17 answers

5 Yr Old Shapes and Colors

my son is having a hard time answering the questions like; what color is this? what shape is this? which one is red? square?

but when we ask him to match the color or shapes he does...we are so confused???

Any advice?

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Sometimes it is all in how the question is asked:

"what color is this?", or "point to ......", or "show me.....".

See what works for him, and then when he has one mastered move on to the next one - because different school assessments ask the question differently. So at least he is exposed to a variety of ways. :)

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers

Hello E.,

I have been a teacher (Pre-school - middle school) for 15 years. I agree with what Adrian said about learning in stages, but I also wanted to add that kids understand more than they can produce. (For example, when you are learning a new language, you can understand what is being said before you can say it yourself or read before you write).

Also, it seems that some kids have a type of "stage fright" or a performance "block" when you are asking them direct questions.

My son will walk around the house counting up to 20, but when I ask him to count, he can't get past 2 or 3 without my help. It is like he has it "hidden" in his sub-conscience (sp?) and it just comes out when he is very relaxed and not really trying. I have noticed this as very common for kids of many ages. An example for older kids would be when a kid swears they can't add fractions, but they can double their chocolate chip cookie recipe in a snap!

I personally would need more information about your child before I would say that a Speech Eval was neccessary, but on the other hand, it couldn't hurt. Weather you find out that everything looks great or you get some early help, it is a win-win. Plus, it is provided free of charge.

Another thing that is important to remember is that there is no hard fast rule about exaclty when children should learn this or that. Everyone has their own pace and own special gifts. I notice this all the time with my child and his same age friends.

I also will never forget the wonderful example of this that I experienced early in my teaching days. I had 2 boys in my preschool. They were both about 2 1/2 years and their birthdays were less than one month apart. One was very small, still wearing diapers, and walking with that cute baby waddle. The other boy was tall and thin, had been potty trained for a while and was one of the fastest runners in our school, even against 4 year olds! The other big difference between them was, when I handed them crayons and paper, the tall boy would try to eat the crayons or break them, they would never touch the paper. The other boy who was still in diapers, could draw an amazing portrait of his family, where you could recognize who was who, with glasses and correct hair colors and heights! My point is they were both amazing kids who were very advanced for their ages, they both just had different gifts! I lost track of the taller boy, but the smaller one will graduate HS soon. He is an honor student, plays the saxaphone and studies German, probably could have predicted that huh? I bet the other boy is some type of star athelet.

Anyway, good luck with your son, it sounds like you have a great learning adventure before you!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi E.!

Children learn colors/shapes in three stages. The first stages is the matching stage, because they notice that things are either the SAME or DIFFERENT. This can be reinforced with simple color or shape matching games.

Next comes pointing to colors. Play I SPY and have him point to what you've selected. This can be done with a book, around the house, in the grocery store, etc.

Lastly, Children can name colors. This is because they have generalized the meaning of the colors. This can be reinforced by asking what color things are... for example, what color is mommy's car? what color is a banana? What color is your shirt? Sometimes in the early stages it is helpful to attach colors to things that are important to the child. (Red like Elmo or Clifford, etc.)

It is very common for a child to now all of his colors in one context but not in another. It is just a sign that he has not generalized the information. If you have one particular book you do colors/shapes with, or flash cards or something, try using an alternate.

Keep working with him, even if it's just for 10 minutes a day, and he'll get it. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Sometimes it is all in how the question is asked:

"what color is this?", or "point to ......", or "show me.....".

See what works for him, and then when he has one mastered move on to the next one - because different school assessments ask the question differently. So at least he is exposed to a variety of ways. :)

1 mom found this helpful

Hi, If he isn't in kindergarten yet then I would go to your local County Office of Education. They can evaluate your son to see if Speech Therapy would be helpful. My son receives ST through the county for free, it is part of the early intervention focus these days. If your son is in kindergarten then you should ask the teacher to recommend that he be evaluated come fall. Otherwise, I would mention it to your Pediatrician they may refer to another provider so you can support your son. Best of luck!

I am a mother of a 10yr, 8yr, and 3yr.

If he can't recognize the colors, you may want to have him tested for colorblindness. My stepson is colorblind and cannot see red or green, since they both look grey to him.

Hi E.,
I play the color and shape game with my daughter everywhere we go. At the grocery store, riding in the car, even at the bank! We have an easel inside and draw different shapes in different colors. I helped my daughter identify different shapes and colors if she saw them in every day life as opposed to in books. We do watch a little T.V. and the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse show really got her interested in learning her colors and shapes. My mother-in-law bought Paige some neat wooden books by Melissa & Doug called "My First Colors Book and My First Shapes Book" which have magnetic pieces. I L. the stuff from Melissa & Doug!

sometimes kids don't like to answer questions. I think flash cards might help, practice them and he will get the hang of it. Matching shapes is easy for them to understand, knowing what they are is something else. Good luck.

E. try isolating two or three shapes or colors at a time and have fun with them, so he doesn't feel like you're teaching and demanding. Use this proven 3 period lesson that we use at our Sunrise Montessori Preschool. (Take a square and a circle)
Take the square and tell your child it's a square, then take the circle and tell him it's a circle. Now ask him to point to the last named item, e.g. the circle, then ask ask him to point to the square. (You can do this step various fun ways .. put the circle behind your back, put the square behind your back) The last step is asking your child to name the object. (again start with the last named object). Show him the square and say : "What is this? SQUARE Show him the circle and say: "What is this?" CIRCLE. Do this a few times over a couple of days. If he's not able to retain it then I would start by talking to a good pediatrician as to the next steps to follow. I wish you well,
A. Binder, Sunrise Montessori Preschool

I have heard people in general learn better when they laugh. If you haven't tried playing games with the colors, making him laugh. I had one child that when I tried to teach her, she always got silly with me. When she got school age, She worked hard and always got good grades. Each child is good as something different.


Your son may be a visual learner which may be why he is better at matching. If he prefers the matching, then work on concepts with him while "playing". When he matches two colors/shapes, reinforce by saying, "you have two circles" and have him repeat. Start with just shapes or colors and then work on dual concepts or shape and color. Many children learn better with repetition, so it may be better to work on one shape or color per week. Once he has learned the one shape or color, start working on another shape/color and keep having him look at the shapes/colors he has already learned to retain the information.

Also playing shape/color games every day by pointing out ordinary objects is more fun than being "drilled" with cards. Play I spy with him..."I spy a yellow triangle" and point out a yellow caution sign on the road, "I spy a red circle" and point out a red tomato,etc. Ask him to "spy" a color or shape and have you guess...if he says a stop sign is green, just correct him and reinforce by looking for something else that is red or pointing out something that is green. AnnaMarie had some wonderful ideas as well.

Some boys process better internally...my son did not enjoy participating in "drill" activities in preschool and I believed it was because he did not know the colors, shapes or letters. He has done very well in school and is a "natural learner"...gets very good grades with very little effort. I would not worry too much or press on him if he is not enjoying it. Make the learning fun.

If you cannot quit worrying about it, put your mind at ease by having him tested for speech or learning disabilties. However, it may be better to save some time and money by checking out books on how children learn and process...they all learn differently...they are all unique. :0)

Good luck!

My son was similar and we were worried that he wouldn't even be able to start kindergarten. My doctor said he was fine because when it came down to it he did know his shapes, colors, etc., but I was still worried. A friend of mine who was an audiologist told me that boys and girls learn differently. Girls are good with paper and pencils but boys learn by physical activity. she suggested drawing letters of the alphabet (or numbers, shapes, whatever) on the side walk with chalk and have him "jump" on the letter B, "bounce the ball" on the square,etc. Incorporating physical activity with his learning totally worked and in less than a month he was able to answer the questions he wouldn't before, and was able to even write his name and other basic words before he started school. He is 11 now, and is doing great in school, but I still have to stop and remind myself he learns things differently than his sisters.

My 6 year old son is a late bloomer also...dont worry in his own time it will happen, at least that's what the doctor says

Is he is school or pre-school? If so, I would talk to the teacher(s) about what they are observing in class. Do they have any concerns? Because they see so many more children than you, they would be a good resource.

I agree that requesting an assessment is a good idea. Speech Therapy is not just about saying sounds correctly. Rather, it is Speech and Language, so in addition to articulation, a speech therapist addresses expressive and receptive language issues, language processing etc.

If you go the assessment route, there is a specific time line they have to follow, so be sure to put it in writing and be sure to save a dated copy.

Good luck.

While there is no doubt that this could be totally developmental, and that the oral answers will come soon, I would definitely check into the speech and language testing. It sounds like a mild case of a processing disorder, which some of my previous students have had where they have trouble recalling how to vocalize the answer that is inside their mind. I have seen great progress come after just a month of speech therapy and many of the students are graduated out of the program sucessfully after the first year or two. Good Luck!

it may be wh-questions he has trouble with. chico state has very inexpensive speech and language testing, also the school district might offer it free... call your neighborhood school and find out.

What does he like? Toy cars, flowers, buckets and shovels? Point out the colors as you go through the day using the items that hold his interest; also always refer to items by their color throughout the day: his "blue" jacket, or " green" bucket. Children's interest lies in the world around them, they may not be interested in abstract/conceptual activities--and there's really no need for "educational toys" anyway. (I am a teacher by the way). You can practice the same "naming" with the shapes in your environment at home and in the community. Children this age imitate the adults in their life, so he may soon refer to items by color as he goes through the day (an added benefit: he's practicing adjective use).
Unless you suspect a physiological or developmental problem (and you would notice this in other areas as well), I would not worry about it. He may just need more time to develop the ability to retrieve and apply the color and shape names to the objects (you can help him to develop this skill by asking him to recall a story you just read, what he ate for lunch,etc), or it simply may be uninteresting to him to perform the task because it is not really in sync with his perception of the wonder and the beauty of the world around him.
Good luck.

My child did the same thing -- he just needs more repetition with the colors and shapes. Something that worked for us -- we decided to work an a certain color and shape for a few days. Decide which color and shape you want to work on and for 2 or so days, work with him on pointing out the color and shape in everyday objects you encounter. After a few days, pick different ones to work on. My son had a great time with that, and started pointing out other colors/shapes on his own throughout the day.

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