One basic concept we take for granted each day is knowing the colours and shapes of the objects in the world around us. We might look at flowers in the street and say “gosh, those purple flowers are a delightful colour” or get frustrated with a partner/kids as we have spent so long teaching them how to press the right coloured button to change the TV to Netflix, but they just can’t seem to get it right!

Shapes and colours are basic concepts for many in the world around us, however without learning these when you are young, think about how hard life would be. This is why teaching both colours and shapes is essential for our expression, but also for the understanding of instructions that others around us provide. 

I’ve put together a list of some of my favourite games and activities for teaching colours. 

Modelling clay or playdough

Modelling clay or playdough are a great activity for requesting colours i.e., “can you pass me the blue please” while letting children’s imagination create whatever story they like. You could also target shapes by rolling the dough into varied shapes and seeing if your child will copy or using a SPLATMAT – these are sheets found on the internet which you can mold your dough into the shape to make the end object such as animals or various foods all based of basic shapes. You could also sneak some language building activities as well as teaching colours with simple expansions of what your child says. For example, they might say “I made a monster” and the adult could extend this by saying “yes, you made a big, red monster!” 

The colour game

This can be a 5–10-minute game that requires minimal preparation and has the beauty of being able to be played both inside or outside. The idea is you say a colour and then you and your child (or your child and siblings) rush to be the first to find an object of that colour – this may be anything from a shirt from the washing pile to an orange autumn leaf at the playground. Having it fun and a race keeps kids interested and this can often turn out to be a long-lasting game! 

Finger painting or regular painting 

Another activity that may let your child’s imagination run wild! They could create anything they like while you talk about the colours they are using or making. Shapes could also be incorporated into this activity either by parents talking about and modelling how to create various shapes, or doing dotted lines for your children to trace over as they gain confidence in drawing each shape. 

Pop up games or boardgames

Chances are if you have a kid you are bound to have at least one pop up or board game around. At the clinic, we love Pop Up Pirate and Pop the Pig because they are awesome for colour recognition. These games have many coloured parts, and you could say what colour you are getting as you play the game, group the objects by colours as you finish (i.e., “I got 3 red pieces and 4 blue pieces”), or even change the game and tell the other person which coloured object they should grab. For example, Pop the Pig has many small, coloured burgers that you ‘feed’ to the pig after rolling a dice this means kids have to be able to recognise colours that are the same and could also practice naming the colours. 

Ultimately there are 3 key things to remember when trying to teach kids new concepts such as colours. 

  • Repeat, repeat, repeat – the more you say and do things with colours the more likely the child will retain it. 
  • Make it fun –  kids learn from things that are fun! The more you can do things your child likes the more they are likely to learn – if you have a car obsessed child – trying to paint may not be the best option – so talk about the colours of cars instead! 
  • Modelling is equally as good as making the child say the target word. If you keep saying the targets your child will eventually also want to comment about what they are doing and may even surprise you by saying the colour. 

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