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Celebrating Skin Color…..With Paint!!!!

Happy Martin Luther King Day!  To celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as a peacemaker, this week’s activity explores skin color.   Along with discussions about his life and work, we enjoy this meaningful project of creating our skin color with paint!  The purpose is to look at the differences in one another and appreciate our individual beauty.   The process includes experimenting with color mixing until each child’s skin tone is matched.  The end result is a portrait of the group, class, or family; showing the differences in skin color, hair color, eye color, and clothing.  

Celebrating Skin Color with Paint

Before presenting this project, I like to talk to the children about skin.  I point out that people are not white or black, but that we are all various shades of brown.  Even within our family (twins included) our skin tones are different.  Within the least diverse groupings, differences can be found.  In preparation for this project, we read books about skin color and kindness.  Some of my favorites are: All Kinds Of People, Children Like Me, Black Is Brown Is Tan, We Are Different, We Are The Same, Whoever You Are, The Skin You Live In
  • 4 containers for paint
  • 1 container or tray for mixing colors per child
  • washable, child-safe paint in red, blue, yellow, and white
  • 4 paint brushes, one for each color- plus 1 for a mixer
  • clean water in a large cup or glass
  • baby wipes or a sink for hand washing
  • pure white paper, sized appropriately for the group
  • cardboard or plastic, with a circle cut out.  (this will serve as a stencil)
  • crayons, markers, colored pencils, or oil pastels (any or all of these)


Show the children how you match your skin tone.  On the mixing tray, add a little of each primary color.  Mix until a brown appears.  Add white until it matches your own coloring.  You may need to add more of a primary color until it matches, that is the fun part!  To test, put a little bit of paint on the back of your hand.  Ask the children,  “Is this my skin color?”  


Let them explore with their colors.  It will take a while for everyone to match up.  The mixing trays will have a lot of paint on them from experimenting; keep that paint for the group portrait.
Show the child how to use the circle-shaped stencil to paint a head.  Allow the time for each child to place themselves on the group paper.  
Once the paint dries, allow each child to decorate themselves by adding facial features, hair, and clothing.  


Display proudly!


Jessie is a mother of three beautiful daughters (twin tots & a preschooler), an AMS trained Montessori teacher of 40 students, and a wife to one. Jessie has a background in dance, a yoga certification, and a Masters in Early Childhood Education. Jessie has a childhood education blog at


  1. The Sunshine Crew says:

    Neat idea for Dr. Martin Luther King Day.
    Like the art project idea.
    We have some of the books you mention but not all of these titles, so thank you for sharing.
    Freckle Juice is another neat one to share when discussing skin tones.
    Have done that one as a read aloud with younger children or as an independent reader with early readers.
    Great post, Jessie:)

  2. The Education Of Ours says:

    Thanks, Colleen. I just bought a new great book called The Shades Of People. Lovely photos, and it reads simply.

  3. Deb Chitwood says:

    Great post, Jessie! I love the emphasis on the fact that "we are all various shades of brown." And thanks for the links to some wonderful books about skin color and kindness. I featured your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page at

  4. Practical Parenting says:

    This is a great post, Jessie! Unfortunately I read it too late for today, but will do it tomorrow! I have the "people color crayons" from Lakeshore that come in so many shades…the kids love to try them all out and match to themselves and their friends.


  5. Such a great activity, Jessie! I featured your post and photos in my Montessori Inspiration for Martin Luther King Day post at

  6. This is such a great activity! I just had to feature your post and photo again, Jessie … in my Montessori-Inspired Respect for Diversity post at


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