Art is a universal language that can bring people together, encourage empathy and spark meaningful conversations. For families looking for ways to teach children understanding, art and books are a great place to start. Multicultural paint, markers, paper and People Colors Crayons (available at Lakeshore Learning) are fabulous art supplies to have on hand at home. They allow children to create art that reflects skin tones they see in the world.
Paint in multicultural colors OR make your own skin tones with red, blue, yellow and white paint
6 sheets 8½ x 11 paper or cardstock (to paint in different skin tones)
Glue or glue stick
Large 12 x 18 sheet of paper
Placemat or newspaper to cover work space
How to mix colors to make different skin tones:
- Mix equal parts of red, yellow and blue paint together to make brown.
- To lighten the color, add a bit of white or yellow. To darken the color, add a touch of blue. To make it redder, add more red (then darken or lighten as needed). Experiment to create a variety of skin tones. (Note: A bit of black paint is optional to darken the color, but it is often not used when teaching color theory. Depending on quality of paint, black tends to react to yellow and make paint greenish.)
- As you make colors you like, paint one (or more) sheet of paper in that color until you have six sheets painted in 4-6 different skin tones. Allow to dry completely.
Tip: Paint dries a bit darker. Paint a small amount on scrap paper and let it dry to see if it’s the color you want.
How to make hands and hearts:
- Fold a painted sheet of paper in half.
- Trace a hand with the thumb and index finger placed on the fold, you may need to adjust your fingers to make a half heart shape. (The heart outline is made from the the connected index fingers and thumbs.)
- Cut out the hand and half heart shape making sure to keep the thumb and index finger connected on the fold.
- Open the hands up. You should have two hands connected with a heart in the center.
- Repeat this process for each family member.
- Once you have all the hands cut out, cut down the center of the hands to separate.
- Arrange each hand so that it connects to another hand (of a different skin tone) at the thumb and index finger leaving a heart shaped outline in the center.
- Glue the hands onto your base paper. Add a small red heart in the center of each pair of hands.
- Be sure to label the hands and date the art piece.
Great books that foster communication about diversity, inclusion and skin color:
- All the Colors of the Earth by Sheila Hamanaka
- The Colors of Us by Karen Katz
- We're Different, We're the Same (Sesame Street) by Bobbi Kates
- People by Peter Spier
Alyssa Navapanich is a nationally recognized art educator who teaches art to elementary school kids in East San Diego County. She is the author of San Diego Family Magazine’s “Art with Alyssa” column.