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How Children Learn their Colours

I was asked recently: ‘At what age do children know their colours?’ Like most things it depends how much instruction goes in, and how frequently a child has the opportunity to play and practise.


Around the age of 2, children are learning about colours. You can aid this by mentioning colours as part of your everyday conversation eg:

You have your blue jumper on

There are yellow buttons on your shirt.

You’ve made an orange painting

You are eating the red apple and so on.

Young children may not initially grasp what you are referring to – they may think you used to call it a jumper, and now it’s called a blue jumper. The more you repeat it each time he wears it, he will gradually understand the difference between the orange jumper and the blue one.


There are 3 steps in learning colours


  1. The ability to match colours. When you are playing blocks with your child, pick up a green one, and ask your child to find another one the same – they may just pick up any block eg red. Tell them: ‘That’s a red one, can you find one like this (green)?’. It’s important not to tell the child he’s wrong, but instead say what colour it is and then continue searching. At this stage, the child won’t be using the colour names.


  1. Being able to point to nominated colours – eg when you ask him to find you the red pencil or red car – you nominate the colour you want, and he looks for it.


  1. When you can pick up a block and ask your child: ‘what colour is this?’ and they can name the colour.


Like anything new, they don’t aways get it right in the beginning. Remember how many times you had to practise when you were learning to ride a bike, or to make gravy (without the lumps!)


Sometimes it can be useful in the beginning to pick a colour theme for a week or two. If you start with red, you would point out the red foods you eat – apples, cherries and strawberries; the red t-shirt he wears or red stripes on his pj’s; the red stop sign, and the red balloon at the party. By really focussing on one colour you enhance the learning. It’s good to start with the primary colours of red, blue and yellow.


Parents are sometimes concerned when their child isn’t able to name the colours, or says the wrong colour – they may think that their child is colour blind. Less than 5% of the population are. It is normal to get the colours mixed up whilst a child is learning them, and some children just need a bit extra time to learn the names of the colours. If you are concerned ask your doctor or health professional.


How you can help your child to learn their colours by:

  • Point out colours in your child’s world – what they wearing, eating, and seeing.
  • Read books where there are pages about colours.
  • Make a collage of one colour with paint or pencils, papers, glitter and ribbons.
  • Make different coloured playdough
  • Wear clothes of a certain colour.
  • Stack all the blue blocks together.
  • Sort out the different coloured toy cars.
  • As they become more confident with their colours, play “I Spy” using colour words .


And, of course, always acknowledge them for having a go at naming the colours.


Have a colourful week parenting week!

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