Friday, March 6, 2009

As our toddlers gain vocabulary, they become interested in identifying and naming colors. You can help them with this task through hands-on sensory and science play activities that appeal to more than one sense and make learning colors fun.
Teaching toddlers about colors through sensory and science play
This post has been modified in November 2015 with new graphics and resource section.

How We Taught Colors to Our Toddler

Smarty’s preschool teacher has commented yesterday how well she knows her colors. It's true - she mastered her colors around 18 months, it's a bit earlier than average. Now at her ripe old age of 28 months she advanced from red and yellow to chartreuse (thank you, Blue Clues) and lavender. Here are the techniques that worked well for us:
  • Label colors as much as you can. I said countless times You are wearing a red shirt today, The sky is so blue today, This flower is purple, This tiger is orange, etc.
  • Read books with bright realistic pictures and point out objects of the same color.
  • Use props such as brightly colored blocks (we used Lego Duplo). I would hold several blocks of two different colors (for example, red and yellow) on my palm and ask Smarty to give me a red block. I would act delighted when she picked the right color.
  • Don't get frustrated, when your child starts "coloring his/her world" in one color. Smarty picked yellow as her favorite color and for several weeks she would say Yellow! to any What color is XYZ? question and then giggle. It's completely normal, and it goes away eventually.
  • It's kind of obvious, but label the colors your child uses while drawing or painting.
  • Don't stop when your child learns basic blue/red/green. Keep pointing colors to him/her and attract his/her attention to shades of the same color. I like to play a color game on the cloudy days when we drive somewhere. I ask Smarty what colors she sees in the sky and talk how light makes colors look darker or brighter.
  • Don’t just talk about colors – engage all senses! As I was refreshing this post, I selected 10 terrific activities that allow toddlers to play with colors and make labeling them even more fun. 

Sensory Color Activities for Toddlers

1. Turn regular wooden blocks into gorgeous color explosion following this DIY Rainbow Blocks tutorial from Fun at Home with Kids.
DIY Blocks
2. Turn plastic bottles into color sorting monsters – idea from Two-Daloo.
Color Sorting Monsters

3. Make a color hunt with a color wheel – idea from Toddler Approved.
Color Wheel Hunt
4. Explore shades of color by making rainbow discovery bottles – another brilliant idea from Fun at Home with Kids.
Raibow Discovery Bottles
5. Make a color sorter using pom-poms and painted egg cartons – idea from The Imagination Tree

Color Science Play for Toddlers

6. Magic milk will keep kids of any age intrigued, amazed, and wanting to do it over and over again. This particular take on timeless science play is from Happy Hooligans.
Magic Milk
7.  Painting with frozen liquid watercolors can be an amazing sensory experience. Idea from Learn Play Imagine.
Frozen Watercolor Ice Art
8. Watch colorful fireworks explode in hot and cold water – we did this experiment when Smarty was a toddler and recently did it again when she was 8.
9.  Another classic experiment that never fails to surprise kids – “walking water” from Coffee Cups and Crayons.
10. Set a “color lab” for your toddlers and let them enjoy color mixing. Of course you have to keep an eye out to make sure they are not putting anything in their mouth! Idea from No Time for Flash Cards.
Color Lab

Your Turn

Teaching toddlers colors: hands-on activities and science play

How did you teach colors to your toddlers?

More Ideas for Toddlers?

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Alison Edelstein said...

Great ideas of teaching colors!