Color wheel crash course

What do you need to know about the color wheel? Well you don’t need to know much, just the basics. I am going to teach you what I teach my toddlers and first graders about the color wheel. There are different theories about color and different color wheels for different areas of design. But since we are art with toddlers and preschoolers, these basics will do.

Warm vs Cool colors

As you can see in the picture above there are warm colors and cool colors.

Warm colors are red, orange and yellow. To remember this, think of the sunrise and sunset= warming colors.

Cool or Cold colors are purple, blue and green. To remember these colors, think of the ocean.

Those are the basic colors of warm and cool. Then there are the in-between colors such as yellow-orange, but you don’t need to worry about those too much.

Now what?

Now, knowing this can come in handy when setting out painting activities for toddlers and young children. Chances are if you have a toddler some of every color, they would mush them all together and the result will not always be what you are hoping for. Of course color mixing is great fun and children do need to learn and see for themselves the result of mixing all the colors together.


If you are wanting to do some art work with your child that you could frame or keep etc. then you might want to remember the color wheel. Giving your child only warm colors or only cool colors gives you a much better chance of producing something you will want to display. When warm colors mix they still look good, same with cool colors. 3 colors at a time work well.

White can be added to warm or cool colors to lighten them and create different shades.

Primary colors

Red, blue and yellow are the primary colors and giving your child the primary colors to mix and experiment with is great. As they mix red and blue together they will make purple. Red and yellow make orange. Blue and yellow make green. Talk to your child as they are mixing colors and ask them what they notice? What new colors can they make? You can add white in to mix it up and a tiny bit of black if you like to make the colors darker shades.

Books about color mixing

A great way to introduce topics such as colors and color mixing, is by using books and stories. I would suggest letting your child have fun experimenting with colors before reading them a book about mixing colors. Once they are done exploring on their own, read the book and then give them colors again and see if their experimenting or painting changes in any way. If you can’t get hold of the actual book, look online for a reading of the book.

Mix it up by Herve Tullet

Mixed by Aree Chung

Now you know..

Now you know everything you need to know about the color wheel basics. It is great to introduce toddlers to the color wheel and explain warm vs cool colors to them and let them explore and have fun with color! There are lots of ways you can use color in process art with toddlers. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *