Children start to learn the names of colors around age 2 and by the time they are preschool age, most will know the primary colors and probably all the colors of the rainbow. Still, every child is different and colors are an abstract concept. Color-related activities can focus on the basics or move into focusing on the relationships between colors.
Colors in the World
Colors are everywhere, which means you can teach about colors wherever you go. Start by pointing out the colors that you see to introduce your child to the vocabulary. As she gets familiar with color names, you can simply ask her, “Do you see something red?” If she’s not sure what red is, point to something red and say, “This is red. Can you find something else red?” Older preschoolers may be able to answer more complex questions, like, “Can you see something that’s white and fluffy?” Your child will then have to answer with clouds or dandelions, rather than your car or a hat.
Gather several small objects — buttons or beads work well — and have your child sort them by color. Keep things neat by putting them into small containers, such as an egg carton. As your child starts to master this task, up the ante by providing objects in a range of colors on the spectrum, so that she’ll learn that light blue and dark blue both get sorted as “blue.”
The way that different colors combine to make new colors is nothing short of a miracle to young children. Use several different forms of media to illustrate this — paints, frosting, play dough and colored water, for example. As you start the activity, ask your child to identify the two colors, then have her guess what will happen when you mix the two before experimenting to see if she was right. Introduce the word “pastel” when you add white as an option and as your child learns about making lighter colors from dark ones.
Over time, your child will become very comfortable with colors, so give her a bigger challenge. Give her several different objects of the same color, but in different shades. Have her sort the items from lightest to darkest. Use this activity to point out even more descriptive words for colors, like aquamarine and hot pink. Paint chips are really effective for this activity, as long as you don’t rely on the company’s made-up names for the colors.