among about a thousand other things, arty is currently in the midst of learning about colours (gosh, being a toddler is busy!). he knows how to say most of the basic colour names, and is just beginning to match them up reliably with examples. we’re doing our best to help him, usually by describing the colours of different objects that he shows an interest in, and by talking about colours while we paint and draw, but i thought it would be fun to play another sort of game with colours. this one occurred to me last night as i was lying in bed, and we gave it a go today…

what you’ll need:

red, yellow, and blue paint
a paintbrush
three pieces of paper
several red, yellow, and blue objects (i used large wooden beads because we had them to hand, but you could use pegs, blocks, spoons, or even fruit, vegetables, or flowers from the garden)

what to do:

  • on one piece of paper, paint a large red circle
  • on the next paint a large blue circle
  • on the last piece, paint a large yellow circle
  • allow them to dry
  • lay the pieces of paper out on a table that is an appropriate height for your child to stand at
  • present them with the different coloured objects you have selected, and help them place each one on the circle of the corresponding colour


  • model the activity for your child before you ask them to begin. as this is an activity for young children who are still getting a grip on language, being shown what to do is going to be more effective than being told.
  • remember that it’s a good thing if your child doesn’t execute this task perfectly the first time around (arty certainly didn’t!) – if they do it’s not helping them learn anything. repetition and gentle guidance will help them make the associations they need to.
  • once they’ve got the hang of primary colours, start introducing green, purple, orange and pink. using a familiar task to integrate new knowledge is a really effective way to learn.
  • make sure you are cautious in your choice of objects, and beware of choking hazards.
  • if you’re parenting a toddler, you don’t need me to tell you about the limits of their attention span – don’t stress if they wander on and off task. while we were having a go this afternoon, arty decided that he wanted to stack the beads instead of sorting them, and that was also plenty of fun
as i was loading these photos onto my laptop this evening, arty sat beside me, pointed to the beads on the screen, and said, “red! yellow! blue!” so it’s clearly made some impression. we’ll keep playing, and he’ll have mastered them all in no time.

p.s. here’s a colour sorting game for preschoolers, and here’s one where kids sort coloured pompoms through tubes – fun!