Why You Should Teach Your Toddler Shapes and Colors

by Amanda West

As babies grow into curious toddlers and preschoolers, it is a natural impulse for parents to begin teaching specific concepts throughout their daily routine.  Where do most parents start?  A majority of parents will begin by teaching their kids the basic shapes and colors.   

This is a perfect starting point, but have you ever given any thought as to why your kidsblocksneed to know this stuff? Here are five specific ways that children will use their knowledge of colors and shapes in their daily life.

1. Verbal Communication:  Kids can tell the difference between shapes at an early age, however they need us to teach them the names for each shape. Colors can be much more difficult for them to name consistently as there are hundreds of different shades of color that we all call “blue”.  Being patient with them during this process will help our children grasp this abstract vocabulary.

By giving kids this descriptive vocabulary we are providing them with an opportunity to communicate more effectively.  They will be able to express themselves better when they want the blue cup, NOT the red cup, helping to avoid a temper tantrum due to frustration. Also, they will be better equipped to understand more specific directions from others like, “The doll you are looking for is over by the green chair.”

2. Pre-math and logic skills: One obvious reason for learning about shapes is to practice geometry skills.  How does a preschooler use geometry skills in everyday life?  When a child is trying to figure out why his tower of blocks keeps tipping over or when another child is trying to fit all of the toys they can into her suitcase to go to grandma’ house they are making use of their geometry skills.  In completing these activities they are practicing how to use their geometric imagination, manipulating shapes in their minds.    
Sorting objects into groups that are alike is another important mathematical concept for preschoolers to learn. This is a precursor to many analytical and problem-solving skills children develop as they get older.  Once children learn about shapes and colors they have the ability to sort items based on these easy to recognize attributes.  

3. Pre-reading and writing skills:  Recognizing shapes is actually a pre-reading skill as letters are just more complicated shapes.  Children will apply the same skills that they used in recognizing circles and squares to recognizing and naming all of the letters as well as many of their first small words.  When they are first learning to read most kids will learn sight words based on their “shape”.  

Also, when children practice drawing each of the shapes, they are learning the components they will need to print letters.  The ability to draw circles prepares kids for writing b,c, d and p and triangles help with w,v and z.

4. Creative Expression: A majority of children love to express themselves through various forms of art.  Whether it is through coloring, painting or making creatures out of play-dough the knowledge of shape and color will help them to create what they imagine in their minds and give them a sense of self-confidence.  Also the use of color can be used to express feelings and emotions that young children may not have the words to describe.  The most common example of this is using the color red to express anger.

5. Perspective:  By showing kids that shapes not only exist in “cartoon” form on paper but as objects in everyday life they often gain a new perspective of their surroundings.  They no longer see the tiles on the bathroom floor as “the floor” but as fitting into another category as well: “squares”.  This new perspective on the world can be very exciting and rejuvenating for kids just as it is for adults when we discover a new outlook on life.  

There are many benefits to taking the time to teach your young children these seemingly simple concepts.  You are not simply preparing them for kindergarten, but building a base of knowledge that they will use for the rest of their life!

About The Author:

Amanda West is the founder of Colorful Concepts, a company that designs Educational Art for toddlers and preschoolers.  These sets of canvas artwork are designed to create beautiful and stimulating rooms for children, but also double as interactive and educational tool to teach shapes, numbers and the alphabet.  Visit to take a look at her designs.