The colors of the rainbow are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

How to Help Preschoolers Understand Rainbow Colors Through Play

by Carolyn Robbins

What seems like a simple task to adults -- identifying the colors of the rainbow -- is quite a challenge to children according the Melodie Dye, researcher at the Cognition, Language & Learning Lab at Stanford University. Naming colors can be difficult for kids because of the flexibility of color categories. For instance, maroon and pink might both be considered shades of red. Help your preschooler sort through the complexity of color with simple matching and sorting games.

Trace the bottom of a cereal bowl onto seven sheets of construction paper -- one for each color of the rainbow. Cut out the circles and tape them to the inside of seven identical bowls. Collect a box of colored toys and other household items such as cars, blocks, plastic spoons and cookie cutters. Instruct your child to sort the objects by color into the appropriate bowls. To reinforce the rainbow concept, place the bowls in an arc on the floor from red to violet.

Color each side of a seven-sided dice with all the colors of the rainbow. Use permanent marker so that the colors won't smear. Place colored construction paper on the floor. Roll the dice and instruct your child to stand on the matching color sheet of paper.

Play with food. Have your child name each color on her plate at lunch time. Put out plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and encourage her to "eat a rainbow." Dish up a bowl of plain yogurt and instruct your child to mix in a tablespoon of strawberry or grape preserves to make pink and purple.

Go for a walk. Ask your preschooler to point out outdoor objects that match her clothing. For instance, if she is wearing a green shirt, she might identify leaves, grass and a car.

Fill seven containers with a few inches of sand and place the containers around the backyard. Tie colored ribbons around the top of dowel rods, and plant the rods in the containers. Call out the name of a color and instruct your child to race to the right container. Increase the challenge by omitting the name of the color. For instance, you might instruct your child to run to the ribbon that is the same color as a fire engine. Once your child reaches the red ribbon, have her call out the color name.

Items you will need

  • Bowls
  • Construction paper
  • Containers
  • Dice
  • Dowels
  • Ribbons
  • Sand
  • Scissors


  • Consult the pediatrician if you suspect that your preschooler is colorblind.

About the Author

Carolyn Robbins began writing in 2006. Her work appears on various websites and covers various topics including neuroscience, physiology, nutrition and fitness. Robbins graduated with a bachelor of science degree in biology and theology from Saint Vincent College.

Photo Credits

  • Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images