When should I focus on colors?

The other day my friend said, “I know you don’t like parents working on colors, but when SHOULD I work on colors. I know I need to some time.”  I told her to follow her child’s lead.

I remembered when my daughter and I were getting out a bib for meal time. She always said, “Bib,” as we grabbed one out of the basket, but one day she said, “Blue bib.” I was so surprised. She was actually right.

Many times after that when she named a color, she was completely wrong, BUT she was beginning to show an interest in colors. Why did this happen at that particular time and all of the sudden? Because she was ready.

She was solidly at the two-word phrase level of development. That meant that she was ready to put a word in front of the word “bib”, which she already knew very well. She could begin to differentiate between the different bibs, and did so by color. There lies the crux of my waiting to focus on colors argument. Colors are adjectives. They modify nouns. Your child needs to know a variety of nouns and understand each noun and its properties well, before they can begin to focus on that noun’s attributes.

So, to sum it up. You can work on colors when your child is beginning to put words together to form phrases, but not before. AND you are always going to help your child fill pages and learn new concepts more easily if you focus on what your CHILD is interested in and motivated by naturally and intrinsically.

That’s when you can work on colors.

Do you think your child is ready to work on colors? How did he let you know he was interested?

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11 Responses
  1. Bethany says:

    How did your child know that blue was even a word?

    • Kim says:

      Great question! I’ve wondered that myself. My best guess is that she’s picked it up based on conversations between my husband and I, where we use colors to distinguish one thing from the next. That’s the exciting thing about language, when your child is ready and primed for a concept, it will click!

      • Bethany says:

        Thanks for your reply! My child isn’t ready to start learning colors but I was still wondering if I could casually play around with colors just so he can here them. He knows the word “ball” but doesn’t say it. Is it hindering him if I say “blue ball” or “red ball”?

        • Kim says:

          Bethany, you have no idea how much I love your questions! I love talking about language, obviously, and this is so much fun for me!

          So, to the “blue ball”, I would say I wouldn’t go there yet. Did you read my post on Talk Less, Talk Smart (http://thelittlestories.com/2011/11/04/talk-less-talk-smart/)? In that post I explain how it’s important to stay in a child’s ZPD (or Zone of Proximal Development), which is one step above where they are now. So if you’re child isn’t saying “ball” yet I wouldn’t go into two-word phrases just yet. If he’s motivated and interested in balls I would work on filling the page for the word ball first. I think your child will hear colors naturally through interactions like Kristy describes below. For example, once he is saying ball and other single words consistently, you may be playing with a ball pound or drop toy and a ball rolls away. You’d say something like, “Uh, oh. Red ball,” and point to the red ball that rolled away. At that stage he’d be more ready to actually “hear” the “red” part of that phrase because he already solidly knows “ball”. Is that helpful?

          • Bethany says:

            Yes, it is very helpful! I wouldn’t want to rush it until he’s ready. Thanks for all the info!

      • Wendy says:

        I suspect you were using color words with her already and hadn’t been thinking about it. People who talk to their children a lot help them build vocabulary.

  2. Kristy says:

    I have never really thought about working on colors, it has sort of happened naturally for us. My daughter likes for me to to color with her, so sometimes I’ll just ask, “may I have the blue crayon, etc” and I think she just picked it up. Now she identifies colors all the time. Sometimes she’s right, and when she’s wrong I’ll correct her, but also try to show her the color she thought it was so she knows the difference.

    • Kim says:

      Fantastic! I love this natural example. It’s really how it works best!

      One thing to keep in mind, you’re daughter may be ready for “May I have the blue crayon?” and if she is that’s great, but if not don’t forget ZPD. If she’s not ready for those longer questions (meaning she may understand them but is not yet saying 5 word sentences, 1 word below what you said) you can also say, “Purple crayon please” or “Mommy wants purple please”. Sometimes you have to get creative to think of ways to stay in that ZPD and still be polite. Although, if I have to make a choice in early language I choose staying in ZPD over pleases, thank yous, and may Is. :)

  3. I don’t think we have ever “worked” on colour whilst he was learning words he suddenly started saying colours and wanted to investigate them further. Looking back I think it was to do with painting he would point to paint and I would say “You would like the Blue paint, or red paint” and he soon was copying what I was saying and saying back to me “I want red paint”. He’s now almost 2 and a half and knows his main colours and is starting to investigate and explore how colours are made and add light and dark to the colour names as well. I find language development really interesting and it also amazes me how J and T can be so different in this as in many other ways.
    Cerys @ Rainy Day Mum recently posted..Baby Play – MusicMy Profile

    • Kim says:

      Hi, Cerys. I LOVE Rainy Day Mum and so excited to see you here at Little Stories! I think you said my point exactly, and probably better, when you said, “whilst he was learning words he suddenly started saying colours and wanted to investigate them further”. Besides the fact I love the use of the word whilst, you highlight the key point that YOUR SON was leading the way and you were ENGAGED in a FUN activity. I love it! Thanks for sharing.

      Oh, and how wonderful that at 2 he is experimenting with shades of colors! A budding artist on your hands?
      Kim recently posted..What’s So Great About Pretend Play Anyway?My Profile

  4. Very informative post!! I can’t remember teaching my daughter about colors, but she knew pretty early. But now that she is 4 1/2, I realized that learning about colors is more than just naming the colors. She needed hands on experiences to learn about the art and science behind colors.
    Rebekah @ The Golden Gleam recently posted..Papa Plays – Coin SortingMy Profile