Learning how to read depends heavily on a child’s background knowledge. Also called schema, prior knowledge, or just plain experience; basically it’s what happens when children make connections to what they are reading. This greatly increases their reading comprehension. Reading isn’t just sounding out letters on a page, it is finding meaning in written words. By teaching children numbers, colors, and shapes, it will give them the basic vocabulary to start understanding written text. I have chosen to focus my initial vocabulary development on these categories because they are EVERYWHERE in a child’s environment.
Age to Start
The ideal time to start teaching children about numbers, colors, and shapes is between 8-12 months of age. At this time, the neurons in their brains are exploding with growth! If you’re following my program, I recommend starting with the ABCs first, then introduce memorizing words, and when you feel like your child is ready (don’t overwhelm him or her), start adding numbers, colors, and shapes one at a time.
How to Teach
The way something becomes committed to long term memory is consistent repetition over a long period of time. The reason I love starting to teach my children how to read when they are super young is that it really doesn’t take much effort at all. By spending a few minutes here and there throughout the day teaching your child about numbers, colors, and shapes, after about 6-8 months, they should know them really well.
I like keeping several sets of my flashcards around the house and incorporate them into my daily routines. When my little ones start eating solid food, I find that this is a great time to watch videos and do flashcards. I love using the videos on KidsTV123 and Busy Beavers to teach numbers, colors, and shapes. I also link to several other resources at the end of this article that will make teaching fun and easy.
I have hand drawn and digitized each of these resources to specifically fit the needs of my own children. Someday, I would like to create a “Teach Your Child to Read Kit” that will bundle everything together in one package, but for now, I want to get this information and these resources out there. Please feel free to print as many copies as you would like for your own personal use.
If you are going to be making these, I highly recommend getting the following supplies:
- Printer – A good basic printer like this will do the job, but if you’re going to be doing a lot of printing, I would recommend something like this.
- Card Stock – I like to make sure I always have plenty of this around for all of my flashcards, posters, and other needs.
- Laminator – I have a basic laminator like this, and it works great for all types of paper and projects.
- Laminating Sheets – I like buying this big pack because it’s good to have plenty of laminating sheets for flashcards, posters, art projects, and more.
- Three Hole Punch – This hole punch is really sturdy and can handle a whole stack of paper.
- 1/4 Inch Rings – When making flashcards, I have found it’s best to use two rings on top to keep everything organized and easy to flip through, and this size is best.
- Long Arm Stapler – This is for making the books. You will love having a long arm stapler for a variety of reasons.
- Premium Paper – I recommend using this paper for making the books. The paper is a little thicker and smoother.
To Make the Flashcards
- Print – Select “Print on Both Sides” and “Flip sheets on short edge” to print. Print on card stock.
- Cut – Use a paper cutter to cut in half horizontally and vertically.
- Laminate – Arrange four cut out pieces into the laminate pouch. Make sure there is a bigger space between the cards in the middle since it will need to be cut horizontally and vertically again. (If you don’t leave extra laminate around all sides, it will peel.)
- Cut Again – If you stayed pretty consistent with the positions of the cards in the laminate, you should be able to cut a big stack of them at once.
- Assemble – Put them together in order.
- Hole Punch – I like to angle each corner into the three hole punch and can do several cards at once with a heavy duty hole puncher. Put two holes on top in the corners.
- Rings – I like using the 1/4″ rings.
To Make the Books
- Print – Select “Print on Both Sides” and “Flip sheets on short edge” to print. Print on premium paper.
- Cut – Cut in half horizontally on the dotted line.
- Assemble – Put the top half that you cut on top of the bottom half.
- Staple – Use a long arm stapler to staple three times on top of the dark dashes.
- Fold – I find it’s best to fold and crease each page open so that it will stay open when you lay it flat.
To Make the Posters
- Print – Print on card stock. *You can also bring a digital version into a print store like Kinkos and they can enlarge it to a poster size.
- Laminate – Laminating this will ensure that it will last for a long time, but you don’t have to.
Learning that one object represents one thing (one to one principal) is the KEY to understanding all future math. When using these flashcards, practice pointing to each object as you count them.
1. Numbers Flashcards
These numbers flashcards only go to ten, but I HIGHLY recommend continuously adding on to that. Once children reach 10, go to 20, then 100. Have them practice counting by 10s and talking about even and odd as well. This will help them to really excel in math as they get older.
Get a PDF of the flashcards here: Numbers Flashcards Single Set
2. Numbers Book
This Numbers Book has the same numbers and pictures as the Numbers Flashcards but in a different format. I like this book format because it’s a little easier to assemble than the flashcards and introduces children to the principles of reading a book.
Get a PDF of the book here: Numbers Printable Book
3. Numbers Poster
This Numbers Poster combines all of my Numbers Flashcards onto one page. I like laminating this and putting it on the wall in multiple locations, using it as a placement, bringing it with us in the car, and really anything that will encourage repeated exposure.
Get a PDF of the poster here: Numbers Poster
Learning about shapes lays the foundation for geometry. First, children should learn the names of the shapes and then they can learn about their attributes. Once children are familiar with the names of the shapes, you can start talking about their attributes by asking questions like: How many sides does this shape have? Are all of the sides equal in length? How many corners (vertices) are there? Are the sides across from each other going the same way (parallel)? Do you see any right angles? The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives is a great resource for young children who are ready to learn more. Just check out their geometry section.
1. Shapes Flashcards
These shapes flashcards cover the basic shapes that children will encounter at a young age. Yes, there are sooooooo many more shapes to learn, and you should talk to your child about those once they master these, but these shapes are a GREAT place to start.
Get a PDF of the flashcards here: Shapes Flashcards Single Set
2. Shapes Book
This Shapes Book has the same information as the Shapes Flashcards, just in a different format. I like this book format because it’s a little easier to assemble than the flashcards and introduces children to the principles of reading a book.
Get a PDF of the book here: Numbers Printable Book
3. Shapes Poster
This Shapes Poster combines all of my Shapes Flashcards onto one page. I like laminating this and putting it on the wall in multiple locations, using it as a placement, bringing it with us in the car, and really anything that will encourage repeated exposure.
Get a PDF of the poster here: Shapes Poster
Colors are a very easy attribute that children can readily recognize. As children are developing their vocabulary, describing the colors of things is a very easy thing for them to do that will build their confidence in language development. When children are familiar with the color words, start asking them what things are that color. “What things are red?” When children are holding an object, ask them what color it is. If they don’t know or say the wrong thing, tell them right away what it is.
1. Colors Flashcards
These color flashcards cover the basic colors that children will encounter in their environment. Once your child has mastered these colors, I definitely recommend teaching more. Using crayon labels is a great way to learn the names of more colors!
Get a PDF of the poster here: Colors Flashcards Single Set
2. Colors Book
This Colors Book has the same information as the Colors Flashcards, just in a different format. I like this book format because it’s a little easier to assemble than the flashcards and introduces children to the principles of reading a book.
Get a PDF of the book here: Colors Printable Book
3. Colors Poster
This Colors Poster combines all of my Colors Flashcards onto one page. I like laminating this and putting it on the wall in multiple locations, using it as a placement, bringing it with us in the car, and really anything that will encourage repeated exposure.
Get a PDF of the poster here: Colors Poster
Most of these resources are things I have used and loved with my own children, but I did have to throw in a few other things that are on my wish list.
- Meet the Numbers – This DVD is absolutely AMAZING at helping children to learn numbers. The images are simple, engaging, effective, and will hold your little one’s attention.
- Ten Little Ladybugs – The raised ladybugs and the holes in the pages make it irresistible for little fingers. The rhyming text makes it very predictable to say the next number
- First Numbers – Of all the number books we have in the house, this has been a favorite with every single one of our children. I love how it uses interesting images for each number and how it also shows larger numbers like 20, 50, and 100.
- Magnetic Numbers – These magnetic numbers are a great way to teach numbers using a hands on resource. You’ll want a magnetic white board or some muffin tins with these.
- 1-100 Numbers Poster – My kids LOVE this poster! It’s a great tool to teach children numbers up to 100. Make sure to hang it at their eye level.
- Counting Car – This counting car from Lakeshore Learning is a GREAT way to teach children how to count.
- Number Robots – This is for more for an older child, and is a great resource for reinforcing number with transforming robots.
- Number Peg Boards – Peg boards are super fun as is, and these peg boards are a great way to learn about numbers and counting.
- Meet the Shapes – This DVD is absolutely AMAZING at helping children to learn colors. The images are simple, engaging, effective, and will hold your little ones attention.
- Shape by Shape – This book uses die-cut shapes to teach basic shapes like a triangle, crescent, semicircle, oval, and diamond by posing a simple question, “Do you know who I am?” Each page is vibrant with a minimal amount of text that allows the focus to be on the shape.
- My Very First Book of Shapes (by Eric Carl) – This book uses Eric Carl’s chunky painting style to teach shapes if a very bright and colorful way.
- Shape Sorting Center – Children can sort real life examples of shapes on to these shape sorting mats.
- Pattern Blocks – Not only will children love playing with these shapes making beautiful patterns, but they will learn about shapes and their attributes through play.
- 3-D Geometric Shapes Tub – These colorful solid plastic shapes are a fun hands-on way for children to learn about 3-D shapes.
- Meet the Colors – This DVD is absolutely AMAZING at helping children to learn colors. The images are simple, engaging, effective, and will hold your little ones attention.
- Flaptastic Colors – This is the type of book you’ll want to have multiple copies of around the house! It is great for teaching little ones about colors and the interactive nature and extensive examples make it very engaging.
- Curious Kittens: A Colors Book – The yarn that runs across each page is a true delight for babies to play with and a great way to learn colors.
- My First Sorting Bears – Children can sort these cute little bears onto the color mats. I’m sure that children will like playing imagination games with these critters too!
- Color Discovery Boxes – These color boxes come with a bunch of really cool objects that can be sorted by color.
I LOVE Usborne books! The pages are super durable, the stories are interesting, the vocabulary development is phenomenal, and the people and Usborne GET reading. They know that children should start young…I’m talking babies…and provide PLENTY of resources to get your little ones interested in reading.
- Learn Numbers with Little Red Penguin – Little ones will love this cute board book where they lift the flaps to learn about numbers 1-10.
- 123 Counting – Designed for babies, this fold out/stand up book has high-contrast black and white images and patterns that are easily recognizable for babies.
- Usborne Very First 1 2 3 – This book only goes up to number five, but is a great introduction for little ones to numbers.
- Count to 100 – I LOVE this book! Teaching children to count to 10 is great, but showing them what 100 means is AMAZING!
- How Big is a Million? – Showing young children the concept of one million is phenomenal, and this cute book with a penguin does a wonderful job! It also comes with a poster.
- First Numbers Sticker Book – This would be a resource for a bit of an older child to use independently. Using stickers is a great way to reinforce skills.
- Learn Shapes with Little Red Penguin – Little ones will love this cute board book while they lift the flaps to learn about shapes.
- Lift the Flap Shapes – This bright lift the flap book gives children lots of practice naming basic shapes in a fun and engaging way.
- Learn Colors with Little Red Penguin – Little ones will love this cute board book while they lift the flaps to learn about colors.
- Lift the Flap Colors – This bright lift the flap book gives children lots of practice naming basic colors in a fun and engaging way.
- Usborne Very First Colors – This beautifully illustrated book is not only good at teaching colors using basic images, but is great at teaching vocabulary as well.
- Big Book of Colors – I love how this book introduces children to many different color variations such as turquoise, vermillion, and magenta.
- First Colors Sticker Book – The sticker books are for a bit of an older child, but I love how this book helps to reinforce color recognition.
Oral language development is tied into reading more than people would think. As children interact with their environment, they need a guide (you) to help them provide them with the names of everything and to explain the world they are just learning about. Teaching numbers, colors, and shapes will give children some really basic descriptors that will help immensely with oral language development and will build background knowledge to create strong readers.
Check out all of the blogs in my reading series:
- How to Introduce Your Baby to Reading
- Learning the Alphabet Lays the Foundation for Reading
- Memorizing Words is What Good Readers Do
- Building Vocabulary with Colors, Numbers, and Shapes
- Phonemic Awareness Leads to Reading Success
- Teaching Phonics with Three Letter Words
- Encouraging Children to Read Independently
- Reinforcing Reading with Writing