The Complete Guide to Teaching Colors to Toddlers

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Did you know that teaching colors to toddlers can be really fun and require very little preparation? Teaching colors can and should happen all the time, in tons of different places. Follow my guide below for teaching your toddler colors from an early age.

This article includes ways you can integrate color learning into everyday routines, as well as specific activities you can do to teach colors. I’ve also included books and toys that are wonderful tools to help support you and your toddler as you teach colors.

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Getting Started with Teaching Colors

According to an article by Michigan State University, children start to differentiate between colors around 18 months. By the time a child is 3, they should be able to correctly label at least one color.

The reason for the large window of time to learn colors is because there are two different components to learning any new word(s). First, a child needs to be able to understand the word “blue”. They have to hear a caregiver saying and pointing to lots of blue things before they understand the meaning of “blue”.

If you only ever said the word blue when you were pointing to their blue plate, they might think “blue” means plate! That is why it is so important that you give them tons of different examples of things that are blue.

Once you think they understand the word “blue”, you should start asking them to point to blue things. Start with just a few objects (maybe a blue plate and a red plate) and say, “point to the blue plate”. This will help you gauge their understanding.

After they can somewhat consistently point to the correct object when you name the color, they will likely start saying the color on their own. Continue to point out things that are blue as you go throughout the day. Eventually, you can start asking, “What color is the plate?” and they just might have the right answer for you!

If your little one seems stuck between pointing out blue correctly and saying it, give them some help. You can show them the blue plate and say, “Is this plate blue or red?” By giving them an option, they will have an easier time saying “blue” since they just heard you say the word.

teaching colors to toddlers

Teaching Colors to Toddlers Throughout the Day

The key to teaching colors to toddlers is sprinkling opportunities to talk about colors throughout the day. It’s helpful when you use color words in a natural setting. It is also necessary to teach colors using a variety of toys, foods, clothing, and more.

When you go to the grocery store talk about yellow bananas, green lettuce, red apples, and orange oranges. Discuss the colors on the box of macaroni and cheese, and how different flavors of applesauce have different colors of lids and packages.

Go on a walk outside and point to the grass and talk about how it is green, and how the trees are green, the bushes are green, and how the leaves on the flowers are green. Point out the various colors of cars that drive by.

At the library point out the brown shelves, the blue carpet, and how all the books are lots of different colors. Help your toddler notice the color of the walls and the chairs, and everything else!

I’m sure you get the idea. Since everything has colors, there are so many opportunities to talk about it with your toddler. The important thing is just remembering to do it throughout your day.

teaching colors to toddlers

Activities to Help Teach Colors

  1. Color sort: You can do color sorting activities with all kinds of everyday objects. One of my favorite things we do at our house is collect the lids that go on applesauce pouches. We keep them in a container and my toddler sorts them out by colors. (Yes, I purposely buy different flavors so there are multiple colors!) You can also do this with laundry, books you have, and any other toys. Just give your child a variety of toys with various colors and show them how to sort the objects by color.
  2. Color themed day: Choose a color for the day. Let’s pretend you choose orange. When you get dressed wear something orange and then put your toddler in something orange. Make sure you tell your child, “Today is orange day.” Then eat an orange for breakfast, have goldfish as a snack, and eat some carrots. See if you can find orange things around your house, and outside. Have them color a picture of a pumpkin or a tiger, or something else orange. Then get out books that talk about colors and point out the orange page. Go all-in on color day! It’s so much fun!
  3. Art: Do any number of easy art activities. You can finger paint (here is a great set), use crayons (my favorite for toddlers), or stickers (check out these fun 3D stickers). Art is a really fun, interactive way to help your child work on colors.
  4. Sing: If you have looked anywhere else on my website, you know I LOVE to sing! Singing helps kids learn new things. You can make up your own song or learn one from Youtube. It’s up to you! Just make sure that as you sing it, try to point to things that are the color that is being sung about. (Also, if you want to know more about singing to children, check out my post here.)

Books That Help Teach Colors

There are TONS of books that help teach colors. (Actually, all books can be used to talk about colors). Books are one of my very favorite ways to help support new learning. Check out my post here on how to choose the best books for your toddler. Below is a list of some of my favorite books to teach colors.

Colors by Paul Dronsfield is a book I love because it helps your child point to the color and say it.

Play with Your Plate by Judith Russell is another great option. It’s a fun interactive book that works on a variety of skills, including colors.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is a classic book that has wonderful colors. I especially like all the different colors of fruit the caterpillar eats.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See by Bill Martin Jr. is a silly book that has different colored animals included.

Color Recognition Cloth Books for Babies by BabyBibi look like fun, unique books. They come in a set of 9, with each book featuring a different color.

Mix It Up by Herve Tullet is a unique book about colors and art. It has super cute ways of talking about colors and how they mix together to make other colors. It’s brilliantly interactive! I’m a big fan!

My First Colors by DK Publishing is a simple book that features a different color on each page. It is full of beautiful, vibrant real pictures.

Toys That Help Teach Colors

You can honestly use any toy to talk about colors because everything has colors. However, there are some specific toys that do an especially good job when your goal is teaching colors to toddlers. Below are a list of some of my favorites.

Stacking cups: There are tons of options for stacking cups, but these are some of the best. I like these because when your little one is ready, they also have numbers and shapes on every cup.

Learning Avocados: Yes they are as cute as they sound! This little game helps kids match colors together to form two halves of the avocado. Bonus-they also have little faces on each one so you can talk about emotions with your little one.

Toddler puzzles: A fun, colorful set of toddler puzzles will have your little one exploring new animals and you can focus on all the beautiful colors!

Rainbow counting bears: We used these little colorful bears in the preschool classrooms I used to work in all the time. They are perfect for sorting objects by color because each set comes with various colored bears and corresponding cups.

Shape tower: This toy is by my favorite brand, Fat Brain Toys. They make really fun toys that help your little one learn. This one is particularly awesome because it takes the classic ring stacking toy to the next level. There are so many opportunities to teach colors with this one!

Pegboard set: This is yet another great toy that was in all the preschool rooms. I love this one because you can build with it, count with it, and of course practice colors!

Colorful, soft block set: Blocks are a classic toy for good reason. They build fine motor skills and help with problem-solving. And this particular set is brightly colored and soft so your little one can enjoy it from an early age.

Pretend food: Melissa and Doug make QUALITY toys that I pretty much always love! They have a really cute food set that we use at our house all the time. It has tons of colors and it’s great for imaginative play!

Mallet and peg toy: This is a great combination of hammering little pegs down and working on colors. It’s another Melissa and Doug toy. (Did I mention I love them?)

Ball pit and balls: My niece has a ball pit with tons of various colored balls and she loves it! She learned the phrase “light blue” when she was quite little because she was so in love with this toy!

FAQs About Teaching Colors to Toddlers

How do you introduce colors to toddlers?

The easiest way to introduce colors to your little one is by naming colors as you see them throughout the day. Talk about colors at the grocery store, the park, and while you are making food. Talk about them as you read books and when you are playing. You really don’t have to wait for a certain age to start talking about colors. Do it now!

When should toddlers know colors?

The article by Michigan State University claims that toddlers will start differentiating between colors by 18 months. And a 3 year old should be able to name at least one color.

How do I teach my 2 year old colors?

Mention colors throughout the day. Give your child choices like “Do you want the blue plate or the yellow plate?” You can also buy specific toys or books focused on teaching colors to toddlers. Just remember that play is the best way to learn!

More things to teach your little one.

If you want a few more ideas on things you can teach your little one, check out my post here with 22 things you should be teaching your 2 year old.

I’d also love for you to comment on your favorite toys or books you use to talk about colors.

2 thoughts on “The Complete Guide to Teaching Colors to Toddlers”

  1. Pingback: A Simple Approach for Teaching Shapes to Toddlers - Talk 2 Me Mama

  2. Pingback: The 11 Best Crayons for Your 2 Year Old (2023) - Talk 2 Me Mama

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