Colors, Colors Everywhere!

Teaching young children about colors.

Colors make our world beautiful in many ways— nature, food, clothing, crayons— the list is endless. It’s important to emphasize colors in our daily lives as they stimulate a child’s imagination and delight their sense of sight.

We, as adults, typically talk about colors everyday, and for this reason children begin to learn the names of many colors. However, they may not know which color goes to which name. You can help children learn colors by asking them the color of things. Start with single colors with very young children, and then add more in time. Observation plus language equals learning.

Simple activities are designed to help children become aware of the many colors that surround them. Here are a few ways to teach colors to children:

  • Use the seasons to help teach your child about colors— green in spring, white in winter, orange in fall and so on.
  • Use the seasons to help teach your child about colors— green in spring, white in winter, orange in fall and so on.
  • The use of toy blocks, cards, paints and crayons can help your child develop color skills and learn to name them.
  • Take a walk outdoors (or even in the house) and look for a particular color, such as blue. Then ask if a toy is blue, or is the car parked out front blue?
  • Choose a day of the week and make it “color day.” Make projects, wear clothing, cook foods and read books about that color.
  • Hot glue crayons to a strip of tag board. Then provide a second set of crayons and invite the children to match the colors.
  • Read a good book involving colors. Some favorites are: Is it red? Is it yellow? Is it blue? (Greenwillow) by Tana Hoban; The Mixed-up Chameleon (HarperTrophy) by Eric Carle; Colors (Slide ‘n Seek) (Little Simon) by Chuck Murphy; Colors (Cedco Publishers) by Anne Geddes.

Colorful Arts and Crafts

  • Looking For Colors Walk - Make a small booklet, containing the primary and secondary colors. Use construction paper pages and staple these together. Take your child on a neighborhood walk and look for items that correspond with the colors in the child’s booklet. List on the appropriate page what you see and maybe draw a quick picture. Think about taking pictures— the quick developing kind is nice to attach to the pages. After returning home, help your child read from his booklet and discuss the colors all around.
  • Color Match - Pick up free paint chip cards from your local paint store. Choose cards in shades of red, yellow and blue. At home, cut each rectangular chip apart. Spread these across the table and have the children match each hue.
  • Paint and Sniff - When painting a picture with poster paints, add a few drops of baking extracts to give these paints a flavor (scent). Painting with scents is a fun and sensory experience for children.
    • Strawberry Extract = Red
    • Lemon Extract = Yellow
    • Peppermint Extract = Green
    • Orange Extract = Orange
    • Chocolate Extract = Brown
    • Anise (Licorice) Extract = Black
  • Color Wands - Play music and dance to the beat while waving colorful streamers in the air. Use toilet or paper towel tubes for the wands. The children can paint the cardboard tubes and then enhance them with crayons, markers or stickers. Next, attach crepe paper streamers to the wand with a stapler. For a variation, add ribbons and/or colorful strips of cloth.
  • Colorful, Edible Necklace - Use a 30-inch piece of shoestring licorice knotted at one end. Yarn or ribbons are good substitutions. String colorful Fruit-Loops? cereal around the strand. This necklace can be worn and, when hungry, eaten for a snack.
  • Marble or Ball Painting - Provide a container, such as a large margarine tub or coffee can. Cut white paper to fit the container. Next, place two different primary colors of poster paint on the paper (one on each side). Place marbles or ping-pong balls in the container and place the lid on. Let the children shake the can. Remove the lid and take the paper out. The kids will see a great design and also see what secondary color they come up with when the two are mixed.
  • A Cereal Rainbow - Draw a rainbow arch onto a piece of poster board. Spread glue on the arch and invite the children to place a row of Fruit Loops cereal onto each glued area. Follow the rainbow pattern— Roy G. Biv— Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue and Violet, to finish your rainbow. This time-consuming project is a favorite amongst kids— make sure to put a clean bowl of cereal on the table for munching!

Color Games

  • Red Light, Green Light - Cut out two circles about 12-inches in diameter— one red and one green. Gather the family to play. Establish two parallel lines at least 20 feet apart. One line is the starting line; the other is the finishing line. The child chosen to be IT stands on the finish line. The rest of the family stands behind the start line facing the finish line. IT turns his/her back to the players and shouts “green light” and starts counting to five. While IT is counting, the players move toward IT by walking or running as fast as they can. At the conclusion of the count, IT calls out, “red light” as he turns around quickly. The players must stop moving when IT says, “red light.” If IT sees anyone moving, IT tells them to return to the starting line to start over again. The first player to tag IT at the finish line is now the new IT. Everyone returns to the starting line and the game begins again. The child (IT) can hold up the colored circles as if they were traffic signals on the road.
  • Color Hokey-Pokey - Get colored circle stickers in four colors. These are easily found in office or craft stores. Every child gets a sticker on each hand and each foot (having one of each color on each body part). Play Color Hokey-Pokey by singing, “Put your blue dot in, put your blue dot out, put your blue dot in and shake it all about. You do the Color Pokey and you turn yourself around. That’s what it’s all about. BLUE!” Continue playing with the other colors.

Colorful Snacks

  • Rainbow Vanilla Wafers - Keebler has put out a product called Rainbow Vanilla Wafers. These wafers come in lots of different colors. A great snack for your color day theme!
  • Cheese and Crackers - Mix food colors into softened cream cheese. Invite the children to spread this onto crackers for a super colorful snack. Name the colors as you eat together!
  • Do a Color Feast - We talked about having a color day where you focus on one color. Prepare edibles this day in your chosen color. For example, on “orange day” prepare orange wedges, Goldfish™ crackers and cheddar cheese cubes. A “yellow day” feast could consist of pineapple chunks, bananas and golden delicious apples. The kids love this concept!
  • Homemade Play Dough (in the kitchen) - Combine 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoons cream of tartar and ½ cup salt in a saucepan. Slowly stir in these liquid ingredients: 1 cup water, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and a few drops of food color (your choice of color). Stir and cook over medium heat for about three minutes or until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pot. Cool. Invite the children to mold and shape creations. When they are finished, store this play dough in an airtight plastic container until ready to use again. NOTE: This is pliable clay, not intended for baking or eating.