My twins are 26 months actual, 24 months adjusted; Tex is 26 months; Curly and Sue are 27 months actual, 25 months adjusted
Hello, friends! Yesterday morning I hosted “Color Lab“- a messy play and language stimulation activity for my twins and three of their buddies (Tex, of course, and our twin friends “Curly” and “Sue”). We had an absolute blast…this was a really great group and I can’t wait to do it again soon! Even if your children are older than ours, I have included lots of suggestions for adapting/extending this activity at the end of this post. Ready to see what we did?
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This activity was inspired by a couple of things. First- my kiddos! They are super interested in pouring and playing with water right now, and colorful water is even better. This is a natural way to extend their curiosity.
Second, I happen to be reading an awesome book called The Language of Art: Reggio-Inspired Studio Practices in Early Childhood Settings. It was recommended by Kate at An Everyday Story, another one of my favorite blogs (I visit her blog daily whether she posts or not!) and is a wonderful guide to introducing different art media to young children and helping them use it to express their ideas. One of the first exercises is a color mixing exploration that incorporates cornstarch. I adapted the activity for our group, who are a bit younger and at a lower language level than the children in the book, and it worked amazingly well.
I set up our “Color Lab” in our dining room/playroom. As you can see below, I first protected the floor with some plastic tablecloths from the Dollar Tree.
I added a whimsical element to the room by tying some colorful play silks to the chandelier.
Our first activity was creating the colored water together, so I set out three plastic pitchers of plain water, some fizzy bath tablets (to color the water), a wooden spoon for mixing, and some clear cups for pouring.
Each child got his/her own tub containing a sectioned tray for pouring and mixing colors. The trays were bright orange, so I covered each one in aluminum foil so the different colors of the water would show.
Each child also had access to turkey basters, spoons, and medicine droppers to use if they desired.
Because I liked the faux chalkboard I created for our Little Chef Party so much, I decided to make a real one to replace it this week. More about that (and how we are using to encourage connected speech at home) in a post to come! I used the chalkboard to announce the theme for our play date as well as display suggested vocabulary for the other moms and I to use when providing language stimulation for our kids.
Finally, in case any of the kids didn’t want to participate, I selected several colorful toys and blocks to set out in our toy shelf.
I really shouldn’t have bothered
Making the Colored Water
To begin, all the little ones sat eagerly on the floor as I brought down each water-filled pitcher individually. One child got to take the lid off, another child got to drop the color tablet in, and then each child got a chance to stir the water as the tablet fizzed and melted. They all enjoyed sticking their hands and arms in the water, too!
This activity was wonderful for language stimulation. As I presented the activity, I modeled short phrases and sentences for the children as I narrated my actions, such as “Pour the water,” “Stir the water,” and “Spoon goes in!” We prompted the little ones to request actions and objects at their individual levels (word, phrase, or short sentence).
Playing With Water
Next, we handed out the tubs and gave each child clear cups of the different colors of water to explore with. They were free to dump, pour, transfer, mix, and/or spoon the water however they desired. They were allowed as many refills of whatever color they wanted, and we prompted them to use their words to ask for it as well as the different “tools” we had on hand. Sweet Sue really enjoyed spooning the different colors back and forth between the cups (pictured below).
*Remember, the purpose of this activity was exploration- not for them to master proper color mixing techniques or learn to use the basters/droppers perfectly. We modeled these things but the children were free to follow their own interests. Try to keep from being too directive or the children will become frustrated and lose interest.
Adding the Cornstarch
Once they became bored with the plain water, we brought in the next element…cornstarch!
Each tot got his/her own fluffy bowl of cornstarch to incorporate into their water play.
Some used their fingers to transfer the cornstarch into the water, while others used their spoons.
Pretty soon, the mixture turned into the substance affectionately known as “goop” which makes for a fantastic sensory experience…one moment solid, the next liquid, and just plain fun to slip through your fingers!
The little ones stayed engaged in our color lab activity for a little over an hour. That is a great amount of time for this age group, especially with the distraction of playing with friends and new rotation of toys! If you can, repeat this activity several different times. We did it again this morning, and it was interesting to note that the twins were more engaged in different parts of the activity than they were yesterday. For example, yesterday they were much more interested in the “goop” portion of the playdate, but this morning they spent most of their time transferring the colored water and experimenting with using the turkey basters and droppers.
Benefits and Extension Activities
This activity was a very rich group language stimulation experience. As you can see by my description, although we did name and discuss colors with the little ones, learning colors was not the main focus of the activity. We focused more on the functional aspects of communication, providing modeling of new vocabulary and prompting them to use speech to express their wants and needs as well as describe their actions and interact socially with each other (“Sydney have a turn? Thank you, Bubba!”)
If you are working on expanding your child’s vocabulary, try to work in words from the activity into your everyday conversation or routines. To help you remember during the day, put a note with a few targeted words in a place where you will be likely to use them naturally. For example, it would be easy to use the words “dribble,” “drip,” and “squirt” while helping your child wash his/her hands in the sink, so putting a post-it with those words written on it right by the faucet would serve as a great environmental cue for you. The more you can repeat new vocabulary and use it in different scenarios throughout your day, the more likely your child will learn it and begin to use it, too!
Speaking of social development, this type of activity is great for practicing early social skills such as turn taking and sharing. This is why I didn’t provide a wooden spoon for each child during the water coloring portion of the activity- it forced them to wait for their turn in order to participate. Seems like a small detail, but it really makes a difference!
This activity also provided stimulation in the areas of fine motor development and coordination (spooning, transferring, pouring, using the basters and droppers) and problem solving (What will happen if I combine these two colors or substances? How will I get the cornstarch from the bowl to the tray?).
This activity could be adapted even further for a minimally verbal or nonverbal child by providing picture symbols to accompany the vocabulary you are targeting. Even children in the early/emerging language stage like our little ones could benefit from picture symbols to reinforce new vocabulary/concepts.
For children with higher language levels/older children, there are many ways this activity can be extended.
A few suggestions from The Language of Art (please see the book for a complete list, and more great art activities):
- Using the exploration to practice the scientific method by making observations and predictions about color mixing or transforming solids into liquids
- Write directions on how to turn cornstarch from a solid into a liquid
- Write a story about the meeting between two of the primary colors you introduced, from the perspective of one of the colors
- Use the colored water to create a reference display for your art room by having the children color the water by adding measured drops of food coloring (i.e. three drops yellow, one drop blue to make light green). Have the children label the lids with the recipes for each color and arrange the jars in a rainbow along a sunny window- this makes a beautiful decoration as well as a handy reference for mixing colors for a variety of media. *We are ABSOLUTELY doing this when my twins are old enough to handle the project! What an awesome idea!
More suggestions from my own brain:
- Have the children retell the steps of the activity when you are finished. Write down their words exactly as they dictate. Younger children can create a book with their sentences by illustrating each step. If you are an SLP working on grammar/language targets such as pronouns or past tense forms, have the children reread their sentences and correct their language as necessary/appropriate.
- Use the steps of this activity for sequencing activities after you have completed it.
- Use the “goop” you create to make paintings or abstract art- explore how different actions (dribbling, dripping, spreading with fingers or a brush) create different marks on your canvas or paper. This would also be fun to dribble on a mirror or bubble wrap.
I hope you enjoyed reading about our color lab activity!