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Children and Colors

September 11, 2016

Children and Colors
Authors: Jandy Jeppson with Judith A. Myers-Walls, PhD, CFLE

Lisa, Jacob’s caregiver, noticed that Jacob said “yellow” when he looked at an orange crayon. She wondered if he really thought the orange crayon was yellow. Jacob’s mother told Lisa that when she asked him what color the yellow crayon is, he said “blue.” Lisa decided she and Jacob’s mother could start to teach about colors.

Adults talk about colors a lot. For this reason, young children may know the names of many colors. They may not know which color goes to which name, though. You can help children learn colors. Talk about colors and ask children the color of things. With young children, start by teaching about a single color, and then add more colors as time goes on. If parents or other caregivers have questions about why colors are important, there are many ideas in this article that you can share with them.

Colors are useful

Recognizing colors is an important skill. People often use colors to describe things. For example, a person who is giving directions might say, “Turn left past the green house.” Traffic signs are color-coded. Blue signs give information to travelers about gas, lodging, and phones. Brown signs tell about national parks and other vistas. Street names are on green signs.

People also need to understand how colors go together. That helps people to dress with items of clothing that go together nicely. It is also a skill a person will need to design and decorate a sign or a card.

Colors are pretty, but they also give information about safety. Drivers need to stop when they see a red stop sign or light. Colors can warn us that food may be spoiled. When we see blue spots on brown or white bread, we know not to eat it. Red or white spots on the body can tell parents and caregivers that a child is sick. Some black things on the wall, ceiling, or floor could be spiders, or they could be mold. Either one could cause red or white spots on the body, but for different reasons.

Talking about colors can help to solve problems. When someone is hurt, colors help to figure out what might be wrong. For example, a doctor might ask, “Is it black and blue? Is it yellow or clear? Is it red?” Answers to these questions give information about problems. At home, color can help with caring for your house and yard. For example, what color is the water when you fill up a glass? Is it brown? Colors can tell us that there is a problem. Is the grass green? Or yellow? Or brown? Does it need to be watered? What color is the sky? Is it going to rain? The answer to this question can help you know how to dress and prepare for the day.

Colors can be expressive

Children and adults learn that they can use colors to tell others how they feel. For example, it means one thing to wear all black. It usually means something else to wear a bright, flowery shirt. Some messages are communicated with colors on TV, in movies, and in other forms of media. Many people think that white means purity. In a TV commercial, everything on the screen may have dull colors, except for one thing like a red balloon. That is the thing we are supposed to notice. In some classes at school and in some jobs, colors are very important. People who are in interior design, landscaping, and historical restoration need to know a lot about colors. Even people in biology and other sciences use colors in important ways. As a childcare provider, you can help parents learn that it is important to help children learn about colors.

Activities using colors at home or in childcare

• Use the seasons to help you teach about colors—white in the winter, orange and yellow in the fall, and so on.
• Use blocks, cards, paints, and crayons to help children learn to name different colors.
• Ask children to point to everything that is a particular color, such as green. Then ask if a book is green, or a crayon is
green. Look for colors while you are on a trip in the car or taking a walk outside.
• Choose a color of the day or week. Make projects, cook foods, and read books about that color. Ask the child to point
the color out in the store or at school.
• Does one of the parents in your program have a job that uses colors in a special way? Is there a painter, or an artist, or
a designer who has a child in your program? Ask that person to share his or her interest with the children.


1. Crayola has many pictures and art/craft activities for parents and educators to use with children. Each idea answers why the activity is helpful, how to do it, and other questions. The activities use crayons, clay, paint, and other media.

2. Color Matters is an exploration of many ideas about color by a former professor. It is intended for people of all ages, but the ideas are complex. It may be especially good for school-age children. There is information about colors and the brain, body, vision, different cultures, science, computers, etc. The site has a search engine.

3. The Utah Museum of Fine Arts has activities and information about color and other aspects of art for teachers and families with children ages 8 and up. The color section is aimed at understanding how color works in art.

4.  A website with many activities using color.



Parenting Skills – Raising Confident Children