For children who are developing an understanding of the world and the way it works, learning to recognize colors is just a part of becoming familiar with the many detailed elements of life. By the age of 18 months, most babies can recognize and differentiate between colors. By 36 months, your child should be able to name at least one of them. As she grows, your child will develop the ability to recognize and recall colors, shapes, letters, numbers, and symbols. Mastery of these concepts is essential; so how can you equip your child for success?
- Routine-based learning experiences are the most natural way for a young child to learn. This happens when language is modeled for the child during daily routines. For example, as Mom puts on 2-year old Naomi’s socks, she says “blue sock!” and tickles her feet. Naomi giggles and repeats “blue sock!” Naomi is learning about colors in the simplest, most natural way possible. The positive emotions she experiences during the interaction make it easy for her to recall the concept and form new cognitive inferences based on other natural routine-based experiences.
- Immersive learning experiences focus on one concept at a time, and immerse the child in that concept to ensure mastery. For example, in Ms. Tracy’s preschool classroom, they are learning the color blue this week. To immerse the children in the concept, Ms. Tracy provides a wide variety of blue materials during craft time; blue crayons, stickers, textured pages, feathers, glue, and even blue googley-eyes! During story time, she reads to the class from The Little Blue Truck, and The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse. For snack, the children eat blueberries and blueberry muffins. The advantages of immersive learning are very powerful. Because of the rich variety of real-life exposure to the concept, the child has an extremely high likelihood of mastering and retaining the concept. Additionally, the child is likely to experience a positive emotional connection with his/her learning which also aids recall.
- Many old-school programs and teachers still use rote learning and repetition to teach children their colors. This involves the use of flashcards or other visual stimuli, along with repetitive practice until the child is able to recall the information being taught. While it certainly won’t hurt anyone, rote learning is probably the least effective technique and has a low emotional appeal. Most children find this kind of learning very tedious; wouldn’t anyone?! Low levels of emotional connection decrease the child’s ability to recall information, so rote learning is usually not a great option for preschoolers.
While there is no one “right” way to teach kids their colors, your approach should incorporate these three elements:
- Real life experiences
- Positive emotional connections
- Opportunities for practice
These three ingredients are the secret to success and mastery of color concepts as well as many other concepts.