Colors are one of the first ways that children notice differences between objects. Developing categorization skills is a stepping stone on the way to telling letters and numbers apart. The easiest way to help your child practice with colors is to talk about them when it comes up naturally. Children process information better in small sessions, so luckily caretakers can spread learning throughout the day. When you are feeding your toddler or baby you can talk about the color of the food, for toddlers ask whether they want to wear their green or orange socks, or with an older child you can ask what color the car in front of you is while driving. Personalization is also important. Showing them how something is part of their identity makes it meaningful to them, whether it is the color of their bedroom walls, the color of their eyes, or the color of your cat’s fur.
Children at different ages are in different stages of language development, and listening comprehension comes before verbal output. So, a baby or a young toddler may just listen to you say the words without much response, but they are still learning. Babies pay more attention to the first word after their name, so you can try saying “Ava, red. The ball is red” while pointing to the object. If your little one babbles back or claps their hands, you can answer them to encourage a back and forth that models conversation. As your child gets older they will be able to match colors, then later pick out colors when you name them, until eventually they will be able to say the words themselves.
There are many awesome books about colors to help encourage conversation too. Check out Miss Nannettes’ podcast “Storystretchers,” featuring the picture book “Dog’s Colorful Day,” which includes great tips for how to extend learning. “A Gift for Amma: Market Day in India” is a beautiful book with simple language that follows a young girl as she searches for the perfect present, one color at a time. You can even read “A Gift for Amma” as a Vox book, which are physical books that read to you! For more colorful suggestions, take a look at this list of picture books.
Songs have many of the literacy benefits of reading, but on wiggly days singing and dancing suit our kiddos a little better. “What Color are You Wearing?” by the Kiboomers is interactive and is easy to change up to fit whatever the fashion of the day is. If you want to practice the colors in English and Spanish, try out José-Luis Orozco’s songs Dance of all the Colors and El Baile de los Colores. These songs can be downloaded from Freegal, our online music service that’s free with your library card.
Playing is another active option that will help kids develop their color vocabulary. Matching colors, color sorting their toys, and doing a color scavenger hunt in your house are all easy ways to play with color that don’t require you to spend money on new toys. Keep in mind for toddlers it’s easier to start with primary colors and not try to differentiate between colors that are very similar like pink and red. For older kids, this might be a chance to play “Red light, Green light,” by holding up a red piece of paper to make them stop and green to make them go. For an added challenge let them add other colors and actions, such as hopping when they see purple.
Drawing and painting are clearly a great way for kids to learn about colors, and have the additional benefit of improving manual dexterity and strength to help them get ready to write. Use a cookie sheet, paper, paint, and a marble to do a fun marble painting project if you feel like trying something new!
There’s no need to make flash cards or worksheets because there are lots of fun ways to add color to your everyday routine by talking, reading, singing, playing, and writing! Come to our library storytimes for more ideas! - Crystal (Downtown)