It’s fun & simple learning colors for toddlers when you use fun, hands-on color activities and books for your toddlers and preschoolers. Teaching colors to toddlers and preschoolers is natural and fun.
You hold up a red shirt and ask your toddler, “What color is this?” and he proudly says, “Boo!”
You hand your toddler a green ball and ask him what color it is. His answer? “Boo!”
“What’s your favorite color?” you ask. The answer? “Boo!”
By now, you may be worrying that the only color your child will ever know is blue. Fear not, it’s very easy to teach your toddler colors. With so many fun color activities for toddlers, before you know it, a crayon box of colors will make its way into your child’s vocabulary!
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Now, when I talk about teaching children colors, I do not mean drilling them with flashcards. I’m sure that can be effective for some parents and children, but I don’t formally teach my toddlers. Instead, I like to have them learn through play.
To begin, I find the following tips to be most effective when teaching preschoolers. I want my children to find pleasure in learning. I want them to learn through hands-on, child-led activities.
3 Tips to Follow When Teaching Young Children Something New
- Go at your child’s pace. If they are not ready to learn a concept, then forget about it for a couple of months before reintroducing it.
- Make it natural. Try to teach them about the concept throughout normal activities in their day.
- Realize it may take awhile to learn. Many factors depend on how quickly your child will understand a concept fully. Don’t get discouraged if it takes longer than your nephew or neighbor took, or longer than you think it should take. Your child will learn when they are ready.
The Best Way to Teach Colors to Toddlers: Naturally
The concept of colors can be difficult for some children to learn. However, the more exposure children have to something, the easier it will be to understand. I have found through teaching colors to my four kids that fun, hands-on color activities make learning colors for toddlers and preschoolers simple and fun.
First, watch my video to learn about different types of activities to use when teaching colors. Then continue reading for specific examples using these types of activities.
Make Learning Colors for Your Toddlers & Preschoolers Fun
Begin with Life Experiences
Introducing colors to toddlers can be quite easy. One of the simplest, most natural color activities for toddlers is to point colors out in the world around you. You could tell your child that it’s time to put on the blue shirt. Or ask your child to choose between the green or orange plate. Once your child begins to hear color words over and over, then they’ll begin to associate that name with the color. The same works when you are trying to teach numbers or letters.
You will want to start small though. Don’t try to show your child every color in the beginning. Perhaps just point out a couple of colors, then slowly add in one more at a time. I would start with the primary colors of red, blue and yellow first. Then move on to green, orange and purple. Later you can include black, white, gray, brown, and pink.
Color Activities for Toddlers & Preschoolers Using Toys and Puzzles
After you start pointing colors out to your child, you can further their associations with colors by including toys that show these colors. You can do this in a myriad of ways, with store-bought toys or even by making some yourself. By setting up an invitation to play with items that teach colors, you show purpose to their playtime. You may also want to read my post on the best activities to keep your toddler busy while you homeschool for more playtime ideas that are also educational.
Toys and Puzzles for Learning Colors
Melissa and Doug Shape Puzzle: No, I didn’t put this puzzle in the wrong post! Even though the puzzle is to teach shapes, all of the shapes are different colors. One way to use this puzzle to teach colors is by sitting with your child while they work on it. Ask them for the green circle or the blue triangle. Not only is this one of many great color activities for toddlers, but you’ll also be teaching shapes at the same time, so it’s a win-win!
Lacing Beads: These lacing beads are another great example of a toy teaching more than one concept. Not only do these beads help develop fine motor skills, but they also are a variety of solid colors. So you could point out the colors to your child first. “Look at the yellow square.” “Can you put an orange bead on next?” Then when your child is old enough, you could try teaching patterns with the beads. For example, you could ask your child to make a pattern with red, yellow, and blue beads.
DIY Toys that Teach Colors
Painted Wooden Pieces: Not all play materials need to be purchased. If you are at all crafty, you can make some play pieces for your child. I noticed I had quite a few leftover wooden pieces from various crafts I’ve done in the past, so recently I made some toys out of them. To make them, I gathered six of each item (wooden peg people, rings, bowls, eggs, and discs) and painted each one a different color (red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple). I then covered them with clear Mod Podge to seal the paint.
To set these up as an invitation to play, I sat next to my little one at first and pulled out two of the items in two or three colors. Without speaking, I showed him how to match the same colored pieces. Very soon, he was able to do this by himself. So then I’d ask him to find all of the red pieces or ask him to find the match to a color I’d hold up. All of this is done in a very relaxing and informal way. If he showed no interest, then I dropped it.
Sensory Activities for Learning Colors
Sensory Bins: Sensory bins are so much fun for little ones that they don’t even know they are learning! These are containers that contain filler materials such as rice or beans and various other objects like small toys, craft filler, and measuring tools, depending on the bin’s theme. To teach colors, you could use colored rice and a variety of colored filler items.
Tip: I share pictures of my little ones’ sensory bins on Instagram. Check it out for ideas to use with your little one and follow me so you don’t miss out on any!
Playdough: Playdough is also a fun sensory material for teaching colors. You can buy it or make your own in any color you want. I like to make up a batch every couple of months and change the colors each time so that my little guy is always getting something new and exciting.
These activities also work well when you enlist the help of your older children to help distract your toddler so you can teach the others.
Coloring Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Using crayons for coloring is another great way to help your child learn colors. You could start with just a few crayons to teach the primary colors and then add more once those are learned. When you join my email community, you can receive a booklet called, My Book of Colors, for your child to color. This booklet has the color word and an object that they can color. They can then “read” the book to you to help further the fun.
Additional Color Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Sorting activities are great at helping children distinguish colors. These activities can be done in so many ways! The basic concept is to have your little one sort through items in different colors and either group them together or match them to something like a piece of colored construction paper. Many of your child’s toys could probably be used for this activity. Toy cars, Legos, play food and more easily lend themselves to sorting by color.
Do you use Montessori-style shelving or centers in your homeschool preschool? If so, these color and size sorting activity cards are a fun way to help your preschooler learn colors. For younger children, just set out one to three colors of cards in a basket. Children will find all of one color and put them on the matching color board. Once your little one gets the hang of it, or if they are older, add in more colors until they eventually can sort all eleven.
Literature-Based Color Activities
Learning colors for toddlers is much more fun with books! Many times I just read my little guy books for the fun of it. I like to gather books each week to cover whatever theme I’d like him to learn. But there are times that it’s nice to create extension activities from books he’s particularly enjoyed. Below I share three such color books and activities that I created based on them.
The Crayon Box that Talked by Shane DeRolf
The Crayon Box that Talked is about a girl who overhears colors in a crayon box criticizing each other. So she buys the crayon box and creates a picture using all of the colors. Of course then the colors all see how important each color is.
I created an extremely simple activity for my little one based on this book. After we read the book together, I gave each of us a piece of copy paper and a small box of crayons. We drew pictures on our papers using all of the colors. As we drew, I would occasionally ask my son what color he was using, point to ones he already used and ask him what colors he used. A very easy activity, but one my little guy just loved! We’ve repeated it several times at his request.
Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh
This is one of my favorite books for toddlers. Three mice are on a white sheet of paper and they get into jars of red, yellow and blue paint while a cat is sleeping. Each mouse gets into a different jar of paint, and drips paint onto the paper. Then the other mice play in the puddles, creating new colors.
Mouse Paint is fabulous for teaching about color mixing. Youngsters who are a little older can also learn about primary and secondary colors. I created an activity that applies the concept of color mixing. You can easily use paint for this activity, but I used playdough because we had each of those colors made the day I read the story.
An Activity to Use with Mouse Paint
I chose to do the activity first with this book. So my little guy and I started at a table where I had small amounts of red, yellow and blue playdough set out. I let him play individually with each color for a few minutes. Then I broke off a small chunk of red and yellow and asked him to put them together. I had to help him a little with the mixing, but he noticed that they turned to orange. Then he followed with the other combinations, creating green and purple as well. He was so amazed by it!
As he continued to play with the playdough, I read Mouse Paint to him. When we got to each page where the mice make new colors, I stopped and I had him show me what colors of playdough he used to make each of those new colors. He was so excited to see that the mice made the same colors he did.
White Rabbit’s Colors by Alan Baker is a great follow-up for this book, or to use in place of Mouse Paint if you don’t have it. If you’d like to use paint for this activity, Play Teach Repeat has a mess-free activity for Mouse Paint.
Your toddler or preschooler will love this coloring booklet to help them learn colors! When you join the Homeschooling in Progress community, you’ll receive tips, ideas, and resources to simplify your homeschool in your email inbox. Plus, you’ll also receive a FREE My Book of Colors booklet for your little one to color.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr and Eric Carle
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? is one of my all-time favorites! Eric Carle is one of my favorite authors. As I was thinking of an activity to go along with this book, I came across this cute activity over at Totschooling. You can have your child put the animal from the page you are reading onto the correct colored circle. A bonus for this story is that your child can also learn animal names!
Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton
In this book, an elephant, moose and bear each wear different colored articles of clothing correctly. The turkey, however, puts his clothing on incorrectly. For example, each of the other animals all have their pants on their legs. The turkey put his over his head and says, “Oops.” My little guy just cracks up at the turkey.
Color Activities to Use with Blue Hat, Green Hat
I have a couple of activities to go along with this book. For younger children, probably around 2 to early 3 years old, you can ask your child what color item the turkey is wearing. It changes on each page, as they alternate through red, yellow, green and blue clothing (each animal is wearing a different color, though not always the same color). For example, the elephant wears the blue hat, but the red shirt on the following page. We also discussed what the turkey did wrong when putting on the clothing item.
An additional activity for this book uses cut out items, and is geared for children around ages 3-4. You can draw and cut out each item the book mentions in each of the four colors of red, yellow, green and blue using construction paper. Then your child can put them in the order shown in the book. You could also have them sort all of the same colored items in 4 separate piles after you finish the story. So, for example, your child would put every yellow item in one pile, every red in a separate pile, etc.
If you’d rather not trace each item on your own, I have the items available as part of a Teaching Colors guide that is a free bonus for my email subscribers. In the guide, you can choose to have your child color each clothing item and cut them out along the dotted lines. Or you could print out the pages that I have already colored.
The Teaching Colors guide also has printable lessons from the books discussed in this post, along with my favorite playdough recipe to use with the Mouse Paint book . It’s a great resource for teaching colors that is not only free when you join my email community, but also gives you access to my newsletter where I share additional homeschool information, tips and resources.
You can find even more great books in my post on picture books about colors.
Teaching your children colors can be a fun and rewarding experience. Use examples from their life as you begin to mention the color names. Have a purpose to their playtime by using toys that help teach colors. Once your child begins to understand the concept, then add in fun color activities with sensory items and books.
Before you know it, your child’s favorite color might not only be blue but navy or indigo!