Color is simply our perception of a photon’s wavelength, yet the ability to identify and describe colors is the result of our cognitive abilities as well as our ability to convey description through language. As such, we much learn how to reference colors from our guardians. My nephew, for example, first learned his colors by referring to characters from Thomas the Tank Engine before he eventually learned to use their proper names. Through this learning process, he was able to reference his colors before eventually learning to translate information into more common terms, thus children need to learn colors in their own terms.
Parents usually hate to see their children obsess over their favorite television shows and books as fixations can limit a child’s development; however, capitalizing on a child’s interests can also be useful. So long as a preferred cartoon character or toy is used as a stepping stone, children will grow out of their childhood fixations, thus these interests are not necessarily unhealthy. Consequently, parents and teachers should use the favorite and most familiar items in a child life to teach novel concepts like colors as it stokes their interest while simplifying the learning process.
On the other hand, children, who publicly refer to objects in terms like the Percy colored one may sound strange to others, yet this awkwardness is the result of the parents’ vanity. There is no danger in a child referring to objects in his or her own words so long as that child continues to progress. The most important aspect of teaching colors is not the actual phrasing used to reference them, but rather, a consistent ability to recognize colors. This ability is what truly matters in terms of cognitive development.
As children develop, duel meanings of words will fill a child’s vocabulary as they learn common terms to describe new concepts, so the use of incorrect words should not alarm parents. Eventually, most children learn to distinguish between the actual color term and their reference tool. After all, adults often use broad terms to describe concepts that they do not fully comprehend and experts would like to correct them on. Once a child has mastered what color is what, parents and other would-be teachers can help eliminate alternative words by no longer recognizing them when the child uses them.