The toddler has been having great fun with colours lately. Just before Christmas we made and painted some saltdough beads with bright colours and she really impressed me with her ability to repeat the colour names back to me. Since then though, she is insistent that blue is the only colour. And she argues red is blue. Pink is blue. Purple? No, blue! It’s a challenge I’ve taken on with relish and in doing so I’ve clocked up a few different ways to impart the wisdom of colours. So here they are, 8 ways to teach colours to toddlers. Enjoy!
*Teaching the concept of colour is not as easy as it may sound. Colour is not an object and is therefore a little more tricky for some children to pick up; The Big One and The Preschooler were already confident in recognising and naming colours by the age of two- the toddler is not. I’ve realised, since I started focussing on colours, that it’s important to think about the way I speak to the toddler when I point out colours. Instead of pointing at grass and saying “green”, I say “green grass.” It’s easy to see why children get confused when you point to grass, a leaf and an apple and say the word “green” for each. How can all three objects be ‘a green’? Ultimately I believe that the concept of colour comes through time and saturation, which is why the following activities will be repeated endlessly throughout our play.
Have a colour day
This is so simple to set up and reinforces one colour at a time. All the kids got involved with our colour themed days finding and collecting objects and toys that matched. Here are some of the ways we used our chosen colour in our play:
Red moon sand play
We made some new moon sand and added a little food colouring to make it look a little more like real sand. Then we added some sequins and stars to the mix for something a little different. Along with the moon sand (in the sand tray) we added as many red toys as we could find: spades, cups, Mega Blocks… The Toddler loves this kind of play and we were able to talk to her about the colour red as she played.
Green bath time
A really fun activity! We collected as many waterproof green toys as we could find (again, cups and Mega Blocks, with a watering can for good measure) and popped them all into a bubbly bath. Then I threw in some pre-prepared green ice cubes! The kids had a whale of a time chasing the cubes around the bath and eventually, as they melted, the water turned green! Great fun!
Yellow Tuff Spot paint play
The toddler and I worked alone on this one. We collected lots of yellow things and popped them onto the Tuff Spot with the mirror insert. Then we squeezed some yellow paint into the tray and set to work! We used the brushes and our fingers for some simple mark making, and the stickle bricks and Mega Blocks for printing. The Toddler loved this activity so much that very little input was needed from me. The mirror insert is from TTS Education and I highly recommend it for an added sensory element to Tuff Spot play.
Blue bubbly water play
Again, so simple. We collected waterproof blue toys, popped them in the water tray and added bubbly water. An oldie but a goldie!
Rainbow saltdough beads
We popped the saltdough beads into the moonsand and talked about all of the colours together. The Toddler dug for the beads and as she found them we exclaimed “blue!” or “green!” etc and asked her to repeat the colour names. This kind of activity can be done at any time and with any object or toy. Constant reinforcement helps toddlers to remember new words and concepts.
Magnetic marble fishing
These magnetic marbles are wonderful! They cost £4.99 for 40 from TTS Education and are a source of wonder for the kids. We used them with magnetic fishing rods and The Preschooler took charge with this one. We called a colour for him to fish for and he did his best. Then we sorted the marbles into piles according to the colour. She may not have taken the lead on this one but The Toddler was watching and listening.
Jellystones messy play
Another bargain find at TTS Education! Can’t you tell we love that place? Jelly stones absorb water and grow up to 200 times their original size in just a few hours. The preschooler and I experimented with mixing colours to make purple and green and then used all the colours in the Tuff Spot with the mirror insert. The jelly stones have a wonderful jewel-like appearance and The Toddler was fascinated. Throughout the play session we talked about the colours and The Toddler helped me to sort the jelly stones into corresponding colour trays. Mostly they loved the feel of the jelly stones under their fingers!
Wonderworld sensory blocks and the light box
We made our own lightbox (tutorial to follow, plus ways to play) and used the wonderful sensory blocks to explore colours with a different sensory experience. All of the children loved this activity and the beauty is that it can be played with again and again. The Toddler often asks for this activity and it needs no set up at all.
Jelly stones and stacking cups
The idea was to get The Toddler to sort the jellystones into the corresponding cups according to colour, but she had other plans. After investigating the jellystones with her fingers, The Toddler moved on to simply stacking the cups by themselves. This in itself was a great, simple activity and we were able to talk about the colours as she played. We’ll go back to this one.
Glowing jewels water play
More on this in a separate post, I think- it was very popular! We used underwater lights, jellystones and water. The lights are colour changing so we were able to talk about lots of different colours and each one brought a new sensory experience to the play. The Toddler and The Preschooler played all afternoon with this activity and its one that has rarely been tidied away since. Obviously they have fresh water each time (warm is nice) but overall I don’t get chance to clear it away before they want it out again. Water play really helps The Toddler to relax and focus and she was able to name a few colours after ten minutes or so. She found the lights fascinating!
6 more ways to play with colours
These are more ways we’ve found to get a little colour practise in: threading beads in various colours, threading coloured saltdough beads (both great for fine motor skills), making collages, pom pom sorting (we painted toilet rolls and the kids sort the pom poms according to colour), threading coloured cotton reels and magnetic marble sorting. All quick, easy activities that you can tailor towards teaching colours to toddlers!
My top tips for teaching colours to toddlers:
- keep it simple
- make it fun
- keep it relevant
- remember to label each object with the colour- not “green, green, green”, but “green grass, green leaf…” etc
- be patient. It can take time to learn this concept!
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