Shapes and Colors

Grades Pre-k–1

Workshop Overview

Students discover shapes and colors while engaging in a developmentally appropriate tour of the Nelson-Atkins galleries. In the studio classrooms, students will paint and collage to create a mixed media work of art. All supplies will be provided.


  • Students will create a collage integrating shapes, colors, and lines.  
  • Students will identify primary and secondary colors.  
  • Students will demonstrate mixing primary colors to achieve a secondary color.


  • Organize and develop artistic ideas and work. 
  • Build skills in various media and approaches to art making.  
  • Use observation and investigation in preparing for making a work of art.  


    • Primary Colors – Red, yellow, and blue- colors that cannot be created by mixing other colors 
    • Secondary Colors – Orange, green, and violet- colors made by mixing two primary colors 
    • Collage – A piece of art made by attaching various materials together  
    • Organic Shapes – Free-form shapes like those found in nature  
    • Geometric Shapes – Shapes based on math principles, such as square, circle, and triangle  
    • Pattern – Something that repeats in a predictable way 
    • Line Variety – When an artist places different types of lines in the same composition.  For example, straight, curvy, zigzag, dashed, etc. 
    • Location Words – Behind, beside, inside, around, left, right, below, above  

Pre-Workshop Activities

  • Read a book to your class about colors and shapes.  Some suggestions include:  Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni, Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh, White Rabbit’s Color Book by Alan Baker, A Book About Color by Mark Gonyea, Round is a Mooncake by Roseanne Thong and Shapes, Shapes, Shapes by Tana Hoban.  
  • Practice using “location words” included in the vocabulary list to prepare the students for exploring and talking about artwork in the galleries.  
  • Play a color/shape matching game with a handmade deck of cards.  Paint swatches from hardware stores can make easy color matching cards.  

Post-Workshop Activities

    • Have students use pre-cut shapes to create various objects, buildings, animals, or people.  Invite students to share about their shape creations.  
    • Set up a painting station and allow students to paint using the primary colors: red, yellow, and blue. Discuss the new colors created.  Do they remember the primary colors used to make each of the new colors? Can they find and name the 3 secondary colors: orange, green, and purple? 
    • Cut geometric shapes from different materials, such as corrugated paper, fabric, or sandpaper.  Place them in a box or bag and ask students to feel the shape and guess what it might be.   
    • Go on a color treasure hunt.  Have students categorize a collection of colorful toys into color groups. Ask which groups are primary colors and which are secondary.