Our Autumn Term project is “Colours and Shapes”!
Do you ever wonder why we put so much emphasis in the preschool years on teaching colours and shapes? Why is this so important for young children?
So, let’s start by stating the fact that our world is literally made up of colours and shapes. That is what we see all around us!
A house has a different shape from a tree, which has a different shape from a person or a banana. And the cars, flowers, and street signs around us come in many different colours.
As it turns out, colours and shapes are a key way that we describe and categorise our world. Children will notice that a red flower is different from a yellow one, and that a round bread roll has a different shape than a square slice of bread.
Verbal communication: Teaching children about colours and shapes is a great way to give them some vocabulary for describing the world around them. This opens up new and exciting avenues for verbal communication.
Sorting and classifying: As children learn to identify colours and shapes, they can sort and classify objects around them based on these attributes.
Health and safety: Colours sometimes give us information about health and safety. For example, we use red in our culture to indicate ‘danger’ or ‘stop,’ such as with traffic lights and red stop signs.
Colours can also tell us about our health. If a person’s skin has blue marks, it may mean they have suffered a bruise. If a person’s skin turns red, they may have spent too much time in the sun.
Letters and numbers: The written symbols we use for letters and numbers are really just shapes. As children develop proficiency at learning shapes such as squares and circles, they are developing the classification and visual discrimination skills to distinguish between ‘k’ and ‘x’ or between ‘3’ and ‘6.’
Most children are unable to differentiate between colours until at least 18 months of age, which is also about the same time that they start to notice differences and similarities between textures, sizes, and shapes. However, it can take until age 3 before children can fully understand the difference between colours and name them.
Although naming colours is second nature to most adults, it is actually a cognitively complex task for young children. This is in part because the range of hues that count as a particular colour are not innate, nor are they universal among all cultures. In fact, different cultures and languages around the world vary in the number of distinct colours they recognize, from two colours to more than 20!
Teaching colours is best done through playful everyday life experiences. When developmentally ready, many children easily learn their colours as parents and nursery teachers point out the colour attributes of objects in the children’s environment (e.g., “Throw me the green ball” or “Do you want the red shirt or the yellow shirt?”).
You might also ask your child to match objects by colour. Or when doing artwork, make note of the colours they’ve chosen to use or ask them to name the colours in their drawing. Colour treasure hunts, where the children gather as many objects as they can find of a certain colour, are always extremely popular and work well indoors and outside.
It takes most children a few months longer to grasp the concept of shapes than to grasp the concept of colour. However, by age 3 most children have developed an understanding of shape and can name several of the most common geometric shapes (e.g., circle, square, triangle).
When teaching shapes, we start with the most common shapes; squares, triangles, circles, and rectangles, before introducing trickier shapes like diamonds/rhombuses, hexagons, and stars.
It is always best if shapes are looked at in organic ways, such as pointing out that a tyre is round like a circle, the television is shaped like a rectangle, and the slice of cheese they’re eating is shaped like a square.
We’re really looking forward to exploring the exciting world of colour and shapes with the children this term. This project is particularly well supported by a wide range of dedicated Montessori resources, sensorial play, arts and crafts, and incorporates a whole wealth of children’s songs, stories and rhymes. If your child has any favourite songs or books from home that are connected to our project, please do let us know.
Try to talk to your child about the different shapes and colours of objects you see together as you go about your day. You’ll be amazed at how quickly they start to recognise the shapes and colours they’ve learnt in other objects too.
So, to kick us off……we “heart” the Children’s House, and are looking forward to a bright and colourful term ahead!