Once your child has reached the big milestone of turning 1, you’ll notice they become little sponges of information. They start walking, talking, and being so much more independent now that the baby stage is long gone.
Around this age is when you can start introducing them to colors. It’s important for a child to start hearing words often in order to remember it.
Even though they probably won’t be able to fully understand and retain the concept of colors until around 18 months, it’s a good idea to start teaching it early on. This is when learning colors will start to make sense to them, just like learning names of objects made sense to them around the 1 yearmark.
Color matching (putting the red piece on the red spot) is one of the simplest forms of learning colors. It may occur first, along with recognizing and choosing colors when asked for them (handing you the red piece when you say give me the red piece). Lastly comes naming colors (being able to say red when asked what color is this?).
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9 Simple Tips for Teaching Colors to Your Toddler
The key to your child learning colors is over-exposure. As I’ll talk about below, you want to give them tons of opportunities to hear you say the colors names, be asked the color’s names, and see them often.
I started really introducing my daughter to colors around 16 months old and she got a grasp of the concept quickly. Here are some simple tips to teach your toddler their colors:
1. Start simple
Don’t overwhelm your toddler with too many colors at once. Focus on two at a time and then add more in as they become familiar with those.
Whenever you see those two colors, point them out to your child, but don’t label any other colors yet. For example, choose to teach your child red and green first. Whenever you see anything red or green, point it out. Give them only red and green objects at certain playtimes.
Clearly label and talk about the red versus green objects. Ask them to sort only objects that are red or green. Once they are familiar with red and green and the differences between those two, add in yellow. Of course they will see other colors while they play, but really try to only speak about the few colors that you choose.
Showing them less choices will help them to remember the colors easier.
Related post: Pom Pom Tube Drop: Toddler Fine Motor Activity
2. Use small, colorful objects for sorting
I love using fun, simple objects for learning colors and counting. Toddlers love little pompoms because of their softness and they’ll be excited to learn with them.
I like to group and sort them by color as my daughter puts them into their correct pile. If your child is just learning colors, naming the colors of each pompom works great too.
This Rainbow Counting Bears Sorting Toy makes a fun learning resource for introducing color recognition & basic mathematics concepts such as counting and addition. It can also be used for kids math and counting games for toddlers and great for developing fine motor skills with the tongs.
Have your toddler sort the bears into their same color cup. They can use their hands or tongs . They’ll also have a fun time using their imagination to make stories and games with the bears.
3. Distinguish contrasting colors
It’s best to use colors that are not at all similar to each other so you don’t confuse your toddler. Items that have contrasting colors will stick out more to them when they’re learning.
For example, if you’re teaching colors side by side, don’t put blue and purple together, red and orange, red and pink, etc. Colors that pair well with contrast are red/green, blue/yellow, purple/green, and black/white. There are plenty more combinations to use.
Also, sometimes certain shades of a color will be closely related like a
Check out our post on the Pompom Whisk Activity for Toddlers where you child can try a fun activity while also learning their colors.
4. Color puzzles
Puzzles are a great activity to develop language, cognition, and fine motor skills. My daughter loves the Melissa & Doug Colorful Fish
While we play, I verbally label each color as she puts the piece in the board so that she hears it over and over and can match the color name with what she sees.
Since this color
5. Use the same objects
The concept of colors may be a little difficult for babies and toddlers to understand because it’s a word typically used to describe something else. So far they have been learning words of actual things, like ball, car, mommy, milk, etc.
All items they can see or hold and names of these objects can make sense to them.
To get them to understand the concept of colors better, make sure you’re using two identical objects to point out the color differences. For example, don’t show your child a red car and a blue block because she will just think that you’re naming it differently because the object is different.
Instead, use a red car and a blue car to distinguish the differences.
This activity below works on color matching and sorting which are the first color activities your toddler will be able to do. We used MegaBlocks, but you can really use any blocks or toys that have different colors.
Simply put construction paper on the floor in the colors of the blocks and have your child match their toy to the colored paper. Read more about this activity here.
6. Label EVERYTHING with a color
This will help them to quickly build their language and vocabulary. Anything they see in their everyday world has a color. Make sure to verbally label objects with their names and colors as you see them, pass them, and give to them.
When you’re first starting to introduce colors, you may want to just label the colors on their own so they’re not confused by the color and the name. You’d be surprised how quickly children pick up these concepts and understand that you’re not naming the object, but just describing the color.
Related Post: Sticker Letter Activity: Letter Learning for Toddlers
7. Color with crayons and markers
Coloring is a great skill for toddlers to develop fine and visual motor skills (coordinating their hands and eyes to perform a task). Have your child use crayons to scribble on paper and point out and label the colors that they use.
You can print out free blank coloring pages of their favorite characters or objects hereif using a blank paper gets boring to them.
For little hands, I highly recommend these finger crayons. They are perfect for tiny fingers to wrap around and promote a proper grasp around the crayon. Skinny or chunky crayons just don’t allow your young toddler to hold it the correct way and it will end up tiring them out quicker.
8. In their natural environment
Kids learn best in the context of their everyday environment. Point out the contrasting colors at:
- mealtimes (green beans, yellow corn, red raspberries)
- during dressing (blue shirt, black pants)
- during playtime (red blocks, blue balls)
- outdoors (blue sky, green grass, pink flower)
Sensory experiences where children are actively touching, tasting, hearing or smelling things are one of the best ways to teach your kids new concepts. Your toddler will love trying out their artistic capabilities by rubbing their hands on paper with finger paint.
By just getting 3 primary colors (blue, red, yellow) of finger paint, you can mix them until you make secondary colors (green, purple, orange).
Have your toddler rub their hands and fingers in the paint and just smudge it onto paper. Talk about the colors they are using and ask them what color is on their hands and on the paper.
You can make your own finger paint at home so quickly, which is safe and even edible for your child. Check out this post: Sensory Edible Finger Paint for the recipe!
Related Post: Edible Finger Painting Recipe
10. Songs and Videos
Toddlers and babies love to hear music. Whether it be songs on the stereo, mommy singing, or making their own sounds by shouting at the top of their lungs, they are drawn to it.
Using songs (especially with visuals) is a great way to teach your child new concepts. Putting words to music helps things to stick better in their brain and will give them a higher chance of learning the skill.
Here is a short video that can help your toddler to learn their colors by combining colorful graphics to a catchy tune. You can also make up your own songs and melodies to sing as you show them colors.
Even just saying the colors but having a little rhythm to it will help your child to remember the colors easier.