This project requires a bit more adult set-up usual, but is so worth the effort for the learning and beautiful final product! It’s a fun way to introduce the concept of primary and secondary colors to kids and has a fun animal theme thrown in.
Geckos or chameleons are the perfect creature to illustrate the color wheel because they can camouflage, or change their color to reflect their surroundings. If you want, start off this project with a read of Leo Lionni’s A Color of His Own – then get crafting!
As mentioned, a lot of the set-up here will be for grown-ups only, unless your kids are 1st grade or above. But Travis pretended he was a teacher giving a lesson on geckos while I worked!
First, trace a circle onto watercolor paper using a paper plate as a guide. Cut out.
Place the circle over a second piece of watercolor paper, leaving a bit of the circle hanging off the edge (this is the handle that kids will spin later on). Use a pencil to mark where the center of the circle is on the circle itself and on the background paper. If you hold the paper up to the light, you can mark the back as well. Trust me, you’ll want this point as a guide later!
Cut out the gecko template, and trace onto the background paper, making sure he doesn’t cover that center mark you’ve made.
Now you need to cut out the traced gecko. Grown ups can pierce a hole with scissors and cut out, but if your kids want to do this step themselves, it may be easier to cut in half along the gecko, cut him out, and then tape the paper back together with painter’s tape. See this link for a full demo.
Now it was time to paint! Grab your circle and a set of watercolors. Travis watched as I divided the wheel into six segments and we discussed the primary colors: red, yellow, and blue. Meanwhile, he couldn’t want to start painting his own scene, talking about what colors he chose.
As I filled in each secondary color on the wheel, I had him guess what we’d make first. “If I have red and add yellow, we get…” “Orange!” he predicted.
Looks like those art classes are paying off! You can mix up your own version of each secondary color on a paper plate, or just cheat and use watercolors from your set – I won’t tell!
While Travis continued to paint watercolor masterpieces on blank paper, I painted a background scene for our gecko, a little tree with green leaves, blue sky, and a bit of peachy sunset (on Travis’s request). We left our watercolors to dry overnight.
In the morning, poke a paper fastener through the color wheel and your background page, so the ends of the fastener are on the back. Fold over to secure.
Travis was so excited by the way the colors could spin and how he could watch his little gecko change color. “Now he’s blue! Now he’s green!”
This project was an absolute delight.