Exploring Color

Children will explore the use of color in art.

Birds Nest

Lesson Objective

 Children will "observe" and interpret art by carefully looking at works of art.


What You'll Need


What To Do

Note: This lesson is best taught before the lesson, Colorful Still Life also found on this website.

  1. Explain to the children that they will be exploring color.
  2. Read the book, A Color of His Own, and discuss that everything in the world has color.
  3. Ask the children, “What do you think the world would be like without color?”
  4. Display the artwork, and have the children “observe” (look closely at) the painting.
  5. Ask them to describe what they see and to name the colors (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  6. Discuss that color is one of the elements of art (see Did You Know?).
  7. Ask why they think artists sometimes paint with brilliant colors and sometimes with neutral colors (see Did You Know?).
  8. Point out the different shades of color in the painting; discuss how some colors are dark and others are light.
  9. Display the color paddles or acetate, and have the children name the colors.
  10. Distribute the chameleon images. Invite the children to hold the color paddles over their chameleon to give it color.
  11. Allow children to combine color paddles to create new colors on the chameleon, and share with the class.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Tell me some colorful things that you see in the book.
  • Describe what you think the world would be like without color.
  • Describe what you see in the painting.
  • Describe the colors you see in the painting.
  • Explain why you think artists sometimes paint with brilliant colors.
  • Tell me some dark/light colors you see in the painting.
  • Describe the new color you created with the color paddles.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Place color paddles or acetate squares in the art or science area for further investigation.
  • Place a variety of paint colors, paintbrushes, and paper in the art center. Allow children to experiment with mixing colors on paper.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children describe what they saw in the painting?
  • Could children name the colors in the painting?
  • Could children name the colors on the color paddles?
  • Could children describe how they created new colors with the color paddles?


Did You Know?

The focus work of art for this lesson, Blue Still Life (Nature Morte Bleue) by Henri Matisse, is from the art collection of the late Dr. Albert Barnes. It is located at The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Barnes Foundation is home to more than 2,000 works of art, including masterpieces from well-known artists like Henri Matisse.

Dr. Barnes considered color to be one of four major elements of art—with line, light, and space being the other three. When these elements combine, Dr. Barnes felt that they could become a rich expression of everyday experiences. Henri Matisse was a French artist and is known for using brilliant colors in his artwork. Colors are everywhere, and using art to explore color can open children’s eyes to a world of shades and emotions. Artists sometimes use colors that are true to life and sometimes use colors that represent how they feel or what they imagine. Color is experienced in our everyday lives because color is all around us.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • chameleon – a lizard that is able to change its skin color to match its environment.
  • color – a quality of light as our eyes see it; yellow, red, and blue are some colors.
  • element – a basic part of any whole.
  • shade – the degree of darkness of a color.
  • color paddle – a very small, oar-shaped piece of plastic that is red, yellow, blue, or another color.
  • brilliant – very shiny or bright.

Lesson Tips

  • Allow children to predict what color the chameleon will be when it encounters a new color.
  • If you do not have access to color paddles, use squares of colored acetate, available inexpensively at discount and craft stores.


  • A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni
  • Mix It Up by Hervé Tullet
  • The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
  • Pantone: Colors by Pantone

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

While we believe that the books and resources recommended may be of value to you, keep in mind that these are suggestions only and you must do your own due diligence to determine whether the materials are appropriate and suitable for your use. PNC has no sponsorship or endorsement agreement with the authors or publishers of the materials listed.

Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS