Welcome to the third month of “Count Down to Kindergarten,” the awareness program developed by the Rural Accelerator Initiative leadership team to help parents know what is expected of children entering kindergarten and to help the children be prepared for the transition to school.
The “Count Down to Kindergarten” focus skill for November is all about colors. When entering kindergarten, children need to be able to identify and name frequently seen colors such as red, blue, green, yellow, orange, purple, brown, black, gray, pink and white.
A child’s world is full of color! Learning to identify and name colors, however, is not as clear as black and white. Identifying and naming colors are much more difficult skills for a child than adults may think because it is normally the first abstract concept to which children are introduced.
Children can’t touch or hold a color; they can only relate to items that are a certain color. For example, a child cannot touch blue; he or she can only touch a blue block or hold a blue ball. Color is a characteristic that describes an object. (wikihow.com/teach-your-child-colors)
The fact that colors exist everywhere and in such great variety also makes this a difficult skill for children. There are dozens of shades of each basic color. Since Crayola invented crayons in 1903, for example, they have produced 746 named colors. Currently there are 120 named Crayola crayon colors, with 23 shades of red, 20 shades of green, 19 shades of blue, and multiple shades of other colors.
So, “purple” to one child may be “violet” or “plum” to another child. For this reason, identifying and naming colors are much more difficult skills for children than adults may expect.
Children love color, especially bright colors! And, they start paying attention to colors at an early age. Parents or caregivers can start introducing color when children are around 18 months old. However, most toddlers will not start to fully grasp the concept of colors until they are around three years old.
When introducing colors, it is best to take one color at a time. It is also helpful to start with the primary colors, red, blue, and yellow, and then move to other colors such as green, orange, purple, and others.
The focus of the learning should be the color itself. So, when possible, it is best to use similar objects of different colors. For example, use blocks that are the same size and shape, just different colors.
Do not use a green ball and a blue block. Clothing items are good items to use, such as different color socks or different color shirts. Using the same items but of different colors eliminates the need for children to have to identify two things, both the item and the color.
When introducing color, similar objects of different colors can be used for comparison. It is helpful for children to know what “red” looks like and to also know what it is not.
While it may not seem like a big deal, studies show that how colors are verbally introduced to children makes a difference. It is the color that you want to emphasize, and thus it should be isolated. Children will pay attention to the color more if it is presented as “this ball is blue” instead of “the blue ball.” Placing the color at the end of the statement helps the child focus on the color, not the object.
As with any skill, children learn best when parents/caregivers consider three things:
• The learning should be interactive between the adult and the child.
• The learning should be fun and included in the daily routine of the child.
• The more of the child’s senses that can be activated, the better! Plan activities that allow children to touch, feel, smell, and hear, in addition to just seeing colors.
The following are some fun ways to introduce and help children learn to identify and name colors:
Food – Talk about the color of food items during snacks and meals. For example, red tomatoes, orange carrots, green peas, yellow bananas, and other fruits and vegetables are just a few ways to focus on color. Using food items also allows children to engage all of their senses by touching, smelling, and tasting the food items of color. Food packaging is also bright and colorful to get our attention. Use the food packages to help children identify and name colors.
Clothes – Focus on identifying and naming colors with clothing items. Remember to start easy with solid colors and the same clothing items. Wash clothes, socks, and shirts can be good items to start with since you may have them in a variety of colors. Children can match items of similar color or select an item of a specific color. Let children select their clothing for the day by identifying the color of each item.
Crayons/Paint — Of course, a simple box of crayons and a coloring book are great ways to focus on color. With toddlers, start and focus on one color at a time to allow the child to develop an association between the color and its name. As more colors are introduced, focus on naming each color as it is used. Let the child name the color, ask the child to select a certain color, and let the child tell you a color to use. Similarly, finger paint is an excellent way (but a bit more messy) to reinforce color. Using paint also allows the child to “mix” colors and create new colors.
Bath Time – Bath toys are a fun time to talk about colors. While ducks, boats, sea animals, and other toys are often in the tub, foam letters are an inexpensive way to focus both on color and the alphabet. Color can be added to the bath water through soaps and bath bombs. Finger paint for the bath tub is also available. Kids love to play in the tub; make it even more fun with color!
Toys/Books — When playing, colors can easily be included with children naming the color of a toy. Reading with a child allows the parent/caregiver to include multiple skills. Children’s books almost always have bright, colorful illustrations. While listening and speaking skills may be the primary objective, the adult can include identifying and naming colors of objects in the illustrations.
Outdoors — Finally, take a walk to introduce and reinforce color! Color is everywhere in nature, and the outdoors certainly allows the child to engage all of his or her senses when experiencing color. At this time of year, children can touch green, yellow, red, orange, and brown leaves. They can look at the blue sky and white clouds, pick up a brown stick, and possibly see a gray squirrel. Play a game outdoors by seeing how many colors the child can find and name.
The key to teaching children to identify and name colors is to take it slow and be patient. The learning should be fun, not frustrating. Start with basic colors (red, blue, yellow) and add additional colors after the child fully understands the basics. Use what you have around the house; you do not need expensive items designed to teach kids about color. Finally, stimulate your young child’s brain with fun, interactive activities that allow him or her to use as many of his or her senses as possible.
The gross motor skill to practice for November is walking heel-to-toe. Children should be able to take five heel-to-toe steps forward and five heel-to-toe steps backward. Make this fun with music, singing, and counting.
The small muscle skill uses crayons. Let your child practice holding crayons to color pictures, draw pictures, and just have fun with color. It takes a lot of small muscles in the hand to hold a crayon or a pencil that are developed through repeated use. It takes time and practice to develop these muscles.
Always remember that ensuring a child is kindergarten ready is an on-going process that requires commitment, consistency, and engagement. During the month of November, parents/caregivers are asked to help their children learn to identify and name frequently seen colors and to practice the physical activities related to walking heel-to-toe both forward and backward, as well as using small muscles for holding a crayon. The development of all kindergarten readiness skills can be accomplished by adding fun practice into the daily routine of a child.