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Exploring Skin Colors

Choose and mix colors to match the color of your skin.


  • The Colors of Us by Karen Katz
  • 2 or 3 packages of multicultural crayons or markers, depending on the number of children (8 per box, available from Crayola®)
  • a pencil, a sheet of paper (per child)

Key Science Concepts

  • There are many different colors.
  • A single color can have different shades from very light to very dark.


Explain that when we talk about skin color, we can also say skin tone. This book compares skin tones to cinnamon, chocolate, honey, and coffee—children will probably understand some but not all of these words. Encourage them to use the words they do know, or the ones that they pick up in the story.


Begin by reading The Colors of Us. Then discuss the book:

  • Lena has many different names to describe the shades of skin color she sees, such as cinnamon, chocolate, honey, coffee, toffee, and butterscotch. Can you tell me more about these different shades? What color is chocolate? What about honey?
  • If you walked around your neighborhood, like Lena did in the book, what different skin tones do you think you’d notice?  

Tell children they’ll be tracing an outline of their hand and coloring it to match their own skin color. Show children the end pages of the book, which feature hands with different skin tones.

  1. Ask children to look at their skin. How would you describe the color of your skin? If children give responses such as white or black, encourage them to look closer and identify some of the different colors that combine to make their skin tone. For example, do they see brown, red, orange, yellow, and/or beige in their skin?
  2. Examine the multicultural crayons and/or paints together. Read and discuss the names on each label. Ask:
    • Which crayon is closest to the color of a peach?
    • Which brown looks like the color of a teddy bear?
  1. Invite children to pick the crayon or paint that most closely matches the color of their skin. If they feel that the color is not close enough, encourage them to mix in other colors.
  2. When children have skin tone colors they are satisfied with, have them trace the outlines of their hands on sheets of paper, then color or paint the outlines. Encourage children to invent a name for the color of their skin. Foods are often good inspiration, for example, chocolate cake and honey gold. Help children write their color names on their artwork: My skin is ______.

Reflect and Share

Display children’s artwork. Review the color names children have invented. Write a poem together, using these color names as well as others. Use The Colors of Us to inspire additional ideas. Your poem might begin:

We are the colors of (chocolate cake and honey gold),

(Of cinnamon toast and caramel crunch) . . .

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