By teaching children numbers, colors, and shapes, it will give them the basic vocabulary to start understanding written text. 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. I have chosen to focus my initial vocabulary development on these categories because numbers, colors, and shapes 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! But if you don’t start until your child is older, that’s okay too! Just start with wherever you are.
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.
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. Download the Number Flashcards here.
These numbers flashcards only go to ten, but I HIGHLY recommend going as high as your child’s attention span allows. Once children reach 10, go to 20, then 100. Have them practice counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s and talk about even and odd as well. This will help them to really excel in math as they get older.
This 12 minute video uses shapes, words, and images from my flashcards in conjunction with live video footage of my children showing different examples and talking about the attributes of each shape. Download the Numbers Video here.
Additional Numbers Resources
- 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 can put them on your fridge or use a magnetic white board 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.
- 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.
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. Download the Colors Flashcards here.
These colors 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!
This 11 minute video uses colors, words, and images from my flashcards in conjunction with live video footage of my children showing different examples and talking about each color. Download the Colors Video here.
Additional Colors Resources
- 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.
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? Download the shapes flashcards here.
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. 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.
This 16 minute video uses shapes, words, and images from my flashcards in conjunction with live video footage of my children showing different examples and talking about the attributes of each shape. Download the Shapes Video here.
Additional Shapes Resources
- 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.
- 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.
Materials to Make My Flashcards
You can certainly just print these flashcards out on card stock and use them as is, but babies love to chew on things, and laminating them and putting them together with some rings will ensure their durability. *Before and after laminating, I cut the corners so they are rounded.
- 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.
- Laminating Sheets – I like having this in stock at all times because not only is it great for laminating flashcards, but for making favorite things books and saving favorite pieces of art work.
- Laminator – I have a basic laminator like this, and it works great for all types of paper and projects. When laminating, you want to leave at least an eighth of an inch of laminate around the edges so it won’t peel.
- Paper Cutter – You will LOVE having this around for cutting school pictures and so much more, but it’s great at cutting 4-5 pieces of card stock and 3-4 stacks of laminated card stock.
- Three Hole Punch – This hole punch is really sturdy and can handle a whole stack of paper. I like angling my flashcards so I get right in the center of each of the top corners.
- 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.
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.
For More Information
You’ll find everything you need to teach your child to read on my FREE READING RESOURCES page which includes flashcards, videos, plus more tips and tricks.
How to Teach Your Child to Read in 5 Simple Steps (Keeping it Simple)
- Language Rich Environment: Use oral language at the child’s level (Get down on the floor and play together!) and help them memorize vocabulary words. (Tell them the names of things!)
- Phonemic Awareness: Teach one sound for each letter of the alphabet. (Start with short vowels.)
- Phonics: Tap out sounds in three letter words to teach how sounds come together to make words.
- More Complex Phonemic Awareness: Introduce long vowels, digraphs, and other vowel sounds.
- Reading Comprehension Strategies: Use quality literature to interact with books and ask questions before, during, and after reading to make sure your child is understanding what is being read.
Teach Your Child to Read Blog Series (Digging Deeper)
- #1-Oral Language Development Lays the Foundation for Learning to Read
- #2-How Engage Your Baby or Young Child with Reading
- #3-Learning How to Read Begins with the ABCs
- #4-Memorizing Words Before Sounding Them Out Leads to Reading
- #5-Building Vocabulary with Numbers, Colors, and Shapes
- #6-Teaching Phonics with Three Letter Word Families
- #7-Unlock the Final Stages of Reading with Advanced Phonemic Awareness
- #8-Reading Comprehension Strategies Lead to Independent Readers
- #9-Reinforcing Reading with Writing