When should I teach my children colors, and How?
Benefits of Mastering the Basic Skill of Colors
Whether or not we're even aware of it, we all use color to process information every day. Each color is used as a symbol to communicate important concepts like safety and alerts for potential hazards. A common example is when red means stop and look both ways, while yellow typically indicates a signal for a warning. In this sense, they can be used to teach a child safety while crossing the street, and this is also useful for later tasks such as driving.
Basic colors such as red, yellow, and blue are the best ones for parents to start out with. Assignment of a single, specific color to a tangible object using simple sentence structures is an excellent way to start. A color distinction can be easily taught to any child with short, simple sentences such as "The balloon is red," or "This is a yellow crayon."
The current research seems to support the hypothesis that children should learn colors as early as 18 months of age. But what it appears to miss are the different learning styles of each child. In fact, there is growing evidence to counter that school of thought, and parents are strongly urged to re-examine this theory, especially when it comes to a child who is on the autism spectrum.
There are ways to teach color identification to a child with autism using simple, fun learning techniques.
- Starting with a favorite color is helpful. For example, if the child's favorite color is red, you can have them go around the room and ask them to identify and pick all the objects that are red.
- Having color days could be a helpful way to get a child on the autism spectrum well and familiar with a specific color. For example, Mondays could be designated for yellow, while Tuesdays could be spent on red, and so on. Yellow Mondays can involve objects centered around the color yellow where a parent could have their child go around the room and collect all objects that are yellow.
- A method known as color sorting is another excellent way of teaching color concepts prior to object associations. A popular teaching technique involves the use of construction paper, where the parent can cut up different color pieces, mix them, then have the child identify matching color pieces and organize them into the same pile. Task instructions should be simple, such as "Match red with red, blue with blue, etc." Color separation and matching are an excellent modus operandi for learning color fluency at an early age and can show those on the spectrum an excellent way to start thinking creatively.
The third item to remember is that children on the autism spectrum may take longer to learn about colors than their peers. One simple suggestion is patience with your child as they struggle to understand what each color is. Avoid comparing your child to a peer or someone else, as they may feel disappointed in the process. Small rewards such as verbal praise will do wonders in making learning fun.