Easy Preschool Art Activity Inspired by Mix it Up!

Doesn’t it seem like every time you carefully choose gifts for your children, something that seems completely random ends up being the big winner (like the bubble wrap in a box for Mr. M). My parents got the children a book called “Mix it Up!” by Hervé Tullet. We were all completely charmed by the simplicity of the book and the interactive elements. It encourages the children to “mix” the colours together and when you turn the page it shows them what happened. They shake the book, tip it sideways, and Miss M’s favourite part, squish their hand onto a big mess of paint and then turn the page to see “her” handprint there.

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We’ve read it several times and she always delights in the imaginative elements of moving the book around and using her fingers to mix the colours. She’s never been a kid who liked to get messy so I didn’t really consider moving the experience into the real world. Then today happened. Today we were stuck inside as both the children had the sniffles and, frankly, we were all going a little stir crazy. It was a hit - and, best of all, super easy! 

Here’s all you need to do a Mix it Up painting with your children - you likely have just about everything already in your house!

I recommend that you read the book together a few times so they understand the concept of colour mixing, and some ways to do it. It took a few reads before she started remembering what colours made what.

Supplies:

  • Pure white heavy paper or a smallish canvas. We used an old piece of Bristol board I had from another project and quickly chopped it into four rectangles. Commercial finger painting paper would be good too. You just don’t want to use printer paper or newsprint as when they rub paint on it the dampness may tear a hole in it.
  • Five small paintbrushes – large ones grab too much paint and will make it hard to see the results of the mixing.
  • Bottles of red, yellow, blue, white and black paint. We used Elmer’s Washable Tempera Paint. Even though Miss M is a pretty responsible three year old and not a fan of messes, the washable is still a must (especially with Mr. M around).
  • Five empty baby food jars. I used these for pouring a bit of the paint into. They fit perfectly in the lip of our Step 2 easel; they're high enough so that the paintbrushes don’t fall out; and when you’re done you either wash them out for another time, or pop the cap on and save the rest for another day.
  • It’s ideal if you can use an easel so they can get a good big picture of their work as they go but a table would work well too. Just make sure you use a drop cloth and smocks to prevent a big mess (hmmm…wonder where Miss M gets her disdain of messes from…)
  • This kind of artwork is perfect for the type of parent who doesn’t consider themselves much of an arts n’ crafts type of person as it’s very self-directed. I spent my time running back and forth between her and Mr M rescuing him from his own artistic "efforts" (i.e. chewing crayons). 

Simply give them the supplies and let them go. If they seem hesitant you can encourage them by talking about what they did in the book and even showing them pages of it and asking them to imitate it. You can suggest they try choosing a colour and making a dot, and then adding another colour to that dot. Once they see the“magic” they will be keen to start exploring on their own. You can always grab a piece of paper for yourself and let them follow along with you until they’re more comfortable.

I was amazed to watch Miss M (with absolutely no prompting from me) start making circles and combining colours just like in the book. I was surprised that she didn’t just mash them all together as she usually does – she was doing her colour mixing very intentionally and imitating what she had seen in the book.

Mixing it Up!

Mixing it Up!

After she had done several shapes of colours I added black and white to the options. In the story they’re used to show how to make lighter and darker colours and how to mix them to create grey, and she did all of those activities.

I was momentarily distracted by Mr M swinging from the rafters, and when I returned to check on Miss M she was counting slowly to five with her hand pressed against the paint just like she does in the book. Let me repeat that for you – HER HAND WAS PRESSED AGAINST THE PAINT!!

This is the child that hates getting maple syrup on her fingers while eating waffles, or insists on washing her hands five times in the course of gluing something on a picture because she hates getting dirty. But she got all up in that picture and tried several handprints and then she actually started finger painting and had a grand time.

The final masterpiece

The final masterpiece

She did a second piece of art and when they were done we added them both to our Art Gallery in our Family Room. 

Family Art Gallery

Family Art Gallery

I have to admit, it looked so fun and created such a cool piece of art that I may do one of my own tonight – and I might even get up the nerve to put my own hand on it too…

Have you read any art books with your children? Have you been inspired to try to recreate the art in it with them?