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How to Teach Your Child to Learn Colors

Mary Smith
By Mary Smith. Updated: March 10, 2022
How to Teach Your Child to Learn Colors
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We may take it for granted, but color is so important to many aspects of our daily lives. They are used to show warnings, notify us of certain information and can even affect our moods. This is why learning colors is one of the fundamentals to a child's development. Children start to recognize colors from the age of one, so you can start to introduce colors into play and learning development from a young age. Unless your child is particularly gifted, teaching your child colors should start around 18 months, but don't worry if they need a little more time. There is so much to learn that your child might be putting colors on the backburner. When you do want to know how to teach your child to learn colors, oneHOWTO has the helpful tips you need to make it fun and effective.

Steps to follow:


If you go into any toy shop or child educational center, you will see that they are colorful places. Toys, games and decorations will be presented in a rainbow of colors to stimulate both your child's learning and enjoyment. You may also notice that these colors are usually bright block colors, mainly primary and secondary colors:

Primary colors:

  • red
  • blue
  • yellow

Secondary colors:

  • green
  • orange
  • purple

Secondary colors can be made by mixing two of the primary colors together. You will see that these sets of colors are used because children are not interested in subtle shades of color. They want to see bold colors which stimulate them and catch their attention[1]. This is because their recognition faculties simply aren't strong enough to recognize the subtle shades of the color spectrum. It is believed that babies only see in black and white, with a visual acuity of about 5% of adults[2]. This is in contrast to adults who often find bold block colors to be overwhelming.

This is why you shouldn't start with anything other than these primary and secondary colors. If you start your child with shades of these colors or any of the tertiary colors, then they will get confused. If you show your child a ball which is red, then show them another ball which is red orange, it is unlikely they will be able to tell the difference. They instead will get more confused about how to learn color.


Start slow

When it comes to teaching your child colors, you will need to start slow. This means starting with one color at a time. Ideally, this should be one of the primary colors, red being a common choice. Take lots of objects of the same color, again being careful not to have different shades.

Present the objects to your child and tell them the color. For example, if you have a red truck, say, 'The truck is red. Do not say, 'This is a red truck'. Putting the color adjective in front of the object can confuse the child as they might think the word 'red' is part of the object's general name, not a color descriptor. Show them all the different objects, repeating the color. This way you will help your child to know that although the objects are different, they have something in common: their color.

Throughout the week as you play, keep pointing out the red objects. As you bring attention to this color, they should be beginning to associate the word red with the color. The next week, you can start on a different color and do the same. However, at the end of this week, you can try comparing colors.

How to Teach Your Child to Learn Colors - Step 2

Compare colors

Once you have taught the individual colors, you can start to compare the colors. Do this by finding some objects which are the same shape and design, but come in different colors. Some examples of this might be crayons or plastic balls.

Go through all the colors one by one again, holding up the color as you say them. If your child has started to differentiate between the colors, then they should be able to point out which one is which. As them which ball is red, blue, etc. and get them to pick them up. This is not an easy process, so make sure you have a lot of patience. Also remember that it is very difficult to differentiate these different colors, with most kids not being able to properly do so until the age of 3 years old.


Active learning

Active learning essentially means learn by doing. If you have a piece of paper with different colors written down on them and expect your child to simply learn which one is which, it's going to be a hard sell. Instead, incorporate colors into your child's play. This is one of the most effective ways to know how to teach your child colors. They want to have the fun of the game, so by making differentiating between the colors the object of the game, they will win and feel encouraged.

Finger paints

During your week of colors, you can use finger paints to help bolster association of this color. Find pictures of something which would normally be this color, e.g. a yellow duck or a blue whale. Only give your child the one color and get them to paint the pictures with their hands. Keep repeating that they are coloring in the pictures with this particular color. Then, do the same next week with a different color of finger paint. Play doh is also a great way to help with colors.


There are many puzzle games where kids have to match up colors. Often they use colorful animals or objects to help associate colors. Let them play around and investigate, but also start to help them and repeat the names of colors. A really basic one is to get lots of different colored balls and have matching colored buckets or baskets. The child has to put the right color in the right bucket to win. Provide lots of encouragement when they do.

How to Teach Your Child to Learn Colors - Step 4

Teach colors with food

Teaching colors with food can be a great way to encourage children to associate colors. During the time you are learning the one color, you can eat food of that color. You can also use food dye or coloring to make other foods that color. Please note, however, that food dye in some children can provoke allergies, so make sure it is safe for them to use. Non-toxic food or natural food colorings are available.

Teach colors with clothes

Dress up is a great way to help kids learn colors. You can set out a bunch of different clothes, but make sure you have a lot of the same color. Ask them to put on all the clothes of a certain color and they will have fun choosing and putting on the items. You can take a picture of them and show them when they are wearing the different colors. Children will start to become aware of their own presence, so this is a good way to help them identify colors.

Don't be afraid of technology

Color wheel electronic games such as Simon will be a bit hard for your toddler. However, there are lots of apps for phones and tablets which can help them learn colors with a little technological assistance. The fun sounds and graphics can also encourage their color learning.


When teaching your child colors, remember how important it is to be patient and understanding. Getting frustrated with them will not help and can provoke difficulty with learning in the future. Provide a fun and safe environment for your children to learn and they will be in the best position to respond. Give lots of support and reward with love.

Also, there is a small chance your child might be color blind. If you find that your child still hasn't been able to grasp the main colors by the age of 5, then you should have them seen by a doctor. Also, you can ask during a regular checkup if you are having any problems learning colors.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Teach Your Child to Learn Colors, we recommend you visit our Learning category.

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