No-mess Color Mixing Art

Emma mixing colors in a ziploc bag

We have been putting paint (and other liquids, like hair gel with food coloring) in ziploc bags to play for years now, and it is always fun – especially since I discovered the trick of taping them to the table with a sheet of white paper underneath to make the colors pop! One thing I kept intending to do but never got around to, was mixing colors – every time I suggested it, my kids vetoed the idea! Then Rainy Day Mum mentioned that I had inspired her to try this method of color mixing, and decided to give it another go! This activity is a perfect match for the book Mouse Paint!

This time I didn’t ask if the kids were interested in the activity. I just set it up! They still think the color mixing idea is a little odd, being their minimalist selves, but they enjoyed it! I was hoping to do a range of different colors, but they all wanted the same set: red, white, and blue. Next time, maybe!

Mixing Colors: A Mouse Paint Book Activity

Emma used her hands to create some very modern-art-looking pieces, like the one above!

Color exploration in a ziploc bag

Lily has consistently been extremely delicate in her explorations, while Johnny favors more of a full-body approach:

Full body, mess-free art

I’m actually hoping to try this out with one of those GIANT ziploc bags – doesn’t that sound like fun?

I also need to introduce Lily to one of Johnny’s original favorite activities: taking small toys and having them make footprints in the paint!

We use the freezer bags for this activity – they are stronger than the ordinary bags, and don’t rip very easily. I also recommend using washable paint over food coloring, just in case the bags do break. I like to dilute our paint with dollar store hair gel, which gives a nice texture. Shampoo can be fun to mix in, too, and creates a different effect. We tried baby oil this time, and the results weren’t particularly amazing. When I tape the bags to the table, the kids enjoy using them for days on end – and so do their visiting friends!

Have you played with paint inside a ziploc bag?

MaryAnne lives in Silicon Valley with her Stanford professor husband Mike and their four children. She writes about parenting through education, creativity, and play. Mama Smiles - Joyful Parenting is a space to share crafts, hands on learning activities, and family outings that enrich lives and bring families together.

42 thoughts on “No-mess Color Mixing Art”

  1. I love how similar and yet different children can be – we love mixing the colours as long as they make green so stuff with yellow, blue and white – he’s now discovered that every time they make green and when ever we do anything with paint it has to be yellow and blue!

    1. I need to get Johnny to try yellow and blue – green is his favorite color! That was my plan, but I set Emma up to make purple and the other two wanted exactly what she had…

  2. MaryAnne, I have to try this. Little fingers pressing designs out on the kitchen table while I cook, is a dream arrangement. First I must head out to buy hair gel. I would never have thought of dollar store hair gel, so thank you for the money-saving tip!

  3. I’ve taped the bags to the window before. It looks completely different in the day and night! One thing I did when they poked a hole in the bag (I didn’t have freezer bags on hand) was tape over the whole thing with packing tape. They could still see their creations, but the bag was reinforced! I think I had as much fun playing with them as my kids did! LOL

    1. It’s really fun to play with, isn’t it! LOVE your suggestion of taping them to the window, we will definitely be trying that soon!

    2. Packing tape? Awesome!!! When I did this in the past my buddies used fingernails to rip holes in the bag. I don’t think they would be able to rip through packing tape. I have a hard time ripping packing tape! Thank you!

  4. I think we did this once when Matthew was smaller… I’m not sure why we haven’t done it again. It’s a wonderful idea, and seeing how much your children seem to love it… well, now I have it on my list! I love Emma’s designs, btw. :) Love Niki’s idea of taping the bags to the windows too!

  5. Didi {Duck Duck Octopus}

    Putting the white paper down to highlight the colors is a great idea! I’ll have to try that the next time we do this activity. A giant bag sounds like so much fun. Maybe you could find one of those plastic cases that bedding sets are packaged in. I bet that would work well.

  6. Crystal @ Growing A Jeweled Rose

    My oldest daughter loves this activity as well. We have never done it as a color mixing exercise, and will have to try it. What a great idea! I must admit, I have a very hard time putting down with the squishy bags myself. They are quite fun ;)

  7. Thank you so much for this idea! I can’t wait to do it with my son. I wish I had known about it when he was younger (he’s four now), but better late than never. I’m sure he’ll love it!

  8. I went to the dollar store and bought “white rain mens body wash” purple and blue. Put them both in one bag to see what would happen, the colors did not blend but turned out amazing, PLUS your room smells great.

  9. I’m a toddler teacher and we’ve done something similar in my class, but on a larger scale. We covered a low table top with contact paper to protect it, taped down big sheets of thick white paper, put globs of paint in between each sheet of paper, then covered the whole thing with a clear plastic shower curtain from the dollar store. The edges were sealed down with packing tape. The kids could squish the paint around and blend it, making beautiful patterns with the paint. When they went home for the day, we opened it up to get the paper out and let it dry – gorgeous! The blobs of paint were just big enough to squish onto the paper, with different colors just starting to blend in the middle of each page. Then we peeled the contact paper up for quick, no-mess clean up.

    1. Genius! I’m hoping to do something on a larger scale with my kids at home – and maybe a few of their kids. Thanks for sharing your class project!!!

    2. What a great idea! Your kids must love coming into your classroom every day! Very creative….so much fun. :) Love it!

  10. I dont know why I havent tried this before, but I love your idea of taping them to the tabletop/ floor… probably some nice painty walkway idea…hmmm

    1. Did it as a before-school activity. bad idea. couldnt get them off it to go to school and daddy had to yell at us to get out of the house or be late

  11. My daughter is 4 years old, but I think she will still love this. I will definitely recommend this to a friend with a baby! Nice way to play with colors! I read a blog at aeioumommy.com, where the Mom used cereals with colors for her baby, quite messy but still is fun! I have another fun activity for the weekend! Thanks for the great ideas! :)

  12. Varya @ littleartists

    So cool! I have a similar activity described on one of my blog post. When I first decided to do it I was so proud of myself being so creative just to later find out I wasn’t the first one to get this idea haha I used just 1 colour and I used it (and use) for letters and numbers tracing with my daughter and in my Mommy & Baby sessions. We will try your way too! Sounds fun!

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