Colors for Kids: Milestones & How to Teach Kids Colors

Learning Colours: Introduction

Learning colours coincides with your child’s cognitive development. Their ability to differentiate colours normally begins to take shape at 18 months. Around this time the child will notice the differences and similarities between textures, sizes and shapes as well. Although they notice the differences, it takes them much longer to fully understand the different colours and perform activities such as matching or sorting using colour as the basis.

But parents should note that even for the smartest toddlers on the block, learning colours is tough. It is an abstract concept that takes time and patience.

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Colors for Kids: Milestones
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Colour Milestones

In the above graph, the mean age is plotted for various stages of knowledge of young children for colours and shapes. As is evident from the graph, on an average child develop a linguistic association with colours at around the age of 27 months. What this means is that they know and say the colour words by about 27 months. But this does NOT necessarily mean that understand the meaning of these colour words! On an average, they truly comprehend and understand the meaning of colour words by the age of 29 months. Only at the age of 31 months, the average child would be able to match different objects based on their colour. Interestingly for shapes, children can match shapes much earlier than they know and remember the shape words. Most children can name one colour by the time they are 36 months.

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Why is Learning Colours Challenging?

As mentioned earlier, learning about colours is tough even for the smartest child. Why is this the case? Children need to first acquire informational pieces before they can begin to understand colour as a concept.  It might seem simple as blue is blue before the concept of colour is understood. Children don’t have the ability to understand that light blue and navy are both blue and they also lack the verbal skills to explain that to you.  Along with learning what each colour is called, children need to understand what colour represents; it’s not size, nor shape, nor the name of the object, nor the texture, not the number of things showing. Constant repetition and expanding on what colours are and what they are
not, will help any child understand what the actual word colour means.

After that, teaching colours to children is usually easy. Children are naturally attracted to bright colours, which is why most toys and activities geared towards younger children, including toddlers and babies, are brightly coloured. During the preschool years, children have a natural affinity to understand their world around them. Surrounded by a world of colour it is easy to use daily opportunities to discuss colours.

How to Teach Colours to Children?

As a parent, you should introduce colours and shapes whenever they come up naturally in your conversations, all through infancy and toddlerhood. The rule of thumb is that 18 months is an acceptable age when children can developmentally grasp the idea of colours.

The rule of thumb is that 18 months is an acceptable age when children can developmentally grasp the idea of colours.

Some may learn earlier while others may not until they reach early preschool age. Children with vision impairments (like colour blindness) may need extra help. In all cases, the colour related concepts should be reinforced repeatedly till the end of kindergarten.

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Fortunately, the world is full of colour, so you don’t need any special resources to reinforce related concepts. Just by pointing out red apples, green leaves, blue sky, and yellow flowers, you are demonstrating the idea of naming and describing objects and their colours. Sorting and grouping similarly coloured objects, such as a yellow rubber duck with a banana, or an orange with a carrot, can also, help separate the name of the object from the colour description in your child’s mind.

1. Matching Colours

The first step to learning colours is matching them. You can help your child learn colours faster by matching them in blocks. For example, you can ask your child to help you pick up blocks of the same colour. In this way, they can concentrate on that one colour and learn to differentiate it from the rest. The next day, pick blocks from a different colour. You can make the activity even more fun by having the child point out the colour in random objects at the grocery store or on the road. If your child can comfortably match six colours, you can proceed to the next step.

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2.Pointing to Colours

The next step to learning colours is pointing colours. This broadens their understanding of the colour since you are not only working with blocks but real-life scenarios. You can come up with a “store game” where you ask your child to point out red clothes and pretend to buy them. Another fun game is “I Spy” and with this game, you can have your child point out colours. These games help your child master colours without much pressure and can be played anywhere and at any time.

3.Naming Colours

Naming colours is essential in the learning process and is the most important step. However, your child may not be able to learn naming colours until they are about 3 years old. At this time, you can buy books about colours and play colouring games. The library is a great resource for children’s books and it costs you nothing.

4Correcting their Mistakes

Listen carefully as children use colour words in daily activities. For example, a child might say, “I wanted the red one,” but be referring to the green car. It is important to correct such mistakes immediately. Put out a blue rug and an orange rug by the door. Then say, “Let’s put our shoes on the orange rug.” This will help you assess which colours they recognize for planning your teaching. Children will learn to recognize colours more quickly when you intentionally teach them the colour words and colour recognition at the same time. If a child labels his red shirt as blue, and you just say, “No, it’s red,” he doesn’t have anything to help him understand why his answer was wrong. Instead, you should say, “it is a shirt, but its colour is not blue. It is a red shirt.”

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5Start with Primary Colours and then Build on that

Begin with a focus on two or three colour words and colours, and then add more. Use bright, clear primary or secondary colours, that is— red, yellow and blue, and orange, green, and purple. Help children notice colour and how it is separate from shape. Children tend to notice the shapes and uses of objects before they notice colour. Use identical objects that are different colours.

6Colour Flashcards

Since learning colours is such an important part of every child’s early education, schools and parents often turn to the more educational minded colour flashcards. Colour flashcards run a range from just focusing on colour to inducing the words along with colour as pre-reading skills. Often colour flashcards use shapes and teach basic counting skills along with colour recognition.  There are many kinds of flashcards geared toward teaching children about colour. They can be purchased directly, downloaded and printed from online sources or crafty parents can even make their own with colour card stock.

When it comes to learning colours, patience is essential and while it can be a long process, it is productive, and you can make it fun.

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