One of the first things I wanted to teach my kids was to identify colors. It’s never too early to start introducing the words although I didn’t really work on teaching them the colors until they were 12-18 months old.
How do you teach a toddler their colors? I have some tips, games, and fun activities to help your toddler learn their colors in the best ways possible: play and everyday life.
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Tips for Teaching your Toddler Colors
Before we dig into some of the best ways to teach your toddler to recognize their colors, let’s first dig into some tips that will make it a lot easier for you.
Use simple toys and everyday activities. You don’t need flashcards or anything fancy. Learning through play is the best for this age.
at a time
Don’t try to teach letters, shapes, and colors at the same time. For example, you could use a bag of colored shapes, but just focus on sorting by color. Don’t ask your child to find all the yellow triangles. That’s a better lesson for preschoolers.
Little kids need to move and touch things, make it part of the lesson. Use textured items, use chalk, use a game that involves running back and forth across the room.
You could say sort the pom poms into colored cups. But don’t say “Pick out all the blue, then the yellow, then the green” Toddlers hold on better to one or two-step instructions.
If your child doesn’t seem to understand your direction try to simplify it and modeling it will always help as well.
Toddlers are naturally easily distracted. Their little brains are learning so fast that everything is interesting to them. So turn off screens, clean up toys, and choose a room with the least distractions.
The sure way to keep your toddler’s attention is to make learning the most fun thing in the room. Use an excited voice and lots of praise as you move through the lesson. You should both genuinely be having fun. When it stops being fun, it’s time to stop the learning.
Just because your friend’s son is already reciting the alphabet doesn’t mean your child is ready for the same lesson even if they are the same age.
All children learn at different paces and late bloomers tend to be just as successful as early bloomers. If your child isn’t catching on or doesn’t want to participate try a different activity or try again in a week or so. They develop rapidly at this age!
Children learn best when they are interested in what they are learning and their brain is developmentally ready to learn it. No one size fits all pattern.
Many children will be able to start really getting the concept of colors around 18 months and most will be able to sort by colors and shapes by age 2.
My favorite way to teach colors to Toddlers
My absolute favorite way to teach colors and the main way I taught both my girls was with a ring puzzle. I introduced it when they were about 12 months old.
At first I mostly just narrated the colors at times as they worked to put the pieces on the puzzle, a great task for fine motor development.
Eventually, we started trying to match the colors to the proper pegs. I knew they had it when they’d put one on the wrong color and then look at me like “are you going to correct me” or they’d just giggle.
Teach Colors Using Everyday Interactions
Every time your child has a choice between items, you can use it to teach colors. This is a stealthy way to sneak in some learning time with your child all day long.
Here is a list of some things you can use to teach your child colors:
Clothes: “Do you want the green shirt or the blue shirt?” “Wow, those are bright pink socks.”
Meal time: “Which cup would you like, this purple one or this pink one.” “Wow look at these red strawberries! They are so sweet!”
Outside: “What color is that flower you have?”
Playtime: “I love that you are coloring that purple!”
Start looking for ways to sneak in color identification into every conversation.
Books to help teach colors
Storytime is a great time to talk about colors!
While reading storybooks, take time before turning the page to ask your child to identify colors. You could also tell your child what colors different elements are on the page before you turn the page (for kids that don’t talk yet or are just learning colors).
While you can talk about colors in any book, here are a few of my favorites that naturally open up that conversation.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Eric Carle is a great book to use to teach colors to toddlers. The whole story is about animals and colors so it’s perfect for practicing colors.
Remember to keep this interactive by asking questions and having them point to different colors. If your child is getting good at knowing their colors, you can “accidentally” say the wrong color. Kids love correcting you!
Use an inflection in your voice to sound questioning when you say the wrong color.
Put Me in the Zoo is a fun book that can help you teach colors.
I always replaced violet with purple to make it simpler for toddlers. They are used to purple and not so much with violet. You could also take a note from Fancy Nancy and say “Violet… oh that’s a fancy word for purple!”
I love Pete the Cat and he works for so many age levels. In this quirky story, Pete starts off with white shoes but through the day, things happen that change the color of his shoes.
Not only does this book help you teach colors, but it also helps you teach resilience.
Toys and Activities for Teaching Colors
Toddlers and preschoolers learn best during play. Choosing activities, toys and games that also teach colors and other skills are great investments. I’m always a fan of toys that can teach multiple things like the ring puzzle I talked about earlier where they work on fine motor development as they’re learning colors.
Rainbow bears are a great learning toy. You can teach colors and sorting, even counting and addition. For me, these are a must-have to teach colors with.
Here are a few activities you can do with the Rainbow bears to teach colors:
- Color sorting into matching cups or in a baking tin
- Match Me: choose a bear and have your child find a match. Ask what color they are.
- Bear Families: My kids love to take these bears and sort them by color and call them a family.
- Combine them with one of the books from above and have your child see if they have a rainbow bear that matches the color in the story.
Pom poms and a baking tin
Be sure to supervise your kids closely when using pom-poms as they can be a choking hazard.
This is a great activity that keeps kids quiet and occupied for quite some time.
To make this simply get some colored pom-poms and a baking tin. Have your child work on sorting the pom poms into different colors by placing them in separate cups in the tin.
Remember if you are sitting close you can go ahead and narrate what they are doing.
This activity is also great for fine motor skills as they pick up those pom-poms. You can also use these for a scooping activity.
Color Scavenger Hunt
This is a great rainy day activity. To do a color scavenger hunt, show your child a color or lay out a large piece of construction paper to show the color.
To make the game more fun, you can set a timer for a minute or two minutes and have them go find all the items of the target color they can before time runs out. (Timer games are not good for children who are naturally anxious.)
Having a toddler is an amazing experience! Every single day they are learning more and more and are just little sponges sucking in everything they are interested in.
Learning alongside your little one is such a treasured experience. And now you know how to use fun games and activities to teach your toddler colors while still experiencing everyday life!
Just remember to keep it fun and let your child learn at their own pace.