How Colourblocks helps your child learn about colour
Jan 24, 2023
Colour is everywhere, and a major part of how we see the world — it floods our eyes almost every instant, helping us to make sense of our surroundings, understand information, experience beauty and enjoy and make art. It’s especially important to young children as they take in the world around them and get hands-on with colour themselves as young explorers, scientists, designers and artists.
Colourblocks is designed to open up the world of colour to young eyes and hands in a totally new way. It bridges from familiar traditional ideas about colour to modern colour teaching methods that give children both a solid foundation in how colour really works and a colour-first way into creativity and art.
The show carefully introduces one colour or colour idea at a time, and each episode is a springboard to further exploration and creativity. As soon as your child looks up from the show, they’ll see a world awash with many, many colours, and this is a great moment for a young Colour Explorer to discover for themselves how real colour works. And with coloured paints, pencils or craft materials, they can begin to use colour themselves to try out the ideas in the show and get to know colour really well in a hands-on way.
Recognising and naming colours
The first colour skill is to attach names to the colours you see all around you. The English language has eleven essential colour names: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, black, white, grey, brown and pink.
With these eleven names (and words such as dark, light, bright and dull), you can identify just about any shade of any colour, from a dark blue-green to a pale yellowy-orange.
Colourblocks introduces a starter set of the key main colours, each as a unique Colourblock with their own musical episode. Blue sings a relaxing song about sailing on a blue boat on the blue sea under a blue sky, while Yellow sings a happy song about rubber ducks, sunflowers and lemons.
Tip: Watch a colour song episode of Colourblocks, then go on a treasure hunt with your child for things that are (obviously) that colour, both of you saying the name of the thing and the colour out loud. Can you find any of the things in the episode — and what else can you find?
Each Colourblock will show you their favourite colour things: Red has a fire engine and a heart-shaped balloon, Green loves trees and befriends a family of frogs. These are the things that are very often associated with that colour.
Building up an understanding of common things that belong to each colour helps children to make sense of the colour in the world all around them. Some things are always one colour (stop signs!) and some can be any colour – and so Red also has a favourite pair of red wellies.
Tips: Point out colour things to your child and work out together whether they always belong to that colour (like strawberries) or can be any colour (like ribbons).
Watch the episode Silly Colours and have fun imagining silly colours for things: is brown or blue a silly colour for a dog?
Yellow is generally considered a bright, sunny and happy colour, and blue a cool, relaxing colour that evokes a clear, blue sky. These are deep-seated associations we carry about the character of each colour, and the Colourblocks’ personalities reflect them: Blue is cool and relaxed, and Yellow is sunny and happy.
In addition, colours are used to signal things: red means stop where green means go; red means hot where blue means cold; red is often used as a warning colour.
Tip: Point out colours that are used to signal things and investigate what they mean and why: traffic lights, water taps, road signs, fire engines, milk bottle tops, football (and goalie and referee) kits, Christmas colours and so on.
Make your mark
The Colourblocks colour things magically by touching them, but the best way for your child to get hands-on with colour is to grab some coloured paints, pencils or pens and make marks on paper. Colouring-in can be fun, and helps your child improve their pencil grip and fine motor skills. Be forgiving about colouring within the lines and the frustrations that can come with trying to draw. There are lots of colour-first ways into art that don’t involve drawing skills.
Tips: Take an old magazine with colourful photos and tear them into small pieces. Sort the pieces into different colours, choose your favourites and paste them onto paper to make a pattern, shape, picture or just an explosion of colour.
Put as many green toys or other small things as you can into a shoebox and take a photo. Then repeat for other colours.
Make a colourful open sandwich with tomatoes, orange and yellow peppers, lettuce and more colourful ingredients.
Mixing is one of the most exciting ways for a young child to experience colour. The Colourblocks discover that when two of them try to colour something at once, their colours mix to make a new colour. And when two Colourblocks bump into each other, their colours mix to make a new Colourblock: this is Colour Magic.
Traditionally, we start with red, yellow and blue and show how to mix them in pairs to make orange, green and purple — and much of art teaching is based on these principles. Colourblocks has an episode on each of these mixes and how they work.
Tips: It’s not essential to memorise how to mix each colour – it’s more important for your child to experiment with mixing and see what happens for themself.
Take some paints, coloured modelling clay or dough and let your child experiment with mixing colours together. Don’t expect perfect results: hands-on colour mixing involves trial and error (a bit more of one or other colour) to get the mix right, and real-world colour mixes are always a bit duller than the bright version of the mix colour — which is why paint sets include a range of bright colours. Instead of aiming for a ‘perfect' green, enjoy all the different yellows, blues and greens you can make. And experiment!
Watch one of the mixing episodes (Green Means Go, Red and Yellow Meet Orange and The Uncoloured Castle). Start with the first colour in the episode and make a mark, then mix in a small amount of the second colour and make another mark. Keep adding small amounts of the second colour and making marks and see how many different colours and variations you can make.
Colours side by side
Once children have met Colourblocks Red, Yellow, Green and Blue, we start to see them together, working side by side. This helps children to compare and contrast colours. When Red and Blue are both needed to colour a bright bird, it demonstrates the difference between them (and that some things are more than one colour). When they meet a chameleon who changes colour to disappear against different backgrounds, they see similarity and contrast. The Colourblocks learn how to sort things by colour and use colour to make patterns.
Colours have an order too. When the Colourblocks find a rainbow puzzle, they discover that they need to get into the right order to solve it.
Tips: Have fun sorting colours together. You could use small toys, buttons, pegs, socks, sweets or lots of different things. Which colours are the same or similar? Which ones are different? Can you separate the things into groups by colour? Or arrange them to make a pattern?
Take something that is all one colour. Can you put it in front of something that is the same colour, so that it is hiding in plain sight? A blue soft toy on a blue sofa, or a green bean in front of a house plant? Can you put it somewhere else so it is really easy to spot?
Go exploring for simple patterns and see how many colours you can spot in each pattern. Can you identify the main elements of the pattern that repeat – shapes, things, lines and colours?
Light and dark
In Colourblocks, we meet Black and White and they introduce us to light and dark colours — first by mixing to make Grey, then by adding to other colours to make them darker and lighter. This opens up a world of many more colours.
Tips: Pick a colour and make a collection of things that are that colour, putting them on a white surface or paper. Then sort them into bright, light (pale) and dark things.
Go on a hunt for light or dark coloured things, and name the things and the colours.
Try mixing (small amounts) of black or white paint or modelling clay into bright colours to make light and dark versions of the colour. Can you make them even lighter and darker?
Explore how closing the curtains, turning lights off and shadows make things darker, and big windows and sunny days make things brighter.
Take photos to record your colour exploring and soon you will have an attractive range of images that show off everything you’ve learned about colour together.
Colour vision deficiency (also known as colour blindness) affects 1 in 12 boys and 1 in 200 girls. There are several different types, but the most common types affect the ability to see red and/or green light, making several pairs of colours hard to distinguish.
Colourblocks is designed to help colour-blind children in these ways:
Every Colourblock has a different shape and personality so they are easier to tell apart if you can’t see their colour. (These shapes also help you to understand where each Colourblock fits in the natural order of colours.)
Their colours have been designed to be the brightest, purest version of that colour, and wherever possible, are silhouetted clearly against white.
Colourblocks say their colour name out loud when they colour things.
Every main Colourblock has their own episode where only that colour appears, and they show and name their favourite colour-things, helping children to make the key connections and remember what colour things are, even if they can’t always tell by sight.
Almost every colour-thing is named and its colour made clear when it first appears. The same colour things appear in later episodes alongside other colours, giving practice in identifying colours by context.
Wherever colour is key to understanding the story, we make sure it is made obvious in more than one way. For instance, red stop signs are a different shape from green go signs.
The show introduces one colour or colour idea at a time, before combining them – so each episode offers a good opportunity to see how your child manages with each colour, application of colour or context, identify any issues and offer specific support.
If your child is showing signs of not being able to tell colours apart, talk to them to find out more, and take a look at these BBC and other resources:
Watch this space for all the latest news on games, videos and activities! You can catch sneak peeks of the show on the Colourblocks channel on YouTube and download the Meet the Colourblocks app (available from Apple, Amazon and Google Play this week), with more apps coming soon.