Exploring Reggio: Creating Colours

Exploring Reggio - Making New Colours An Everyday Story

Exploring Reggio Series on An Everyday Story

This post is part of the Exploring Reggio series with:

The Imagination Tree | Learn with Play at Home | One Perfect Day | Twodaloo


Exploring Reggio - Making Colours The Hundred Languages  An Everyday Story

“Every child is a creative child, full of potential, with the desire and right to make meaning out of life within a context of rich relationships, in many ways and using many languages.” ~ In the Spirit of the Studio

In many ways, the emphasis the Reggio Emilia Approach puts on the creative and expressive arts is what continues to inspire me and drive me forward to learn more, experiment more and delve deeper with my children.

Art is not a separate subject, it is not marginalised. It is equal in status to academic disciplines and from what I have seen and read and understand, art, and all the hundreds of different forms it takes, is a fundamental principle, overarching all learning areas and bringing them together into a creative whole; one which allows the child opportunities to explore, discuss, problem solve and express themselves ‘with great liberating merriment.’ (~Loris Malaguzzi)

‘…the atelier [art studio] had to be a place for the individual exploration of projects… a place for researching motivations and theories of children from scribbles on up, a place for exploring variations in tools, techniques, and materials with which to work.’

So while I don’t expect many of us have space at home for a dedicated atelier, I think we can still make authentic art materials available to our children for them to explore and create; materials like paint, in every colour imaginable.


What colour is the sky? Blue right? What about at sunset and sunrise? Or when a thunderstorm is rolling in? What about the night sky? Just like our exploration of the many different shades of green, this week we refilled our paint pots with new and inspiring colours; colours to paint the night sky, to paint a sunset, colours to ignite their imagination.

Exploring Reggio - Mixing Colours  An Everyday Story Exploring Reggio - Making Colours Making Purple  An Everyday Story Exploring Reggio - Making Colours Making Green  An Everyday Story Exploring Reggio - Making Colours Making Orange  An Everyday StoryMixing colours is always lots of fun. Jack and Sarah take great care dribbling colours into a jar and mixing them together until they are happy with the new colour. Over time they have learnt which colours blend beautifully and which ones will end up as a murky browny-green.

Mixing Colours

  • find yourself some small clear containers with screw-top lids – we use 12 plastic craft containers from the dollar store but you could also reuse empty jars
  • lay out your colours in open shallow containers – Jack and Sarah use a lot of black and white so I always make sure I have two containers of each of those along with red, blue and yellow (and sometimes purple and pink although I prefer them to make their own)
  • add a little spoon to each paint container for scooping
  • find something for mixers – we just use paddle-pop sticks (popsicle sticks)
  • head to the hardware store and pick up some colour swatches. They are really useful for talking about different shades and working to create different colours

Exploring Reggio - Making New Colours  An Everyday Story Exploring Reggio - Art and Painting Explorations  An Everyday Story

The paint pots always get filled pretty quickly. Every time we mix new colours I remind myself that we really need more containers.

It is nice having such a beautiful range of colours for Jack and Sarah to use. I like to watch them as they carefully choose their colours for painting. Here is a painting Jack called ‘The Burning Building’. Each layer and each colour was chosen to tell a different part of the story, sometimes adding a little more black or a little more white, dabbing here and a brush stroke there. Beautiful.

Exploring Reggio - This is a painting my son did after mixing his own colours. It's called The Burning Buildng {An Everyday Story}


I’m really enjoying this series. I hope you are too. We’ll have another Exploring Reggio post for you next fortnight.

29 Replies to “Exploring Reggio: Creating Colours”

  1. This is so inspiring Kate – the whole idea of going beyond the simple blue and having that as a focus but it is something that could go in so many directions. I love it. Just wondering as well, what kind of paint you use? Thanks.

    1. Thanks Ness. These are just regular washable poster paints.

  2. I loved your comment “art is not a separate subject”…..so very true. Even if a family/teacher/early childhood learning centre is not following Reggio principles – it is so important to include “art” in everyday play/fun/learning!

    1. Yes is it such a wonderfully authentic experience. A way for a child to truly express their individual creativity. It is such a shame that as children move through their school years art gets moved further and further to the side.

  3. I am brand new to your blog and just starting to use paints at home. Please give your paint recommendations! Are you using liquid watercolours?thanks in advance!

    1. Just to stick in my 2 cents Valerie, I do a lot of paint mixing. Until now we’ve only used 5 colors, 3 primary and black and white to get all the colors around. I just recently discovered used watercolors from the tubes. If you use an 8×10 piece of plexiglass or something else washable, you can put dabs of paint on the plastic, with one brush and a cup of water, you are good to go.

      1. Thanks Faigie 🙂 We haven’t mixed watercolours in this way before. We will have to give it try next time. I am thinking though that you would have to use the colours during that session though. Still, I think Jack and Sarah would enjoy mixing with watercolours. That would be a new and interesting challenge for them.

    2. Hi Valerie. Lovely to meet you.
      We have a few different kinds of paints. In this post, we are using regular washable poster paint. I like Crayola Washable. We also use block watercolours a lot – these would have to be my favourite.

      We also have some acrylic paints and watercolours in tubes.

  4. I’m sorry to drag the conversation down to the mundane, but I have to ask… I notice that your kids wear no smocks and have sleeves dangling and bellies to the table whenever you paint. Do you have magic laundry tricks? I am a big advocate of messy paint explorations, but I’m finding more and more of my daughter’s clothes stained, even with smocks.

    1. drag away 🙂 Yeah I don’t have smocks for Jack and Sarah. You might have noticed though that they are always wearing the same two shirts though when they are painting. Jack and Sarah each have two painting shirts and two painting pants. I guess these are like their smocks. If they want to paint (or even do any kind of messy art like charcoal) then they have to wear their painting clothes.

      I also use Crayola Washable paints which I find always washes off. We have some artists acrylic paints which don’t wash off so it’s good they they have their painting clothes.

  5. You always inspire me, Kate! But I have to admit that I’m a bit of a clean-freak. All this paint looks wonderfully artistic, but it also looks like a big mess! We are tight on space, so we have to do our art on the kitchen table, which also needs to be used at mealtimes. How do you deal with the aftermath?

    1. Honestly it’s taken a bit of time to get Jack and Sarah to contain the mess to the art table. We have a small house too and so there is no space inside for an art table. Ours is outside so it takes a lot of the stress off me if they wander from the table and put painty hands somewhere.

      The only painting we do inside is with block watercolours or watercolour pencils. I just can’t stand the mess either. In our old house we had space for an art area which had an old mat down to catch any spills but our house that we are in now, well we just have the kitchen table which like you needs to be used for meals too.

      Outside Jack and Sarah always like washing out the brushes and things – getting to play in the water 🙂 Do you have somewhere outside where you could set up a table?

      1. LOL! If we want to freeze our tushies! Right now it’s winter for the next…. up to six months! It can get down to -40C. Not really ideal for outdoor art. But I will definitely think about it in the summer time. Thank you!

        1. That kind of weather is just incomprehensible to me. I just can’t imagine having winter for that long. How do you not get cabin fever? 🙂

          1. Yes, we can feel a little cooped up. We are lucky, though, that we get chinooks where we are. I’m not even sure you would know what a chinook is.


            We get a very cool spell which is warmed up, after awhile, by a warmer chinook wind. Still cold, but better than -40C!

            The boys have snow pants and other warm clothing, but on the coldest days, we simply don’t go out because the cold will bite our noses! Sometimes we will go to indoor play groups and gyms. But by the time April/May rolls around, we are glad for our world to warm up, and we become outdoor lovers once again.

  6. Oh, my kids would absolutely LOVE this Kate. Especially Noah, who is so into mixing and creating new things at the moment. I am definitely going to let them have a go of this!

    1. They will love it. Mine always love it. Jack will ask me whether the pots need filling at least once a week 🙂

  7. This is just gorgeous. I love it idea of discussing the changing colours of the sky. I need to make another trip to get some paint chips for Reggio experiences with colour 🙂

    1. ….slight omission… I think we might just have every colour swatch available 🙂 They are just so very useful for exploring colours. I love them 🙂 I have them on little key rings categorised by colour or theme (autumn, spring)…hmmm that sounds slightly OCD now that I admit it 😉

  8. I absolutely love your blog! I have been trying some invitations with my son but he is so into Legos and tractors that his attention is diverted to these things instead. How do I set up an invitation that captures his attention for longer than 5 minutes? My son is 2 1/2!

    1. Hi Jessica 🙂 I think if your son loves lego then that is where you start. I think it is really important to follow their interests, this is when they will be truly engaged. There are a lot of beautiful and inspiring ideas out there but if your little one isn’t interested in those kinds of things then the experience isn’t going to engage them.

      What kinds of games does he usually play with his lego and tractors? Is there something you could add to his play space to enhance that play more; extend it? For example, my son Jack loves to build with blocks, so I added some architectural design books and some figurines of world landmarks next to his blocks. He was inspired to look through the books and then try out some of the new designs with the blocks.

      1. Ok! So he loves imagining he’s in space and makes rocket ships so if I gear the Legos with a space approach that may be more interesting! Thanks for your reply! I am very inspired when reading your blog…all the way in the US!!! I love that!

        1. How did it go Jessica? Did your son respond well to your invitation?

  9. I am enjoying the series – I’m loving the Reggio approach. You’ve been a great inspiration to learn more. It’s calling me, and I feel less and less joy in my high school teaching. I’ve become so hyper aware of how regimented and teacher-centric it is. Your posts are wonderful, thank you 🙂

    1. I felt that way too. Once I started reading more about child-led learning and emergent learning I really couldn’t see myself going back to a teacher directed classroom like that ones I was familiar with when I was teaching high school. I don’t think I could work productively in that kind of environment anymore.

  10. Hi Kate,
    I lately found your blog and love it. I would like to do some of your ideas with my son (20 month old) but I don’t know what colors I can give him? He always puts things in his mouth. I lately tried to make paint to draw with his hands, but it was not that successfully…(it was out of food coloring and flour…)
    Do you use non-toxic colors? Are they edible?
    Thank you,
    kind regards!

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