Color Science: How to Teach Colors to Preschoolers
While it’s an important milestone for preschool-aged children to learn basic colors, it’s actually a fairly complex task! There’s some fascinating research into how we learn color and studies aimed at determining if there’s a better way to teach it.
One of the most interesting bits of research shows that the way we describe objects to kids can actually impact how they learn color. For instance, if you say “the balloon is red” instead of “the red balloon” it focuses the child on the object first and then the color description which surprisingly increases their ability to recognize the color. Isn’t that fascinating?!
Here are some creative activities to teach colors to preschoolers while having fun at the same time.
Most children love to color. Coloring with crayons can actually accomplish more than one purpose. Not only can you talk with your child about the colors used to color the picture, your child is also developing important fine motor skills. You can even take this activity one step further and print out letter and number shapes for your child to color, and work on letter and number recognition at the same time.
Set out a couple of muffin tins and place a couple of drops of food coloring into the bottom of each tin.
Give your child a small cup of water and let him slowly add water to each tin until each tin is about half full.
After you have talked about the different colors in the tins, let him use an eyedropper or a small spoon to transfer water from one tin to another, giving him the opportunity to see what happens when two colors are mixed together.
This activity will entertain your preschooler for quite some time, giving you lots of opportunity to talk about what happens when different colors are mixed together.
Bean Bag Toss
Purchase some inexpensive plastic baskets at the Dollar Store, and make or purchase bean bags in coordinating colors.
Place the baskets several feet away from the child, placing the bean bags in a pile next to the child.
Call out a color and have your child try to choose the correct bean bag and throw it into the corresponding basket. If he does not yet recognize the correct color, then just choose a bean bag for him and then have him locate the corresponding basket.
A Color a Week
A great way to really reinforce color recognition is to just work on one color at a time. Every week choose one color, and then have everything you do that week be related to that color. You can choose food that color, have him paint with that color, color with crayons that color, and even go for a walk and look for things that color.
Young children love to sort things. Put together a collection of colorful wooden beads or buttons and have your child sort them into piles by color.
There are many books to help preschoolers learn colors. Incorporate a book about colors into your child’s bedtime routine. Kids love to read the same books over and over again, so this is a great opportunity to get some learning in at the same time.
One major way that children learn is kinesthetically or through movement. And kids love to move! Tape down pieces of construction paper (or invest in some colorful plastic stepping stones) or draw squares with chalk on the sidewalk/driveway and get your kids engaged in a game of jumping or running to the color when you call it out. They’ll work out some energy and be learning color identification too!
A preschool aged child is old enough to start learning how to play simple board games. Candyland is an old family favorite that is still popular today. Playing Candyland will help teach your child important skills such as counting and taking turns, and will also help reinforce color recognition. Another fun game to play is I Spy and it helps the child recognize the variety of colors in their environment. You can either play the traditional way by getting them to guess what you are seeing or point out a color and ask them to search for anything in the room that is the color.
Recognizing colors actually comes very naturally to most preschool-aged children. Many toddlers can recognize most colors before they reach preschool age. The key is to give children the opportunity to learn during their everyday activities, and learning becomes a fun and a natural part of their day.