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Mixing Food Coloring: Red and Yellow

Mix two colors of tinted water to make a third color.

Materials and Preparation

  • food coloring: Add red food coloring to a bottle of water and yellow food coloring to a different bottle of water.
  • for each child: an ice cube tray, a cup of clear water, and two eyedroppers (one for each color)
  • camera

Key Science Concepts

  • A single color can have different shades, from very light to very dark.
  • Two or more colors can be combined to make a new color.
  • Diluting colored water with clear water creates a lighter shade of the same color.


Encourage children to use color names, as well as key terms such as color and shade; descriptive words such as light, lighter, dark, and darker; action words such as describe, drop, and mix; and science process words such as change, compare, dilute, observe, and predict. Encourage them to come up with color descriptions out of their own observations—purple-y blue, reddish brown, yellowish green.


Tell children they will explore what happens when they mix two colors of water, red and yellow. Ask them to predict what color will result, and why they predicted that.   

  1. Put the two colors of water into two different compartments at opposite ends of each child’s tray.
  2. Invite children to create different colors in their ice cube trays by using the eyedroppers to move drops of both colors into one compartment and watch the colors mix. As children work, ask:
    • What happened? How did the color change?
    • How did you make that color? How much (yellow) did you use?
    • What other colors do you think you can make?
    • Do you have any colors that are exactly the same? How are these two colors different? 

If they want, children can also add clear water to a compartment—a little bit or a lot. Talk with children about what they notice. Take photos while they experiment.

Reflect and Share

Talk about what children noticed and discovered in their color-mixing explorations. Have some of the ice cube trays with the mixed-color water nearby so children can demonstrate their ideas.