Child’s age: 1.5 – 2.5 years old
Children love boxes, everybody knows it. And they love small objects – it’s even described in Montessori method as a “sensitive period for small objects” (circa in age 1.5-2.5 years old). Also this is the age when toddlers learn color names. My conclusion was obvious – let’s make a color matching box for our younger son.
All you need for color box is:
* a shadow box with 9 compartments (you can also use smaller or bigger one, see my notes below)
* paints: red, blue, yellow, white and black
* a collection of small objects found around your house
I wanted to include 9 colors: all primary and secondary colors (red, blue, yellow, green, violet, orange), brown (the mixture of all primary colors), white and black, that’s why I needed a shadow box with 9 compartments.
You can also make different versions with:
* only 4 colors (red, blue, yellow and green),
* 6 colors (primary and secondary colors)
* or even 12 colors – adding for example pink, grey and sky blue to 9-colors version which I made.
It all depends on your child’s age and objects you can find around your house.
One important note about colors: I recommend using rather light color versions of blue (like sky blue), green, violet and brown for a few reasons:
* lighter colors are easier to discriminate than darker ones
* in a shadow box colors will appear darker
* most of the small objects I found at home are of ligher shade than “model colors” and it may confuse your child a litlle.
That’s why I’ll probably repaint our box (at least blue and green compartments) in a spare time.
Order of colors:
What I found is important is the order of colors in the box. You should put similar colors near each other (like orange between yellow and red), it will help your child examine them exactly during color-matching game. I found my son has difficulties in discriminating orange from brown, red or yellow and violet from blue. That’s why I should put brown compartment in the middle of the box near orange (instead of white, which is easy to discriminate). Here is the right order (I believe) for 9-compartment box:
Box and compartments’ size:
Compartments in our box are 3” x 4.3” (8 cm x 11 cm) and 1.5” (4 cm) deep which means if you put 2-3 objects in each they are nicely layed out and do not feel “crowded”. If you want to, you can pack up to 5-7 small objects in each compartment of this size. But it also means the total size of our box is 10” x 14” (26 cm x 35 cm) which is big for little hands. I didn’t think of this issue before and next time I would rather buy smaller box with smaller compartments.
How to make a color box:
As you can guess it’s easy, easy enough to make by older sibling (in fact this box was painted by my 4 years old son). I just mixed paints, drew dividers and made spots of colors on each rectangle so he would know what color he should use.
I used small objects with bold and obvious colors found around our house. If you have problem finding any color try to look for bottle nuts, crayons, blocks, playdough nuts, colorful adhesive tapes, marker nuts or clothes pins.
It’s enough to have 2-3 objects of each color, more objects at once may be distracting. If you have more, just store it somewhere and rotate to keep game fresh and engaging.
How do we play:
At first I gave M. one object and asked to put in the right compartment, he caught the idea of matching objects and compartments immediately. If he put object in wrong compartment I asked for example “Is it orange?”, then he usually revised and matched properly at the second time. Later I gave him another box containing 1 object of each color to sort, then 2 objects. It is important to give children time to revise – I often observe M. putting something in a wrong compartment, then putting another thing (proper) in the same compartment and comparing… Then he usually see there is something wrong, takes out the wrong object and looks for the right place for it. When the color box is full I ask him to give me object of specific color (e.g. “Could you give me something red?”). When I know he recognise the color I can ask “What’s the color of this …?”.