Colours for children: learning the Montessori way

Today, I want to talk about « colours ». At around 18 months of age (this may be a little before or a little after depending on the rhythm of your child), the child is able to distinguish between different shades of colours. And the question arises: how to accompany your child in learning about colours? Here, I am sharing some tips and game activities that introduced my daughter to colours.

Coloured bottles

Coloured water bottles are a very playful approach to colours. I gave them to my daughter when she was around 8-9 months old. At this age, it was not a matter of teaching her the name of each colour but of discovering them by a sensory approach. And I can tell you that she did not need convincing! She spent a lot of time looking at those bottles, shaking them, observing the moving water, listening to the sound of the moving water as she shook them, watching the sun reflected inside. It has never been more uncomplicated to make such bottles! All you need is small bottles filled with water to which you incorporate some drops of food dyes (I got mine in the pastry department of Coop shop). Put some blue, yellow and red to obtain the primary colours. As for secondary colours, you have to make a perfect blend of red and yellow to obtain the orange colour; yellow and blue to get the green; blue and red to get the purple.

Pairing activity

When my daughter was 18 months old, I started to engage her in a new activity using the first Montessori colour box (link to the e-shop). The advantage of those single-colour tablets is that they are so simple that the child will not be distracted by anything else and will be able to focus only on colours. The first box contains 6 tablets, 3 pairs of 3 primary colours: blue, yellow and red.

How to show them to your child?
Using slow movements, take out the tablets one by one without any precise order, holding them by the white edges. Then, choose one tablet and move it closer to other tablets in order to compare them. After, compare the tablet to the one of the same colour and pair it up by placing the identical tablets side by side in front of the child. Repeat this action for the remaining tablets.

Put the colour pairs in a column, one under the other. Then, mix them up and encourage your child to put them in pairs on his/her own. Encourage repetition. Once your child’s interest is exhausted, put the material away in a box and ask the child to do the same the next time.

The first purpose of this activity is to develop the child’s perception and visual discernment but also understand subtle nuances of colour. Once this stage is acquired, you will be able to introduce the vocabulary related to the activity: blue, yellow, red, etc.

After several days of exercise, I set up a game to check whether my daughter had integrated the 3 basic colours. She had to show me the colour that I asked her in a singing manner. When she has successfully completed the task several days in a row, I introduced new colours in the same way: using the second Montessori colour box (link to the e-shop) which contains such colours as: violet, orange, green, brown, pink, black, white and gray.


Handcrafts are great ways to teach colours to children. They capture their attention and give opportunity to make new sensory discoveries. In parallel with the activity of pairing, my daughter enjoyed herself playing with: salt dough, modelling clay, finger paints (which can also serve as watercolours) and wax blocks (links to the e-shop). First, let your child visualise well the differences between colours and try to play with the modelling clay or do some painting with one colour. I told my daughter: “today, we paint in yellow”. The following time she was painting, I changed the colour she used for painting.


There are many books and picture books to learn colours. I advise you to start with really simple ones. It is paradoxical, but a good book on colours is not very colourful. When there are too many colours the child usually gets lost. Here are some books we have in our library and that I strongly recommend to you:

  • Balthazar and the colours of life and dreams too! by Marie-Hélène Place and Caroline Fontaine-Riquier (only a French edition available: Balthazar et les couleurs de la vie et des rêves aussi ! )
  • Colors by Xavier Deneux (French and English editions)
  • Mix it up by Hervé Tullet (French and English editions. French edition entitled “Couleurs”)
  • The Wolf who wanted to change his color by Orianne Lallemand and Eléonore Thuillier (French and English editions)

Before buying any book, go and have a look at your local library. For example, I have found the last two books from the above list at our local library. Subscription is free for children and I can borrow up to 25 books every month. Besides, it is really worth to take part in life of such cultural places.

Sorting activity

Sorting activities are widely used in Montessori pedagogy, including colour sorting. I used a game found on the blog Aladouce that you can download Here (link), and I must say that my daughter really enjoyed it. A valuable advice: at the beginning, do not give to your child all the colour boards at the same time. Start with three, for example, and increase the number as your child’s confidence increases. You can also use coloured sticks and put them in glass jars, which you have previously labelled with a colour sticker (matching colour activity).

Similarly, you can encourage your child to play trading games, which teach him/her how to classify objects by colour. This is the case for example of the Grapat sorting games that consist of categorising small rings by colour. There are two different games available in our e-shop:

the sorting game containing 6 bowls and 36 acorns


the sorting game containing 12 bowls and 6 coloured wooden balls

Thanks to all these games and activities, my daughter had known how to distinguish and recognise all basic colours by the time she was 22 months old. Now, it is time to order the third Montessori box! It will allow us to work on gradients and associated vocabulary: dark, light, etc. I’ll write a little post if you want.

That is it; I hope this article has given you enough ideas to accompany your child in learning colours. I like to say: remember that the child learns by manipulating, experimenting, by trial and error. Do not forget if he/she does not seem to be interested in the activity, do not insist: suggest doing it later. Become a child again during these moments and be a part of your child’s universe! This is the key to success!


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