Playful Learning: Colors

Does anyone remember the great dress debate of late February 2015?  Yeah, that rocked me to my core.  Because I know my colors, and I know that my husband is supposed to be the one that’s colorblind.  Yet, he saw blue and black, and I saw white and gold.  So how am I supposed to teach my daughter colors if I’m not sure she’s seeing what I’m seeing?

We’ve already had some arguments.

Ellis:  “Orange!”

Me:  “That’s red, honey.”

Ellis:  “No, orange!”

Replace the words orange and red in that conversation with the words black and blue, black and purple, blue and green, and repeat.  And the colors in Ellis’s Color Wonders collection are all variations of shades, so sometimes I’m like, “Is that red or is it orange?”  Teaching basic facts to a toddler is not as simple as it seems, and sometimes I concede to her.  “Okay, honey, it’s orange.”

We’ve been working on identifying and naming colors for a couple of months now.  The first color that stuck with Ellis was orange.  It is now her favorite color and the one she is most excited to point out and identify.  She can correctly name black, white, brown, orange, blue, pink, and peach.  Yes, I told her about peach once because I had no other name for that Color Wonder marker that came in her Hello Kitty pack.  It only took me telling her once to get it.  Now green, red, purple, and yellow on the other hand are works in progress.  She can correctly identify or pick out those colors most of the time, but she has a hard time naming them if we ask her.  I think part of it is that they are harder to say, but other than that, I’m stumped.  Trav and I joke that she is going to be able to identify colors like crimson and chartreuse before she gets red and yellow.  All the same, we’re working on it.

Of course, we color every day.  She has those triangle-shaped crayons, but they’re still easily breakable, and sometimes she sneaks away with one and uses it in a place she shouldn’t (read: the ceiling of my car, our love seat, the carpet?).  Crayon easily comes off walls and solid surfaces with a Magic Eraser, but fabric?  If someone can tell me how to get it out, I’d appreciate it.  Luckily, the blue she used on the loveseat blends well with the blue floral pattern, so it’s not easily noticeable.  That being said, crayons are often the enemy as are all writing tools, but I LOVE the Color Wonders markers from Crayola.  We still correct her if she tries to use them on anything but her coloring books, but it’s nice to not have to watch her like a hawk with them.


Coloring in a laundry basket because why not?


Read or Don’t:

Here are some great books to reinforce color identification:

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle

She didn’t like this book when she was younger, but now she can practically recite it, and often does when she’s playing or riding around in the back seat of the car.  In our copy, the blue horse is actually blue and purple, so that can be confusing, and again, makes me question my own sight. Also, she sounds super cute pronouncing teacher and children.

Pantone: Colors by Pantone

Yes, Pinterest says you can go to the hardware store, pick up some paint swatches, and create a book of colors for your toddler, but this is much better because someone’s already done it for you and better than you.  It’s cute, simple, and the size and way it lays flat makes it great for activities.  I picked my copy up from the library, but I’m thinking about buying a copy of our own.


Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh

A cute little story to teach primary and secondary colors.  Ellis requests this book at every story time.  I think the concept of mixing colors to create new ones is a little over her head, but she likes yelling out the colors the mice jump in and the color of puddles the mice make, and she gives a cute little hip shake when the mice dance in the puddles.

Mix It Up by Herve Tullet

This book is like magic to a 21 month old.  It’s interactive where you tap on dots, shake the book, squeeze it closed, and use your fingers to mix colors.  Basically, it’s finger painting without the mess.  Her favorite thing to do is place her hand on the page and count to five, though sometimes she only counts to three or four, depending on her mood.

Try or Don’t:

My attempt at a “learning activity” to teach Ellis yellow since she has a hard time identifying and naming it.  First, we went on a scavenger hunt to find items of Ellis’s that were yellow.  When I say we, I mean I went on a scavenger hunt and located the items.


Next, I pulled out some paper and let her color with her yellow marker and crayons.  Because it’s fun to draw with only one color, right?  We stepped it up and did some finger painting outside with the yellow paint.  She’s not a big fan of paint on her hands at this point.


I even put her in a yellow shirt!


This is what Ellis thought of my “learning activity.”

She still can’t name yellow.


Any other good ideas that have worked for teaching colors to your tots?  Share them with me in the comments below.


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