Reading Readiness: Colors and Shapes

Part 1: Basic Readiness for Reading

Part 2: Academic Readiness for Reading

Mormon Mother reading about Jesus with young children.Having taught your child to match concrete objects like toys or pictures, we’re now ready to introduce him to less clear objects. Shapes and colors are more complicated than toys or household items because there is so much variation. They’re not as seemingly useful to a child in his everyday life.

Begin with shapes because they have less variation than color. Choose three shapes to teach. I like to start with squares, circles, and triangles because they’re common and very different from each other.

Cut out five of each shape. Use card board, flannel, fuzzy cloth or anything else you’d like. Each piece should be identical in every way so the only thing to match is the shape. Your child isn’t ready yet to recognize that triangles are not always blue. First, he needs to learn the shape.

Set out a square and a circle. Put the other squares and circles in a mixed pile. Ask him to help you sort them by shape. Demonstrate by picking up a shape and talking about the process you use to sort. “Hmm…this shape has straight lines. It looks just like the one in this pile. This is a square, so it goes in the square pile.”

Remember, this is only a game and you don’t want to scold or act disappointed if he gets it wrong. Treat mistakes lightly. “Oops, I think this is a circle. Let’s move it to the circle pile.”

Add action by placing the shapes around the room, as you did with the animals, and letting him gather one shape at a time, sorting it as he finds it.

Beyond normal testing, play with the shapes you want your child to learn. If you have a pile of shapes, he can make designs or pictures with them. Give him a stack of colored paper shapes to glue onto paper. As he works, talk about the shapes. “You’re holding a triangle. Where are you going to put the triangle?”

If it’s winter, build snowmen with snow, paper, or foam balls. Talk about them as circles. A jack-o-lantern can teach about triangles. Houses, as drawn by children, have lots of squares, rectangles, and triangles.

Notice the shapes in your real world and point them out.

Once your child has mastered shapes, move on to colors. A fun way to introduce a new color is by holding color celebration days. Choose one color to introduce. Often a holiday-related color is easiest to do because there are so many things out in that color.

Let’s say you’re ready to do the color red and it’s almost Valentine’s Day. Slip into your child’s room while he’s asleep and decorate his room with red things—hearts and balloons, for instance. (If you use balloons, stay in the room until he awakens and remove the balloons when you need to leave. Children can choke on a popped balloon.)

When he wakes up, talk about the colors of the items you chose. Next, head out to the kitchen for oatmeal or pancakes with red food coloring, or strawberries, or something else that’s red. Dress in red clothing. Go for a walk and look for red items. Make red crafts. In other words, spend the whole day on that color.

Colors are tricky because they are lots of different shades and some shades cross over into other colors. A color day lets your child pay attention to just one color in a wide variety of shapes found in his world. You may not want to do this for every color, but it’s a good way to get started.

Be sure to talk about colors in your everyday life. Real-life experience with any concept is more effective and more natural than structured lessons.

Okay, we’re finally ready to teach the alphabet.

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