The first time we tried this activity was about 7 months ago. He liked doing it, but wasn't quite ready to do it on his own yet. This time was a whole new ball of wax. He loved it, and he was good at it. He knew all the different colors and where they went. He had a blast for about an hour sorting the different shades of colors from the button basket into this little paint palette.
When he was 'done' this is what it looked like. He kept moving the reds and dark oranges out of the smaller spots and putting them in the middle because there was a button that was too big for the small spot.
I barely coaxed him in this activity at all. He just wanted to do it this way. What a difference 6 months can make! I have even seen it in my older kids. Cyan and I had a lot of trouble reading, and so I completely laid off for about 6 months... and she started to read, all on her own. Alex was the same way. I think these mental breaks are so important for children. As adults, we don't learn equal parts of everything, all the time. Our interest and our ability comes and goes in spurts. I have found that my children work the same way... they learn in stages. In short, concentrated spurts where their interest and their abilities happen to match up some how. Then all I really have to do is sit back and watch the magic.