Colour is one of the first ways your preschooler makes distinctions among things she sees; Colour words are some of the first words she uses to describe these things. You have probably heard the pride in your child’s voice as she names the colours of the balloons at the store checkout, or her delight when she realizes that a banana and pear are different shades of yellow. Helping you fold the laundry, she may naturally start sorting the socks into piles of different colours while exclaiming, “Look what I did!” These are all perfect examples of how children (and adults!) use colour as a means for defining and organizing the world.

But there is much more to your child’s understanding of colour than “knowing his colours.” While it is important for him to know the names of the colours, it is just as important for him to know what to do with them. You can help by inviting him to notice many shades, hues, and tints. Make up names for these colours together, such as lemon yellow or apple red. You will be helping him use colour as a means for creative thinking and language. Invite him to use descriptive language as he tells you how one green is different from another.

Introduce your child to the world of shades and hues by giving her some paint swatches to explore. She can sort them into different colour piles, match similar colours, and create a sequence or “colour train” of hues from light to dark. Bring out the glue stick and she can cut and paste the colours to make monochromatic collages of yellows, reds, blues, etc.