My wife and I like to bake. I am more breads, pizza doughs, souffles and cookies. She is all about cake: 3 tiered cakes, cake pops, cupcakes (Cupcake Wars is a favorite show of hers), and muffins which is our justification for eating cake for breakfast. Not too long ago, she was making some form of cake for an event. Our daughter is learning her colors. I put the two together to come up with an amazing lesson. Not just for colors but for physics, chemistry, math, and the culinary arts.
Here is what I came up with:
The Basic Idea
The basic idea behind this lesson (which could easily turn out to be an entire unit, which you will later see) encompasses mainly the idea of color (primary, secondary, and tertiary) and how to mix them to get what you want. So we will start there and then I will show you how it blossomed.
For those young students just learning their colors and dabbling in the arts we will stick with just a simple lesson on colors. Here is what you will need:
All ingredients for making your basic vanilla cupcake
White pre-made frosting (home made if you prefer)
Wilton (or generic) primary colors water based food dye gel (lasts longer) Red, Yellow, and Blue
1. While mixing the ingredients, you can introduce or reinforce the idea of numbers and measurements (even the concept of 1/2 and 1/4 or something. It is a great visual aid) Let them help you put in all the required measurements. Possibly let them measure out some of it themselves.
2. While the batter is baking, it is time to make frosting. I would have several clear cups available for experimentation. We want to kiddos to experiment. We introduce the 3 colors of red, yellow, and blue and let them look at them and hold the bottle. Then explain they will be making colors like green, orange, purple, black, and brown from just these 3. Ask them, “how do you think we do it?”.
3. While doing this you can introduce vocabulary and spelling like Primary and Secondary as well as the color names. You could make signs/labels and worksheets really easily for this baking lesson.
4. Let them experiment by mixing the primary colors in clear vessels of water. Use separate toothpicks or spoons so that you don’t contaminate each gel bottle. The gel will dissipate and your new color will emerge. They could practice writing sentences like: “Yellow + Blue = Green” (ah, another math angle) or Red with Yellow yields (or “gives you”) the color Orange. You get the idea.
5. At this point, they should be getting Green, Orange, and Purple in the experiments. Then you could have some open-ended questions like: What happens if we mix all 3 primary colors (should yield a blackish color) What happens if we mix 2 of the secondary colors or 1 primary and 1 secondary? (blue and orange = brown…usually)
By using open-ended questions, this will invite more experimentation without giving them boring directives. They can even make some of their own open-ended questions and experiment.
*You may have to start mixing the gels in a bowl first and then add them to the water to get a better result.
6. After the cupcakes are ready and the experimentation are done. Let them cool and then frost using the child’s favorite colors that they experimented with. (even black frosting will be fine..you’ll still eat it)
7. Follow this lesson up with some reflection and experiment with other forms of color: paint, markers, colored transparency sheets, etc in other forms of art work to reinforce the idea of primary and secondary. Even a quiz or a race relay where you ask for an item that is primary or secondary in color will require them to think. Have them find that item and give it to you. You can also ask them to find two items that would make the color purple and so on.
Here is a fun resource for color and light:
Please leave a comment below if you have tried this and leave what worked and what didn’t. I would love to know!