How your child learns colors

Identifying colors may take up to three years, but is a necessary skill all infants should learn.

Follow these suggestions to help your child through the process of learning colors.  Photo credit: Pixabay.

Follow these suggestions to help your child through the process of learning colors. Photo credit: Pixabay.

Learning colors typically happens between 18 months and three years, however many children do not learn to identify colors until they are about three years old.  According to Michigan State University Extension, learning colors is often a long process that includes following steps in a specific order.  These steps include matching like colors, pointing to colors and finally naming colors.  Each of these steps may take weeks or even months to learn, and they will need a lot of practice.

Matching, the first step, involves finding items that are same color.  At this point, your child is learning to match colors but is not able to point to or name them correctly.  When your child is able to match six colors, it is time to move on the next step.  Some activities that may help your child master this step include:

  • Have a color day.  One day a week focus on a particular color.  Let them know tomorrow is “Yellow Day.”  Pick out clothes that are yellow, have drinks, snacks and meals with yellow food, color and paint with yellow.  Anything you can do to focus on yellow!
  • Turn cleaning up into fun and learning.  Most children enjoy playtime, but are not as excited when it comes time to clean up.  First, model for them and begin cleanup yourself by putting all the red objects in one spot.  Get them to help by asking them to find and pick up all the toys that match the red colors you have started.
  • Get creative.  Provide them with lots of crayons, chalk, markers and paints.  Pick out the colors you have already been working on.  Talk to them about the color they are using and where else they see that color.  If they are using yellow, we might see yellow in the sky, or on a street sign.

Pointing to colors is the next step.  During this step your child will learn to point to a particular color upon request.  When you are reading books or playing, ask them to show you where the blue objects are.  Try the following activities to get them ready for the next step.

  • Get children to notice the colors of objects they see every day.  Put together some clothes or toys and ask them to point to the blue block; have them repeat the name of the color.  Only ask about one color at a time, and do not add another until you are certain they are able to point to the blue block most of the time.
  • Play I spy.  You can play this game anywhere!  Tell them you see something green, and then have them guess what you see that is green.  Encourage them to point to the item they guessed and say the color each time they guess.

The final step in learning colors is to say the color names.  At this point you should be able to ask your child what color something is and they will now be able to tell you.  This is a good time to read books about colors.  You can read any book and simply focus on what colors they see in the pictures.

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