How to start teaching colors to a toddler (and make it fun!)

You can teach colors to a toddler using fun activities and games. Colors are one of the first lessons that you can start when trying to get your toddler ready for pre-k. Start with the basic colors and then move up, adding more as your little learner gets more comfortable.

teaching colors to a toddler

When can children learn colors?

In general, children are developmentally ready to learn colors at one year old. At 18 months, children can differentiate colors. Toddlers can name different colors by the age of 2.5-3 years. Use fun activities to guide your teaching at home.

Even though they won’t be able to tell you the difference between the colors until around 18 months, this doesn’t mean that you can’t start exposing your child to the concept of colors before that 18-month mark.

You should! Some kids learn their colors sooner, and some learn them later. Get started with this guide to teach colors to One Year Olds

Benefits of Learning Colors

·   Color recognition can boost language skills because learning to identify and describe colors improves the child’s ability to communicate and express themselves

·   Learning colors strengthen math skills, helping a child learn how to sort, organize, categorize, and compare.

Early identification of colors helps to create the cognitive link between visual clues and words.

“The ability to identify colors is considered a marker and milestone in a child’s cognitive process and is often part of early screening for the development and educational admittance.”

Follow the learn through play color lesson plan and start teaching your child colors!

Which colors to teach first?

Young children typically love bright colors. There are many colors in the rainbow, but first. Start with bright bold primary colors (and green).

  • Red
  • Yellow
  • Blue
  • Green

Introduce these colors first through different activities, and let the child understand the concept of primary colors before you introduce other colors.

How to start teach colors to your toddler

Believe it or not, there is a fun and straightforward process your child’s interest and go as fast or as slow as needed until your child grasps each concept.

Grasping colors is easier if you break it up in a few simple activities.

Create activities around each color. I used to do a full 2-3 weeks or even a month of activities for each color before introducing others. It just made grasping the concept easier once the first primary colors are mastered the rest were easy to learn. 

You might like: Weekly lesson plan for color activities: color RED

 My son mastered all colors by age 2y3m. I wasn’t in a rush to get him to know them all so fast as my goal was for him to learn them when he reached 3 yrs old that I knew he needed to start learning the alphabet. 

Your son/daughter might be faster than Manu or slower and it doesn’t matter the timeline. What is important is that you start exposing them to the colors and keep practicing. 

So, let’s start! 

Learn Colors through Word Games

teaching colors to a toddler

The first step into teaching colors is to identify and label colors. Compare identical objects of different colors to help your child discern between colors.

Young children typically attach colors to their objects because the color concept is too abstract for a toddler or a preschooler to comprehend. So, when you use objects to teach your child colors, he will most likely have difficulties to separate the color from its object.

To help children better understand the concept of colors, make sure to use the color words before and after the noun for an object, for example, “This is a green ball; this ball is green.”

Word Activities

Balls Activity

  • Grab 4 color balls, one for each primary color, and place them inside a basket.
  • Place the basket in front of your child and take out one by one.
  • “This is a red ball – this ball is red, This is a yellow  ball –  this ball is yellow, this is a blue ball –  this ball is blue”
  • Place the balls inside the basket again and let your child take one ball at a time. When he/she takes it out, say the color of the ball.  

Toss Activity

Another great activity to practice color words is a color toss activity. Create a color sorting board and color toss each ball into the correct color hole.

Rhymes and Songs to teach Colors

teach colors with fun games

Research shows that music has a strong influence on a child’s development and learning. Sing to your child songs and rhymes with colors as kids tend to remember rhymes easily. Check YouTube for color songs and rhymes that teach colors and watch them with your toddler. 

Check out or favorite color songs for toddlers

Youtube Super Simple songs are very catchy and well done. This blue song is a great one.

I love to sing I can sing a rainbow (YouTube) as we wave color scarfs around. I have been singing that song to my son since he was one and now that he is two, he can sing along with us as he picks the right color scarfs.

Learn Colors through books

Books are a great opportunity to teach colors. Use books that are all about colors and point colors often while you read.

A great way to learn colors is to create activities around the book.

Best Books to Learn colors

My Favorite Color Books

Top Books to learn colors recommended by Teachers

  1. Planting a Rainbow (Best price found on Amazon)
  2. White Rabbit’s Colors by Alan Baker (Best price found on Amazon)
  3. I Love My White Shoes – Pete The Cat (Best price found on Kidbooks)
  4. What color is bear’s underwear (Best price found in Amazon)
  5. The Color Monster (Best price found on Amazon)
  6. Monster Colors (Early Learning Rhymes) (Best price found on Kidbooks)

Learn Colors Through Daily Routines

Use Clothes to Teach Colors

Repeat colors each morning when helping your child to dress and get ready for the day. For example, say, “Today you’ll be wearing a blue shirt and yellow pants to daycare.” 

Allow your child to pick pieces of clothes for him/herself and ask which colors he has choosen.

Repetition throughout the day with different activities will ensure that your child learns the colors easily.

Eat Colorful Meals Together

Involve your child in grocery shopping and meal preparation activities. Allow them to choose, touch, and play with raw fruits and vegetables while you’re shopping and preparing food at home. 

As you cook and serve food, introduce each food item with their color and say, “This is a green cucumber. This cucumber is green.”

Create opportunities for choices. While showing them each item, allow for them to choose what they want. For example, Ask your toddler “do you want a red apple or a green apple”

Use Nature Walks to learn colors

Exploring nature is a wonderful way to teach colors to young children. While outside, introduce the colors of flowers, the sky, grass, leaves, birds, butterflies, tree trunks, and so on.

Repeat colors while you and your child are spending time outdoors. Children are naturally curious and interested in nature. They love to observe various things in nature such as flowers, animals, or clouds, and ask many questions. 

Observe Colors in Nature Together and go on scavenger hunts together. Collect flowers, sticks and other found items in the colors you are practicing and working on. 

You might also like: Tot School Free Color Lesson Plan

Play iSpy

Review each color of the rainbow. Start with the first color and try to search for items that are that color during your walk. You can both participate – do not expect your child to  do all the finding. It’s more fun if you both do.

Match Colors in Nature

You can help your child learn colors faster by setting up activities that provide matching opportunities.

Matching colors is a math skill as being the very first lesson to helping a child learn how to sort, organize, categorize, and compare.

Take a color wheel of color flashcards and play a matching activity. Find different color flowers, rocks, mailboxes etc.. and match them to the right color flashcard.

You might have to do all the matching at first, but be patient and repeat the activity often, eventually your child will surprise you and start looking for the flashcard that matches the plants/flowers they collected. 

Learn Colors With Invitations to Play

While a one-year-old might have trouble verbalizing the name of the color, he/she can still identify each color by matching it and sorting it.

Check this out: Easy Indoor color Activities

Use color puzzles to practice colors

A great matching activity are color sorting activities using puzzles. These activities not only teach children colors but also encourage problem-solving skills, cause and effect, math skills, attention and focus, language skills, fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and cooperation.

Play with color matching puzzles that can be sorted by colors. Only use the red, yellow, blue, and green pieces first and continue with other color pieces as this skill gets mastered.

Using sorting worksheets sort each color item to its matching pair.  

Use color matching printables to practice colors

A great opportunity to work on matching colors is through worksheets. This allows your toddler to match the exact same color and item for a true matching exercise. You can use your toddler’s interest to make the activity more interested. 

If your toddler loves sharks like mine does, the shark worksheet is awesome! Does he/she love cars, trucks and other transportation equipment? Then follow their lead. 

When playing the matching game, always verbalize the color that your child is holding. If they are holding the yellow shark and are ready to match it with the yellow, say “yellow shark good job, that is the yellow shark, yellow and yellow” (as you point to teach shark)

Learn Colors Through Sorting Activities

If matching has become too easy, then color sorting is the next level up in learning colors. 

Provide a set of activities where you toddler can sort items by colors. Have a cup of each color and a few toys in a basket or tray and allow your toddler to put like -with-like. 

This activity is also a great activity to practice fine motor skills as they learn. 

You can get super creative setting up activities and sensory bins to work on sorting. Get the lesson plan book for a full list of ideas.

Parent tip: During sorting activities, ask your child “can you show me blue?” and allow him/her to point at the colors. Repeat with the rest of the colors. 

If they point out the wrong color, say “That is red. Can you show me blue” 

If they continue to show you the wrong color, stop asking and just continue to play the matching and sorting activities and verbalize the colors you are playing and touching as much as you can to continue the name association. 

Use Coloring Pages to Practice Colors

Provide coloring pages with black-and-white illustrations that are associated with that color. For example a yellow sun, a red apple, etc.  Ask your child to use crayons, markers, or colored pens.

Learn Colors through Art Activities

I love to take full weeks and focus on just one color. This means we would go on nature hunts to search for things that are that color, we will dress in clothing that has the selected color, we would include the color during snack time and we would do tons of activities related to that color. 

I love art, and even though at one and two years old, art is just process art and it’s job is to explore materials I love to involve paint activities and all types of art supplies to our learning week. 

Children are naturally curious and love to experiment with colors, materials, and textures. Make sure to provide safe, non-toxic art supplies such as markers, crayons, colored pencils, and brushes and encourage your child to draw and paint. Art activities not only teach colors but promote fine motor skills development, boost cognitive abilities, creativity, and imagination.

Different types of painting and a variety of coloring supplies like chalk, markers, or finger painting, will spur your child’s interest and spark their creativity.

When doing art, always name the color of the crayon or marker that you’re working with and encourage him/her to repeat it. Engage finger painting not only to teach your child colors but to enhance creativity and sensory skills as well.

Parent tip: If your toddler can match the colors correctly, can sort colors to its own, and can point to the correct color when asked, then you can now point to a color and ask “what is this color” and allow your toddler to correctly identify it. 

Offer playdough and other brightly colored craft and sensory materials such as squeeze bottles, pom-poms, water beads, kinetic sand, stickers, etc to create craft projects to practice each color. 

Introducing Secondary Colors

Once your toddler masters primary colors a fun activity to introduce new ones is with a mixing paint activity using washable paint.

  • Tape paper to table so pre-toddler doesn’t pick it up and makes a paint disaster
  • Choose two primary color paint (I used @crayola finger paint)
  • Place a few dabs of your first paint on the left side of the paper
  • Place paint #2 on the right side -let pre-toddler spread the paint and be amazed at the new color created
  • Clean up messy hands when done
  • Hang art project proudly

Last thoughts on learning colors

These activities are fun ways to teach colors to your toddler. Start with matching, then sorting, as you practice pointing and naming them. 

Remember to start with just a few colors, (primary color are best) and then move on to others until you complete the rainbow. 

Throughout all of the activities look for opportunities to teach children color recognition but also encourage them to practice fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination. All of the activities above work on helping improve their language development, and boost creativity and imagination, therefore nurturing all aspects of your child’s development.

teaching colors to a toddler with Pre-made Color Lesson Activities

Sometimes is easier when you have a complete package with all the lesson plan, activity ideas, printables, art projects etc. Start learning the colors at home.

I created the Play & Learn Color Bundle so you can start implementing all of these ideas at home

teaching colors to a toddler with the Color bundle:

  • Quick & Easy Activities
  • Coloring Pages
  • Matching Activities
  • and more…