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Unit Overview

Unit Overview

In this three-week curriculum, children explore the science of color:

Week 1: Exploring Shades of Colors
Explore different colors and how a single color can have many shades.

Week 2: Mixing New Colors
Explore mixing colors together to create new ones.

Week 3: Camouflage; Color and Light
Explore how some colors blend into their environment while others stand out; then investigate how light changes colors.

Roughly one to two hours (70–110 minutes) of science exploration is offered throughout a day. The day is broken into four segments: 

Morning Circle (25–35 min.)
Read a story or watch a PEEP video (15–20 min.) 
Then, do a short, hands-on activity (10–15 min.)

Learning Centers (15–30 min.)  
Give children time for free exploration at 4–5 different learning centers.

Guided Activity (20–30 min.)
Guide children through a longer, hands-on activity.

Closing Circle (10–15 min.)
Get together and share the day’s discoveries. 

Learning Goals

Learning Goals

Science Concepts

  • There are many different colors.
  • Objects can be classified by color.
  • A single color can have many different shades, from very light to very dark.
  • Diluting colored water with clear water creates a lighter shade of the same color.
  • Colors can be combined to make a new color.
  • Something of one color against a background of a similar color may be hard to see.
  • Something of one color against a background of a contrasting color is easy to see.
  • Objects appear to be a different color when viewed through a transparent colored material.
  • After passing through a transparent colored material, the color of the light looks like the color of the material.
  • The colors visible in bubbles come from light reflecting on the bubble’s surface.

Children will practice scientific skills as they learn about color. They will:

  • Observe, describe, and sort various objects by color.
  • Predict and compare changes in color.
  • Do simple experiments, talk about cause and effect, and share ideas.

Language and Literacy


Children will hear and use words that:

  • describe color, like shade, light, lighter, dark, darker, different, same, transparent, and camouflage
  • help them develop scientific vocabulary, like mix, paint, blend, sort, dilute, change, observe, describe, compare, contrast, and predict

Print Awareness

Children will see their words written on charts. They’ll listen and “read” along as the words are read back to them.

Book experiences

Children will listen to books about color and explore books independently.

Emergent Writing 

Children will draw and write about the colors they see, make, and explore.

Early Math

Classify and sort

Children will classify and sort objects based on color.


Children will compare several shades of a color, determining which is darker, darkest, lighter, or lightest.



Here are the materials needed for all the activities and learning centers in Explore Color. The materials are also listed with each activity.




  colored construction paper


  chart paper

  paste, tape, or glue


  colorful recyclable containers


Food Coloring Activities: Many Shades, Mixing Colors 

  plastic bottles filled with clear water

  plastic cups

  food coloring (red, blue, yellow)

  plastic eye droppers or pipettes (preferably 6 jumbo pipettes available from science supply companies)

  baby spoons, small squirt bottles, or basters for younger children

  white ice cube trays (if white trays are not available in local stores, they can be ordered online from several retailers)

  paint chips (available for free at hardware and paint stores)

  optional: clear plastic egg cartons to mix food coloring in and a light table to illuminate the food coloring in the cartons

Painting Activities: Many Shades, Mixing Colors, Exploring Skin Colors, Make a Map, and Paint a Mural

  tempera and/or finger paints (red, blue, yellow, white, black)

  white paper


  craft sticks

  paint chips

  multicultural paints and crayons available from Crayola

  paper plates

  paper towels/coffee filters (optional)

  long, rectangular piece of cardboard


  mural paper


Color Sorting


  small building blocks

  paint chips


  small toys and colorful objects

  objects children can collect outside: pebbles, leaves, twigs

  paper bowls, clear plastic cups, plastic containers, shoe boxes and tops, plastic bags (to hold the sorted objects)

  construction paper, paper plates

  glue and tape (for gluing/taping objects to paper so they can be displayed)

  paper bags

Light and Color Activities: Colors and Light, Colored Light, Colored Lenses, The Color of Bubbles

  sheets of colored acetate or plastic color paddles (colored acetate sheets available at local art supply or craft shops, or online; color paddles available at educational supply companies, including kaplanco.com and enasco.com)

  clear plastic bottles filled with water (water with food coloring)

  food coloring (2-3 colors)

  plastic bottles filled with clear water (use bottles with smooth sides)

  optional: plastic or glass prisms

  clear contact paper


  dishwashing liquid

  commercial bubble solution with wand (one per child)

  empty plastic bottles with labels removed (one per pair of children)


  yarn (or curling ribbon) in bright colors

  cotton balls

  magazines with colorful photos

  a spoonful of ground cinnamon in a plastic bag

  a brightly colored safety vest (optional) or a few color images of crossing guards and traffic cops wearing safety vests, downloaded from the Internet

  pictures of jewels from the Internet

  PEEP coloring pages—print out several copies featuring Peep, Chirp, and Quack. 

Videos and Games

Videos and Games

See Prepare to Teach for guidelines on using media.

Videos: PEEP Episodes

These animated videos about color are used in the curriculum. 

A Peep of a Different Color (9:00)

Peep, Quack, and Chirp discover paint and the joy of looking different.

Hide and Go Peep (9:00)

Peep and Chirp invent a wonderful new game—and Quack quickly learns that it’s not easy being blue!

Peep's Color Quest (9:00)

Quack has an exciting new toy: a pair of orange sunglasses, on loan from the Fish Museum.

Videos: PEEP Live-Action

These live-action videos about color are used in the curriculum. 

Mixing Paint (1:30)

The kids are making a big colorful map of a city. They have green, blue, red, yellow, black and white paint. How can they make purple? How about a lighter green?

Hide and Seek (1:30)

The kids are playing hide and seek and trying to camouflage themselves to stay hidden.

Juicy Light (1:30)

The kids are thirsty. How about some apple juice, cranberry juice and orange juice? The kids notice that light passes through some of the juice but not all.

PEEP Online Games

These PEEP online science games about color are used in the curriculum.

Paint Splat

By clicking on the tubes, players can make Quack squirt up to two blobs of blue, yellow, and red paint onto a fence.

Which Fish?

Eight fish swim gently in a line. Kids must observe the pattern the fish form and select which fish, from a choice of three, to assign to the rightmost position.


Read-Aloud Books 

These books are used in the curriculum. They are available in bookstores or from the library.

Hoban, Tana. Colors Everywhere. Greenwillow Books, 1995. Colors 
jump off the page in this collection of photos.

Hoban, Tana. Is It Red? Is It Yellow? Is It Blue? Greenwillow Books, 
1978. Vibrant photos highlight the colors in the world.

Katz, Karen. The Colors of Us. Henry Holt and Company, 2007. Lena 
learns that everyone’s skin color is different and discovers how each one is beautiful in a different way.

Lionni, Leo. A Color of His Own. Alfred A. Knopf, 1975. A chameleon wishes he had his own color like all the other animals, and finds his answer in a new friend.

Lionni, Leo. Little Blue and Little Yellow. Harper Collins, 1959. Two 
special friends find out what color blue and yellow make.
Shahan, Sherry. Spicy Hot Colors/Colores picantes. August House 
Little Folk, 2004. A colorful review of objects found in Latin culture.

Walsh, Ellen Stoll. Mouse Paint. Voyager Books, 2005. Three playful 
mice dip themselves into red, yellow, and blue paint and mix colors.

Weber, Belinda. Animal Disguises. Kingfisher, 2007. Investigate how 
animals use camouflage to blend in.

Additional Books (Optional)

You may want also want to share these books with children.  

Gonzalez, Maya Christina. My Colors, My World/Mis colores, mi 
Children’s Book Press, 2007. A girl shows off the many colors of 
her southwest home.    

Kleven, Elisa. The Lion and the Little Red Bird. Puffin, 1996. A bird solves the mystery of a lion’s color-changing tail.

Luján, Jorge and Grobler, Piet. Colors!/¡Colores! Groundwood Books, 
2008. A poetic exploration of colors in the world.

Swinburne, Stephen R. What Color is Nature? Boyds Mills Press, 
2002. See and identify the colors in nature.

Thong, Roseanne. Red is a Dragon. Chronicle Books, 2008. Poetic and 
Chinese cultural look at the colors around us. 

Handouts for Parents

Handouts for Parents

In the first week of the Explore Color curriculum, print this letter and send it home to children’ parents or guardians. The activities in the letter give families and children ways they can enjoy science together. The letter also gives book and Web site recommendations. During the Morning Circle, invite children to share their at-home science discoveries with the group. Each letter is provided in English and Spanish: 

Explore Color with Your Child (PDF)
Explore los colores con el niño (PDF)

For parents new to PEEP, there’s also a handout with tips for: 

Exploring Science with Children (PDF)
Exploremos las ciencias (PDF)


Educator Reflection

Educator Reflection

These questions may help you think about the successes and challenges of the Explore Color unit. 

  1. What was the best part of the Explore Color unit for you and your children? Making shades of food coloring? Mixing paints? Looking through colored gels? The camouflage activities? What made it so great?
  2. As you watched and listened to your children explore, what things surprised you? (For example, certain questions or observations about color mixing, unusual ways children used the materials, special things that fascinated them.)
  3. What activities would you change or spend more time on the next time you use the Explore Color unit? What would you keep the same? How can you make it a better experience next time? 


Educator Close-Up

Educator Close-Up

Caroline shares photos of some of the children’s experiments and discoveries during the exploration.

Throughout the activities, the children continued their free exploration of food coloring and water, paints, and colored acetate. It was clear that they were making connections and building a deeper understanding of what color is, and how it works.

Melissa works on making many shades of blue water.
Chavonne and Mia try to match the color of their paint to the color of a paint chip.
Red finger paint with a little black mixed in. I encouraged children to mix really slowly so they could see what happened as the colors started to blend.
The children ran toy cars through yellow and blue paint and made tire tracks on paper. The colors blend where the tracks overlap.
Here the children are sharing their discovery of the squares of colored light on the ground created by light passing through the colored acetate.
Back inside, we continued our exploration of colored transparent objects by providing children with sheets of contact paper and bits of colored cellophane. The children loved arranging the colors and predicting how they would change where two overlapped.


Prepare To Teach

Prepare To Teach


  • Use the Curriculum Planner to familiarize yourself with the full three-week curriculum. Click on the activities to access them online or print the planner for offline use.
  • Then roll up your sleeves and explore some of the same hands-on activities your children will try during the curriculum.
  • Review the Using Media sections for tips on reading books, watching videos, and playing online games together.

Hands-On Activities

Remember the excitement of spending time exploring color? Learning the names of the colors around you and discovering that you could make new colors by mixing paint?

These hands-on activities will help you to:

  • discover different ways you can use the materials
  • think about ways your children can get the most out of their color explorations: vocabulary you can highlight and questions you might ask
  • troubleshoot problems that may come up and help you to think about potential safety issues 

Food Coloring

You will need a white ice cube tray, two colors of food coloring, two plastic bottles of water, a cup for clear water, and three plastic pipettes or eyedroppers. For the first activity, Many Shades, you will need only one color of food coloring.

Many Shades: Food Coloring

  1. Put a drop or two of food coloring into a bottle of water. What happens? How does the color look as it mixes with the water? How does it look after a few drops? A few more? Shake the bottle so the food coloring mixes with the water. Continue to add food coloring until the color in the bottle is fairly dark and concentrated.
  2. Pour colored water into one compartment at the end of the ice cube tray. Use a pipette to pick up a little bit of that colored water and drop it into the next compartment. Then use a fresh pipette to add a little clear water to that compartment. What happens to the color of the water?
  3. Continue to mix different amounts of colored and clear water in the other compartments of the ice cube tray. Can you make two matching shades by adding colored and/or clear water to two adjoining compartments?

Mixing Colors: Food Coloring

  1. Rinse out your ice cube tray and mix up a second bottle of concentrated colored water, using a different color. Fill two compartments of the ice cube tray with the two concentrated colors. Predict what color you will get when you mix the colors. Then, using two pipettes (one for each color), try mixing different amounts of the two colors of water. What discoveries did you make?
  2. Use a pipette to add clear water to some of your blended colors. Experiment by filling the ice cube tray compartments with different colors and shades. Then, try making two of the colors the same by adjusting the amount of clear water and colored water.

Tempera Paint

You will need a couple of paper plates or sheets of paper, a paintbrush with a small tip (or a craft stick), two colors of paint plus white and black, and some scrap paper. For the first activity, Many Shades, you will need only one color of paint, plus white and a tiny bit of black.

Many Shades: Paint

  1. Put a blob of one paint color and a separate blob of white on the paper plate. Using a paintbrush, mix a little of the white paint into the edges of the colored paint. Mix in some more white, changing the shade. Create different shades of the colored paint. Document the shades created by painting a streak of each on your scrap paper before mixing in more white.
  2. On a second plate put a blob of the same paint color and a very small blob of black. Mix a little of the black into the color paint. What do you notice? How is it different from mixing in white paint? What are some of the pros and cons of offering black as well as white paint when doing this activity with your children?

Mixing Colors: Paint

Put a blob of two colors of paint (not white or black), on a paper plate. Use a brush or craft stick to blend the colors together. If you want, add white and create different shades of the new color.

  • How can you help children get the most out of this color-mixing activity?
  • What questions might you ask? (What colors did you use to get that color? Why do you think that happened when you mixed those colors together? Will the same thing happen if you mix two different colors?)
  • How can children document and share what they have discovered?
  • What are some basic words that will help children share their discoveries with others?

Colored Lenses

Head outdoors with color paddles and/or sheets of colored acetate—a stiff, sturdy plastic. (This works best on a sunny day.)

  1. Go to the area where you will take the children to explore color outdoors. What colorful objects catch your eye? Are there any colors that seem to jump out more than others? Would you want to direct the children to these colors, or others that they would have to look more closely to find?
  2. Find an area where there is lots of bright color—it could be a flower patch or a wall mural. Look at the scene through one of the color paddles or acetate sheets. Then look through a different color. How does the scene change?
  3. Try looking through two colors at the same time. What do you notice? What do you think is happening? Does this remind you of any of the activities you did while inside? Try the same thing but while looking at a white or light gray surface.
  4. Hold a sheet of colored acetate or a color paddle over a patch of ground, away from your face, so that the light shines through the colored plastic. What do you notice? How could you continue this exploration indoors?
  5. What safety issues do you need to consider when children are exploring outside? Will they be near traffic? Are there poisonous plants in the area? What are other potential hazards?

Using Media: Books

A few tips for reading aloud to your children:

  • Read the book several times before sharing it with children. Mark the places where you would like to pause to ask questions or to explain unfamiliar words.
  • Talk about the cover. Point out the title, and the author's and illustrator's name. Look at and talk about the art.
  • Ask children to predict what might happen in the story.
  • Read the story with the children once without stopping so children can listen to the story as a whole. Then read again and ask questions.
  • Read slowly so children can understand and enjoy the rhythm of the words and examine the pictures.
  • Hold the book so that everyone can see it.
  • Add drama to your reading by using different voices and simple props. Don’t be afraid to be silly or dramatic.
  • After reading the story, ask some open-ended questions (questions that don’t have a yes or no answer) that will help children think about, remember, and discuss the story later.

Using Media: Videos

Help children think and talk about what they are watching by encouraging active viewing.

  • Watch the video ahead of time so you’re familiar with it. 
  • Before viewing, tell children something about the story to capture their interest and to introduce unfamiliar words and ideas.
  • While viewing, show children that you are engaged by focusing intently, laughing, showing amazement or surprise.   
  • After viewing, ask open-ended questions, such as,
    • What discoveries do Peep and Chirp make as they play in the paint?
    • The butterfly says, “I’m the best hide-and-go-seeker there is!” and the frog says, “Oh, I don’t know about that!” Can you explain why they think they are so good at hiding?
  • When children watch the live-action videos, which feature children exploring science, ask questions comparing their experiences to those of the children in the video:
    • How did the children in the video use color to help them hide during hide-and-seek? Look at what you’re wearing today. Where do you think would be a good place for you to hide?​​

Using Media: Online Games

Encourage children to think and talk about what they’re doing while they play the PEEP online science games.

  • Play a few rounds of the game on your own so you’re familiar with it
  • Explain the goal of the game and demonstrate to children how to play. Talk aloud about what you’re doing and thinking: Hmmm, which colors should I use to make green? Let’s see what happens when I mix blue and red . . . oh, that makes purple, not green . . . let me try some other colors. 
  • Have children take a turn, as you guide them through the steps, and offer encouragement.
  • For the youngest children, you might guide their hands on the mouse and keyboard. They’ll have fun, develop their motor coordination, and enjoy being part of the group.
  • As children play on their own, ask open-ended questions to get them thinking: You made green! How did you decide which colors to use?

Almost all the PEEP games are self-leveling. If players answer a round without error, they move to a harder level in the next round. If they make an error, they remain at the same level of difficulty for the next round. The games keep children within their own comfort levels, nudging them to more challenging levels only when they are ready.

Screen Time for Children

Research has shown that technology and interactive media can enhance early learning. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Fred Rogers Center state that "technology and interactive media are tools that can promote effective learning and development when they are used intentionally by early childhood educators.”  

This curriculum uses nine-minute animated PEEP episodes, one-and-a-half-minute live-action videos, and online science games as a springboard for discussion about science with children. All videos were vetted by early childhood education experts and are presented in the context of a lesson plan that promotes active viewing.

After children have watched and discussed the videos as part of the curriculum, this media is made available to them in a learning center. Based on NAEYC recommendations, the Technology Center should only be available to children older than two years.