When parents ask me for ways to teach colors to their toddler or preschooler, my first recommendation is to read books about colors. This list is a great place to start!
There are a million books about colors out there, but for this post I wanted to focus on the ones that are best for teaching colors. If you have a toddler or preschooler who can’t identify colors by name, try reading the books on this list!
When I began reading these to my little guy (2 years, 8 months), he knew no color names at all. Now, two months later, he knows almost all of them. All it took was reading and talking about a few of these books several times a week.
Books about Colors
Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr.
This classic book (first published in 1967) is still a favorite of toddlers and preschoolers everywhere. It’s extremely simple, with almost no plot, but young listeners love identifying the colorful animals and asking the same question… “Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?” It’s been called one of the top 100 picture books of all time.
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes, by Eric Litwin
My now first grader loved Pete the Cat as a toddler, and our youngest (currently age two), loves them as well. In this popular book, Pete’s white shoes change color as he walks through strawberries, blueberries, and mud. The pictures are bright, and the book has simple, repetitive text that kids can help you read.
As an adult, I find the book boring, but obviously my toddlers have loved it. And (mercifully) it’s a quick read, even if you read it twice.
Bear Sees Colors, by Karma Wilson
The team that brought us Bear Snores On also created this beautiful picture book that is not only fun to read, but is also great for teaching some of the basic colors (red, green, white, yellow, blue, and brown). My Two enjoyed the story, and my Four liked using the rhymes to predict which color word was coming next. Recommended!
The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse, by Eric Carle
In this book a young artist paints a variety of animals in bold, unrealistic colors. My Two enjoyed the bright pictures, and my Four got a kick out of the unusual colors for each animal – a blue horse, red crocodile, yellow cow, etc. I believe that Carle had a bigger purpose for this book – to teach young artists to use their imaginations – but it also works really well for identifying colors.
Lemons Are Not Red, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
The concept of this book was a little over my toddler’s head, but young preschoolers will enjoy it. On the opening spread (with a yellow background), it says “Lemons are not RED.” The right side of the page features a die cut with a red lemon poking through. Turn the page, and the die cut is now framing the yellow page. “Lemons are YELLOW. Apples are RED.” And so it goes. Definitely a unique approach to a color concept book!
Dog’s Colorful Day, by Emma Dodd
This is a fun book about a cheerful dog who runs into colors wherever he goes. A drop of jam falls on his back at breakfast, his tail dips into blue paint as he heads out the door, and he gets a brown chocolaty pat from a friendly boy. This is a sweet book that teaches both color names and basic counting.
Cat’s Colors, by Airlie Anderson
All of us loved this sweet, simple book about a gray cat who collects colors. The text is beautiful, but with only a sentence per page so that young listeners don’t get bored. “She looked at the green ceiling of leaves … She breathed in the red smell of the roses.” The surprise ending was fun, too. Recommended!
Red Is a Dragon, by Roseanne Thong
This is a beautiful book about a little girl who sees colors wherever she goes; I love that it introduces my kids to Asian culture. One complaint I have is that the “orange” crabs are most definitely red.
White Rabbit’s Color Book, by Alan Baker
A darling rabbit discovers tubs of paints and dips herself in each one. This simple book is great for teaching about both basic colors and color mixing. My Two asked for it often.
Mix It Up! by Herve Tullet
Both my Two and Four loved this brilliant, interactive book about color mixing. When I first read this book, my Two only knew one color by sight (yellow) – so the color mixing part was over his head. But he had so much fun following the artist’s simple instructions. Don’t miss it!
Mouse Paint, by Ellen Stoll Walsh
This is a very simple, yet highly engaging book. One day, three white mice discover three buckets of color. They assume that it is mouse paint, and after dipping themselves in the buckets we suddenly have a red, yellow, and blue mouse. The mice dance in puddles of paint, and we learn all about color mixing. My Four proclaimed the book “very cute.”
My Very First Book of Colors, by Eric Carle
This is a solid board book with split pages; kids can turn look at the color at the top and flip the bottom pictures until they find the corresponding one. Great concept!
Freight Train, by Donald Crews
This simple book has been popular for 40 years. The short text and vibrant pictures (red caboose, orange tank car, yellow hopper car, etc.) are perfect for teaching toddlers their colors.
Little Green Peas, by Keith Baker
I love that each page is very focused on a particular color (with the color word in giant block letters). This makes the book very effective for teaching colors to toddlers. Other strengths include simple rhyming text and fun, detailed illustrations of little green peas. Recommended!
Baby Bear Sees Blue, by Ashley Wolff
This is a sweet story about a baby bear and his mother exploring nature. While it’s a beautiful, engaging book, I don’t recommend it to introduce colors. My reason is that the featured color is often a very small part of the page. When your child is starting to recognize and name colors, this is a good next step. Challenge your child to find the small bit of red, brown, etc. on the page.
A Color of His Own, by Leo Lionni
Each animal has its own color – but what about the chameleon? He longs to have his own color, but his color changes wherever he goes. In the end, the chameleon learns that companionship is more important.
The deeper meaning of this story was miles above my 2-year-old’s head, but he loved naming the animals and their colors.
Looking for more ideas for teaching colors?
Check out this post!
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