Favorite Colors – From Babies and Beyond

~posted by Ruth

“Grandpa, you are wearing Green, Green, Green, just for me!” Molly beams whenever Jim wears his green bike t-shirt.  Which is often–anything for a chance to see that winning smile.

“Grandma, you can knit me any of those sweaters, as long as you knit it Red, cuz that’s my favorite color.”  And I oblige.

Ever since they were tiny, Jacob and Molly have not been shy about letting the people around them know their preferences–including colors.  Babies love colors, too.  Even infants.  Which brings me one enduring early childhood myth :  Babies can’t see colors. When Meghan (my daughter and blogging co-conspirator) was pregnant with the twins, and setting up the nursery, she called me to ask what I thought about the bright, vibrant, colorful mobiles she was drawn to.  “Is it OK?” she wondered.  “My friends keep telling me that I need to get one of those black and white mobiles, that that’s what babies really appreciate and need because they can’t see colors yet.  What do you think?”

What do I think? I think I see red (pardon the play on words) when I hear that myth.

When do babies start to see color for the first time?

Right from the the very beginning.  And that’s not just my opinion, but the pediatric establishment’s, too. “Babies see color from the time they are newborns. There have been a lot of studies using color and watching babies’ eyes track it, but the bottom line is they see the same world that we do as they enter it,” says John Doresy, MD.

Meghan decided to go with the rich and vivid colors that babies really do love in her nursery.   Molly and Jacob soon made clear their own color preferences–and if they could have told us earlier, I’m sure they would have.

Growing research confirms that babies as young as 4 months show a preference for certain colors.  Read all about it here.  “Some babies in particular show a striking preference for just one color,” says Surrey Baby Lab researcher Dr. Anna Franklin.   Across cultures, babies showed similar likes in that they preferred highly saturated, richer colors than de-saturated colors.  And they found brown and gray in particular least attractive.  Intriguing stuff…

So let’s wipe out this particular myth out and turn to some really great books to share with babies and children that celebrate color:

My Many-Colored Day by Dr. Seuss

This simple, elegant book brings colors and images together with emotions and and moods.  Paintings cover whole pages in deep color with engaging couplets that children appreciate.  Don’t expect the cartoon-like images that illustrate Dr. Seuss’s usual books.  Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher create more abstract art, very fitting with the message to young children about the acceptability of their moods and emotions.  “You’d be surprised how many ways/I change on different colored days,” the main character tells us.  Most colors are also associated with an animal. Red is a horse kicking up its heels. Brown is a bear, “slow and low.” On a yellow day, “I am a busy, buzzy bee.” On a green day, he’s a “cool and quiet fish.” On a happy pink day, he’s a flamingo!  And in the end, “I always go back to being me.” One more Dr. Seuss book–his last–to share with your kids.


Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh

When three mice discover paint, the fun begins!  Their “mouse paint” find leads them to climb right in, dipping their toes in other colors and creating whole new combinations. When the red mouse does a jog in a puddle of yellow paint, his feet turn a bright cheery orange. By the end of the story, they are mixing all kinds of paints and colors and creating lovely hues to delight in.  The cut paper collages are bright and peppy, and there’s lots of subtle humor (like washing themselves clean in a bowl that has CAT written across it).


A Day with No Crayons  by Elizabeth Rusch

An ode to color–and to imagination.  When young Liza uses her lovely white walls (and hallways, and. . .you get the picture )as paper and draws all over everything enthusiastically, her mother ( not surprisingly) takes away her crayons for the day. Without her beloved crayons, Liza feels her world has become gray–but bit by bit, she discovers color in the world around her and that she can create art in the way she sees.  The message is that art is Everywhere!  The texts is engaging, too, so it makes a lovely read-aloud and discussion on the colors and textures in our daily lives. . .


Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O’Neill and John Wallner

Lyrical poetry and imaginative artwork go hand in hand in this now classic collection of 12 poems that evoke a world of color and its relationship to all our senses.  The title is taken from the stem of the poem:  “What is white?”  I remember introducing this book to Meghan as a four-year-old, and she was captivated from the start.  Time for the next generation of poets and artists. . .


and just for Molly and Jacob. . .

Grandpa Green by Lane Smith

A brand-new picture book by one of our favorite authors, Lane Smith, is always a reason to celebrate, but this one is so special for a lover of the color green like Molly–and her own loving Grandpa.  Truly a little masterpiece!  This tale is told through the eyes of Grandpa Green’s great grandchild, who tells the story of his ancestor’s whimsical topiary garden.  It’s fun to unpack the hidden symbols in each of  topiary–each spread is packed full of fun and ideas as the biography of Grandpa Green unfolds.


Red Truck by Kersten Hamilton, illustrated by Valeria Petrone

“Red Truck is a tow truck, a work truck, not a show truck…” Hard working Red Truck has to save a stuck school bus full of kids. This is a great read-aloud for the truck-loving crowd, filled with rhymes and lots of sound effects!  The quirky drawings are reminiscent of J. Otto Seibold, but for a slightly younger crowd.  This vibrant picture book was Jacob’s favorite for a long while.


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