Bright, bold, subtle, muted. Whatever they may be, they play a significant role in life and especially in children’s development.

We all have our favourite colour, which may seem trivial, but actually extends from a moment in our life when that colour had a true impact upon us. All over the world and for centuries, colour has been used in cultures and story telling to evoke emotion, express feelings and convey meaning. Colour is a unifying presence that helps us to connect with our surroundings.

Bright, powerful colours are seen in the flowers, nature, houses, and dress of the Pacific Islands. Intense colours are found in the marine and land environments of island ecosystems, from the coral reefs to the vibrant hibiscus flowers.

China has 8 elements of colours each symbolising different meanings, such as the most popular colour, red, which symbolises luck, joy, celebration and happiness.

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Maori culture utilises red, black, and white. These colours represent “potential being”, “coming into being” and “the realm of being and light”.

Maori symbolism in colour

Understanding colour is key for children as part of their learning in all areas of life. Colour can be interpreted in so many ways:

  • Orange – Warm, Comforting, Cozy, Welcoming, Inspires Interpersonal Conversation, Friendly 
  • Yellow – Lively, Energetic, Cheerful, Promotes Concentration and Emotive Thoughts 
  • Green – Calming, Refreshing, Nurturing, Promotes Calmness of Thinking and Concentration 
  • Blue – Healing, Subtle, Calming, Cooling, Increases Productivity 
  • Purple – Dignified, Mysterious, Luxurious, Regal, Calming, Serene 
  • White – Clean, Pure, Innocent, Angelic 
  • Pink –Romantic, Loving, Feminine, Calming
  • Gray – Introspective, Intuitive, Emotional, Inspires Contemplation 
  • Brown – Earthy, Grounded 
  • Black – Authoritative, Powerful, Strong 
  • Red – Passion, Excitement, Emotional, Attracts Attention, Lucky 

the colours listed

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So how does colour impact on learning for children in preschool or kindergarten?

Smith System notes that “for older children, classrooms are a place of learning and therefore should not be over-stimulated by colour. However, the one exception to colour in the classroom is with younger children, who unlike older children, thrive in a bright-coloured environment.” Bright colours “can also be used to help children understand how certain areas of a room are used.”

In an article written by Julie Barrett (Excellence in Public Education Facilities: The Color of Learning, 2008), the following is documented:

  • “Colour may be used to give “cues” to the brain, about where to find information or an object in the classroom.”
  • The use of black and white as a colour scheme may lower IQ or make children more “dull”.
  • According to Rose H. Alschuler and La Berta Weiss Hattwick, authors of Painting and Personality (1947), “Small children have a natural preference for ‘luminous’ colours such as red, orange, yellow and pink.”
  • Both red and orange are useful for alerting children to specific points of knowledge or new concepts.
  • Colours help children to express themselves.”

Brain Based Biz noted that “A recent study examined differences in peoples’ recall of words and memory for colours. Results show that people recall colour to a higher degree. When people were asked to recall objects versus colour, colour memory was significantly greater.”

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Therefore, overall we find that colours are significant in the development of children and how they interact with their surroundings. They are more likely to recognise and remember a learning moment when there is colour there to additionally associate to the experience. Colours still continue to play an important part in life.