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How Does My Baby Learn Colours?

Babies cannot recognise colours at birth; in fact despite the amount of colourful baby toys on the market, children only start to distinguish colours properly when they are around 18 months old. Interestingly this is the same time that their ability to differentiate between sizes and shapes also develops. Young babies respond particularly well to strong, bold colours and shapes especially black and white.

Understand the challenge

Just because your toddler reaches 18 months it doesn’t mean they can suddenly competently see the difference between objects yet or use the correct adjectives to describe them. Actually putting a name to a colour most commonly comes around the age of 36 months but always remember that every child is different and develops at their individual unique rate.

It is worth taking a moment to think about how difficult the concept of colour is to learn in the first place. A toddler is learning new words and meanings all the time, starting with the pronouns of their caregivers. They then continue to build an internal repertoire of other nouns; shoes, nose, coat and such like. Even before they can say these words they will understand them and be able to show you they know what you mean, for example they might point to their nose when you tell them to and delight in your reaction. It is a big leap to ask an infant who has just understood what a coat is to then assign an adjective of colour to it.

Supporting Their Learning

Regardless of age, being exposed to a wide variety of stimulus and language aids healthy development. As you go about daily life introduce colour at all opportunity; while reading picture books, going for walks, getting dressed, eating food. Colour is everywhere and so is your opportunity to help your child lean.

Asking your child questions is a really good way to reinforce learning. You don’t need to wait for your child to be able to answer; young children learn lots of ways to communicate their knowledge to you. For example point to a green leaf and say something along the lines of “look here is a green leaf.” Then ask your child if they can see anything else green. Depending on their age and ability they will respond in different ways. They may be able to tell you or may just point to a green object. They may not appear to respond at all, this is OK. The process of asking and leaving a space to answer is a powerful teaching tool for babies and toddlers in all areas of learning.

The natural progression is then to ask your child what colour objects are, for example “What colour is this leaf?” Be careful not to reprimand or tell a child they are wrong; simply say the correct name in a kind tone of voice. Making mistakes is part of learning and even if they seem to know all their colours one day, they may not be able to relay the same information the next. Consolidating knowledge is a long process and if a child loses their confidence at this time it could potentially impact on their learning long term.

To extend their learning a step further from the previous exercise, say “I see a leaf, can you see something that’s the same colour?” This question requires your child to recognise the colour without your prompt.

  • One technique to teach colours is to focus on one colour each week. Find every opportunity to point out that colour and encourage your child to find objects of that colour all day by going on colour hunts. The next week focus on a different colour.

  • Put together a colour treasure basket, either with a range of colours for you to talk about, or with several objects of the same colour, perhaps tying in with the colour of the week activity.

  • Show your child objects that are the same but with different colours so they can see a direct comparison. A red ball and yellow ball for example.

  • Young children enjoy exploring the world using their senses. Give them opportunities to learn colours in activities where they can look, hear, touch, taste and smell. This doesn’t have to be a specific colour activity; it could simply be a cookery session where you discuss the colours of the ingredients.

  • Sing songs. Children love singing and respond well to rhythm and melody. Songs such as sing a rainbow song are great for learning colours, especially if you have flashcards ready to reinforce the colour name as you sing.

Looking After Their Eye Sight

It is recommended in the UK that children attend the opticians from the age of 2 for age appropriate eye tests. If you have any concerns or are suspicious that your child may be colour blind speak to your optician at this appointment. If it happens that your child is colour blind it will not hold them back in life but it is important it is recognised early to minimise impact.

The Colours of Tots Play

At Tots Play we know children learn best when they are having fun and all our activities are designed to stimulate and support learning in a child centred way. Our classes are packed full of colourful resources, from our play equipment to our sensory collections, that both you and your child will love exploring together.

So whether you are playing at class or at home you can feel confident that you are playing with your child in ways that are most effective for their development. We have classes all over the country; see if there is one near you HERE.

Why not try out some colourful play time ideas today and give your child the very best start in their colourful learning journey.

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