10 Basics for Teaching Colors to Toddlers & Preschoolers
My daughter and I were playing the other day and at 2 she has become very vocal. She has begun to ask questions about everything. One of those questions is asking the color of anything she sees. The sky, the bowl, the crayon, the block, even the strangers shirt in the grocery line behind us. (She is NOT quiet either, so it can get AWKWARD!) Well, all this questioning of colors got me thinking about how if we are just a little bit intentional there are ways to teach colors without “teaching” colors. In other words, through play and activities our children can learn colors. Not just through the good old Crayola box and flashcards. So I am bringing to you 10 basic ways for teaching colors to your toddlers!
We love our Mega blocks here at the house. We have a good mix of the girl and boy blocks so there is variety in the colors. These really help to in teaching colors while playing. While we build, I simply ask my daughter to hand me the blue block or the pink block. This helps the child to recognize the colors and see that each block is different. My daughter loves when she finds two of the same. She screams out MATCH at the top of her lungs. When this happens I simply say, “Yes there are 2 yellow blocks.” This kind of play keeps the mind growing as well as having fun all at once!
2. Chalk Hop
This is a fun game for outside. You simply draw two (or however many people are playing) shapes in the same color large enough that you will be able to stand on them. For example, two yellow stars or two pink hearts. Draw a variety of shapes in different colors. We normally do the following:
- Yellow Stars
- Pink Hearts (My daughters love pink but sometimes we do purple instead)
- Red Circles
- Orange Rectangles
- Green Squares
- Blue Diamonds (or my youngest calls them kites)
Once you have these drawn out in the space hop on one of the shapes. Show your child and tell them to find the match. When they do say something encouraging like, Awesome you found the Yellow Star!
This activity gets out the energy AND teaches colors all at once. You could also make this an indoor game by taping down construction paper shapes onto the floor.
3. Water Play
I know what you are thinking, water is clear how do you teach colors? Well, this summer we got out our little water pitchers and learned how to make colors. This is great for teaching colors but also for teaching primary and secondary colors. We took 3 pitchers of water and made a blue, red, and yellow. Then I gave the girls bowls and cups and they mixed and mixed. My 4-year-old loved experimenting with all the different mixes to see what colors and shades she could make. My 2-year-old was excited to play with the colors and we just made sure to tell her what colors they were. All in all, it was a way to cool off in the summer sun and teach color concepts.
Painting is one of the most powerful ways for teaching colors to little children. There are so many different methods for painting. Watercolor, finger paint, sponge paint, and of course, with a paintbrush! Even mixing the colors helps with color concepts. I challenge you to only give a child the three primary colors and see what masterpiece they can put together.
With paint the child gets to experience the color. I know that may seem like a strange way to describe it but hear me out. The child looks at the color. Let’s say the color is blue. They put their finger in the blue, (they probably smell it because well paint stinks), they rub it on the paper, and then look and admire their picture and begin again with another color. Painting is such a powerful tool for kids! It is also one of my 10 essential crafting supplies!
** these paint smocks are a must have on my house for painting. I love them! Emory’s is still a little big but I tie it in the back and it works great!**
* Also with painting, keep baby wipes around… just trust me one this one!*
Since we just talked about painting, I thought I would touch on crafting next. In every craft you do with your child, even just coloring, you are teaching colors. Every craft has some sort of color that is used. No one wants a all white craft, even snowmen get a hat and scarf! So go ahead and craft away! It is so fun when you get to it. If you are not a crafter, check out my Crafts for a year program! Get a simple craft every week for an entire year to do with your child! It is a simple and easy way to get started with crafting!
6. Sorting Colors
One time I was traveling alone with my oldest. She was a little over 2 at the time and we stopped at a hotel. For breakfast the hotel has slim pickings so I introduced her to fruit loops! We ended up sorting out all the different colors into different bowls right there in the hotel lobby! Needless to say fruit loops and sorting colors are a great combo!
That is not the only way to sort colors however, you can use anything that has a variety of colors and just construction paper. Take your hot wheels out and match the colors to different pieces of paper. We like to use pom-poms and an egg carton. I use a marker to color the bottoms and then just match the pom-poms by dropping them into the carton.
Sorting is a powerful skill alone. Combined with colors, whew that is the dynamic duo!
7. Sticker Matching
The Busy Toddler
is known for her sticker matching activities. There are so many different ways to utilize this all year long. To sum it up, you have dot stickers, you can find these almost anywhere. Take a paper and make dots with markers all over. Then have your child match the sticker by placing the sticker onto the marker dot. It is GENIUS! Check out her site for more ideas!
8. Playing with Toys
There are toys out there that are used for teaching colors or shapes. Here are a few that we have in our home that both my girls adore!
Peg Board From Discovery Kids- My girls love making patterns, building towers and learning shapes with these!
Shape Box by Melissa & Doug this is so great for kids to practice fine motor skills and learn colors and shapes.
Pattern Blocks by Melissa and Doug- My girls love creating designs and matching the shapes and colors.
Sort and Snap Color activity allows for matching colors and creativity on the black and white side. It is another great tool for helping fine motor skills.
9. Color Scavenger Hunt
When I was doing a rainbow unit I did this with my 4-year-old! She loved it. However, I did not give her much guidance and allowed her to be a bit creative.
There are two different ways to do this.
- First, scribble different colors on a bag. Next, have them go out and find the items, either inside or outside. Like this example from I like crafty things.
- The other option is for kids who know their colors a bit better. I named a color and she had to go find that color and take a picture of it using her kid camera. She loved this!
No matter which way you do, kids love finding and hunting for things. They are both fun and enjoyable.
You didn’t really think I was going to get through this whole list without a blurb about reading! Reading is powerful tool that leads to a wealth of knowledge! Lead your child with reading, teach them to love reading and they will never stop!
Here are some wonderful fun books about colors that kids really love and enjoy!
Brown bear, Brown bear is a classic story by Bill Martin. Kids love animals and through the animals they learn the different colors. There are numerous extension activities to go along with this book. My girls have 3 different copies of this one! It is a favorite.
If you have never read the Bear books by Karma Wilson, you are missing out. These books are too cute. This one bear and his friends spy many colors. The illustrations are bright and engaging and the story has a nice rhythm that makes it an easy read.
When you get this book make sure it s the ribbon edition. It is such a fun story! The little bunny finds different things that make the rainbow and a ribbon is added on each page. This was a favorite in my daycare class, however, somehow I have not gotten it for my kids. Christmas Idea?
Cute story about the day the crayons quit and what happened if we did not have them. My oldest really enjoyed this story and she laughed through most of the book.
These clever little mice find themselves covered in paint. My girls loved this story and couldn’t wait to see what kind of mess the mice made with their paint.
Wrap it up…
Well there you have it, 10 basics to teaching colors. These basics are easy to implement into every day and really do help young children to grow in their color concepts. This is so, you can make teaching color fun and playful.