Colour is one of the most abstract and difficult concepts to learn.
Babies typically enter the one word utterances stage at 12-18 months which is the third stage of language. Over this time, they will learn approximately 50 words which they start to communicate with. A typical developing one year old understands 80 words and can say 10.
As they develop, they acquire more language, typically nouns - specifically objects they come across in everyday life that are continually reinforced.
Colour is an adjective - an attribute of the objects that your child is learning rather than the object itself.
Vision is our primary sense. We naturally place more emphasis on visual descriptors e.g. if we describe a dog, we will discuss its colour rather than the way it feels.
Help your baby to discover colour by starting to do basic colour activities:
Choose a coloured item such as peg dolls and see if your baby can put them onto the correct colour on a piece of paper. As you can see, I have used threading beads but it could be building blocks, ribbons, pens, anything at all!
Can they recognise that the object and the picture are the same shade?
Your baby doesn't need any understanding of colour in a wider sense to do this.
Put a red and blue towel down on the floor with bottle tops of corresponding bottle tops.
Can they sort them onto the towels?
You may need to model the activity first
This is a test of visual discrimination
Do they notice if you put a bottle top on the wrong towel? Do they switch it to the correct towel?
This is another visual test rather than a comprehension of the adjective but you are adding in another variable with the varied objects.
It's easier to distinguish the colour using vision rather than an attribute such as a texture e.g. rough vs smooth.
As humans, we place more value on recognition of colour than anything else which is an inevitable result due to human development i.e. green is more appealing than brown fruit and vegetables.
If a child is still accumulating nouns then it is difficult for them to understand colour as an abstract concept. It is difficult to differentiate between the noun and the colour label.
If we constantly name the colour of the blocks our baby is holding, they will most likely learn that a block is called blue rather than understanding it is a block which is blue.
Give the name of the object first then add the description. E.g. you've got a block. It's a blue block.
Adding the description is important as it will expose them to lots of rich and varied language without distracting from the name of the object.
Children will learn to identify colour by 18 months as they start to see similarities between shapes, sizes and colours. All of these are transferable which makes them more complicated to learn.
At around 2.5-3 years, they can start to name the colour and by the age of three, they should be able to name at least one colour.
The recommended age for teaching colour is 2 years and starting with the basic colours (red, yellow, green, blue) is advisable. Make sure they are nice and bright!
At Baby Drama, we have a colour themed topic each half term. We explore the emotions linked to that colour and the relevant associations of that colour. We place the colour into a wider context of experiences and culture whilst having lots of fun!