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Color Exploration in the Preschool Years

Toddlers and preschoolers approach the world differently. Even though we tend to think of them as similar, they aren’t the same. Toddlers have an unconscious absorbent mind and walk through the world soaking up everything around them. Preschoolers have a conscious absorbent mind and are driven to manipulate and refine their understanding of their environment.


Gus is squarely in the preschool years now. He’s constantly challenging himself to refine, learn, and grow. When it comes to learning about colors, he no longer needs to know basics like “yellow” and “red” but has moved on to refining colors to things like “buttercup” and “rust.” He’s moving into a new relationship with colors seeing them as a spectrum with many shades.

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In order to support this exploration, I've made sure to have some opportunities in our environment for deeper exploration with colors. Since Gus does go to Montessori school, I want to be careful not to just duplicate traditional Montessori work (like the color tablets) at home. But, I look for opportunities to use these and similar materials for this type of exploration. Here are a few types of activities he has really enjoyed lately: 

Rainbow Order

Instead of simply sorting colors to similar colors, we've started to notice and sort things into rainbow order - that is in relation to other colors. I don't have any work out specifically working on this skill, but it's something we do naturally as he works and plays. So we put away our play silks in rainbow order, build rainbow cities with blocks or magnatiles. 

Playing Games 


Gus is also super into games that have a color sorting component. Matching colors in different shades seems to be really interesting for him. One of his favorites is this version of Go Fish. I love it because it has such rich language. It's not "purple" but "eggplant" and "lavender." Other color matching games he loves: 
These games will all be used for years to come. While right now he is focusing on the colors eventually the other components (logic, math, number sense) will all become more important. 

Hunting for Shades

Another fun work that has been on our shelves has been a color hunt matching work. Here I used (an old used) set of color tablets that we have. I matched them to pictures of flowers, but you could use pictures of anything. You could also match to a box of crayons, or paint samples, if you didn't have access to color tablets.


In this work, Gus looks at the picture and finds all the shades of the colors present. This work really helps him to discriminate between slight color differences even within color families. It's a fun challenge and easy to switch up by just changing the pictures.  

Mixing colors

Finally, we've been doing a lot of color mixing work! Play dough, paint, color mixing paddles, and light table play have all been popular here for seeing how colors are made. How do we get to all these wonderful shades we have been noticing around the world? 

And, that's it! It's been a fun shift in the preschool years to a new type of deeper learning about colors. It's always so fun to watch our kids go deeper with things we think they have mastered a long time ago. Yay for sensorial work! 

Has your preschooler been interested in colors? 

Montessori home. Here's a look at activity ideas for 4-year-olds that explore colors more deeply.


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