the snow down into the cupcake holes a little bit, and gently (while the snow was still fairly crisp) lifted the snow out of the cupcake hole and onto the casserole dish snow in a stack. Then, decorated it like a snowman! We used chopped pecans, candy, chocolate chips and marshmallows to decorate ours. If you were to use fresh snow, all you’d have to do to turn him into a snack would be to dump him into a bowl, add a little bit of sugar, vanilla extract, and milk, and then stir!
Paper Plate Blending
This has got to be one of the easiest, no-mess ways ever to teach kids how to blend colors with paint. Just take a paper or Styrofoam plate, squirt each of your primary colors somewhere in the center, then wrap the plate in saran wrap, and let your kid squish the colors together any which way he wants. Matthew had a blast squeaking his finger across the plate and watching the colors blend together. When you take the wrap off while the paint is still wet, it dries in a really cool design that Matthew describes as looking like fire!
(Alicia: I actually thought of Jude while we were doing this, because it’s something a kid even his age would love!)
Blogger Idea of the Week: Word of the Week!
Speaking of Alicia… Loved this idea from her that she left in last week‘s comments, and it went over better than I ever would have expected. The words that we’d learned from our color experiments this week were ones that I knew probably wouldn’t stick right away, and I was fine with that. They were more of an introduction…
BUT, I am very much a lover of words. I’ve always hoped to instill in my kids a nice, rich vocabulary. The perfect opportunity for this came about while reading 'TOY BOAT' by Randall de Seve & Loren Long at the library last week. Now that Matthew’s old enough to really retain information from the stories we read, I stop every so often to ask him what’s happening so far in the story or to ask him to make a prediction about what might happen next. Recently, whenever we come across a new, but easy-to-guess word, I’ll ask him what he thinks it means. We did this with blustery. From the illustration of an impending storm and from the windy sound effects I’d just made, he was able to make a dead-on prediction, complete with his own sound effects and animated description of fierce weather. Each time we left the house and the wind blew into our faces, we used our word. The first two times I read the book at home, I’d stop at that part and ask him again what blustery meant, and he’d tell me. The twenty-some times we’ve read it since then? He stopped to ask me every time! I’d pretend that I’d forgotten and he’d very excitedly stand up on the couch or the bed or the chair and describe it, complete with sound effects and wiggly ‘wind’ fingers.
Tints & Shades
Day & Night
I wanted to find an easy-to-understand example of something that is one solid color, but that can shift from light to dark. Being that Blue was our first Color of the Day, I came up with the sky. I took out every craft item we had that was blue: crayons, markers, yarn, pom-poms, glitter, etc. and we colored one side of the paper in all tints of light blue for a daytime sky. Luckily we have an enormous and eclectic assortment of crayons, so bringing out just the shades of blue resulted in him noticing that some were so light they were practically white and others so dark you wouldn’t have known they weren’t black without the wrapper. A very befitting observation, young dude!
On the other side of the paper, we made a night sky, using only the darker shades of Blue. Then, we added glitter glue and blue confetti stars to the night side. We also added blue pom-poms for night-time clouds, and white cotton balls for clouds to the daytime side. Super easy, and turned out to have a very neat collage effect!
This is where it all kind of came together. First we mixed our blue and yellow primary colors together to make a full sheets of green painted paper. Then, we mixed white into the green paint and painted over the green hue, with a much light green, called a green tint. We added more and more white to the green paint to see how light we could get it. Then, we did the same thing, starting with the same pure, green hue, but this time adding black in gradual increments, making a shade of green overtop. Since Matthew thought they looked like monsters, we tossed a couple of googly eyes on them, glued some accordion-folded strips of construction paper for arms and legs, and then called them Monster Buddies.
So this week was a complete blast. I’ve realized after two weeks of this project, though, that it’s pretty tough to leave room for our reading progress -- I’ll have to set aside a week once in a while for that alone, because reading is really what we focus on more than anything else and it’d be a shame to keep overlooking it. Either way, I’ll be starting up our reading list next week and adding it to each MM post from now on. I want to be able to keep track of all the books we’ve read together over the course of this whole thing… And eventually, all of the books that Matthew reads on his own. So far our trips to the library haven’t exactly timed themselves out in a way that allowed our weekly reading to coincide with our theme (The Very Ugly Bug was just a lucky fluke.) But since our theme for next week is already underway, and we have a trip planned for tomorrow, we should be able to rock this thing out right!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need a beer. All of this
(This post is also linked up to Home School Creations, where other moms - more seasoned at this than me(!) share what they've gotten into with their little ones this week.)