When Should a Child Know Their Colors

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Parents to young children are faced with a never-ending stream of landmarks. As you’re navigating landmark after landmark, you may find yourself wondering: When should a child know their colors?

Yes, learning colors is an important milestone for children. Look no further than PBS shows that focus on colors and color-specific days at preschools (“It’s orange day!”). Colors are no doubt important — and here’s everything you need to know about when a child should know colors.

Before we get started, two important tips. First, all children develop at slightly different rates, so don’t panic if you think your child is behind on colors. And, second, don’t stress over every landmark. Your child will eventually know his or her colors, just as he or she will someday speak, walk, use the bathroom alone, etc. To the extent that it’s taking longer than usual to learn colors (or do other things) you should always consult with your pediatrician.


When Should a Child Know Colors: A Timeline

Learning colors is actually a process that takes place (for most children) between the ages of 18 months and 3 years old. There are three basic steps in the process of learning colors:

  • Matching: Children are first able to understand what colors are at 18 months (or thereabouts). At this early stage, they are able to match colors. For example, you can set out Skittles and ask your 18-month-year-old to help you organize by color.
  • Identifying: After your child turns 2, he or she will be able to actually identify colors. This is the stage when you can set out Skittles and ask them to point out reds or purples or oranges.
  • Naming: Around age 3, it starts to get a lot more fun. You can point out a Skittle (or some other object) and ask: What color is this? And your child should be able to tell you. In some cases, children can name colors far earlier than 3 years. Again, it’s all according to your child’s unique development pattern.


How to Teach Your Child Colors

We’re all parents, and, hey, we’re competitive, right? So it’s only natural to want to accelerate your child’s understanding of colors and his or her ability to name them. What are some good color-learning ideas? Consider the following:


Make sure your child’s room is filled with vibrant, easy-to-distinguish colors. If a child’s room is all shades of blue-gray, it’s going to be hard for him or her to discern between different shades.

Think about it this way: When a child first learns colors, he or she learns about really traditional shades: royal blues, Kelly greens, bright reds, sunshine yellows. Consider adding these spot-on colors to your child’s room through décor, and he or she will become aware of them very early on — which is half the battle.

Using décor is great when your child is still a baby.


They grow up so fast, don’t they? Well, as your child begins walking on his or her own, eating independently, and listening to every word you have to say, start talking about colors. In casual conversation, talk about the colors of different food items at home or the colors of different billboards when you’re in the car.

Children really are sponges, and they thrive on repetition. The more you’re talking about colors during the course of everyday life, the more familiar your child will become with colors — and the easier it will be for he or she to master colors.

Using conversation is best when your child is a toddler.


As your child gets into later preschool years and starts heading toward kindergarten, start using color-related activities to help him or her learn. Painting is a great color-related activity, but you can also find plenty of games and toys that help children pick up on colors.

This is also a phase when you can start introducing the concept of primary colors and how primary colors blend to make other colors (Red + Blue = Purple!). This is the type of deeper thinking that is good for your child no matter the topic.

Using activities is ideal for preschool age children.


Why is Learning Colors Important?

Why is learning colors important in the first place? Because colors are deeply embedded in our society. They are used to communicate, to provide warnings, to classify items, etc. Everything from when cars can and can’t go to the ripeness of fruit is influenced by color.

In short, colors are foundational knowledge, and the sooner your child masters them the better.


How to Tell if Your Child is Color Blind

Color blindness is certainly a possibility, though it’s a greater possibility in boys than in girls. Keep in mind that color blindness is often limited to one area on the color spectrum. If your child is incorrectly identifying all colors all the time, it’s most likely a developmental issue that needs to be overcome. But, if your child is incorrectly identifying green as brown, for example, there’s a chance it could be colorblindness.

If you suspect your child is dealing with colorblindness, consult your doctor. Colorblindness is not ideal, but it’s among the most manageable of challenges your child could face.


Final Thoughts on When a Child Should Know Their Colors

Remember that you’re part of a community. If your child goes to preschool, teachers there are going to emphasize colors on a regular basis. If your child ever turns on a television show, again, many of those shows are going to emphasize colors. When your child visits the doctor, the pediatrician is going to ask about specific milestones to ensure progress.

You don’t have to do this alone! Try some of the tips listed above for helping your son or daughter learn his or her colors. But never stress and feel anxiety about a landmark like color.

Do you have any other tips for helping a child learn colors? If so, share in the comments section below, or send us a note via our contact page.

Brad has spent the bulk of his life in Austin, TX, minus just a few years traveling the country and writing for local newspapers. When he isn’t spending time with his wonderful family, Brad is likely to be found watching a ballgame, reading a book or taking a well-earned nap.

1 Comment

  1. I am so glad that someone touched on his important subject. There are so many professions that require you to have a crystal clear understanding of colors, and yet, the schooling system never pays enough attention to this subject. And, I totally agree with the various paths you have suggested in this article. I don’t think it would be viable for schools to a part of the school time for colors only, but they can subtly touch upon them in a subtle manner along with some other subjects.
    Abby recently posted…40+ Best Outdoor toys for 6 year olds from various price range!My Profile

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