Color! Color! Color!


The Power of Color in

Speech & Language Therapy

Razzle Dazzle Rose, Tickle Me Pink, Outer Space, and Eggplant are just a few of the hundreds of Crayola crayon colors that captivate us. Crayons are classics. Don’t you just love that new crayon smell? When we think of crayons, we think immediately of coloring, of course! However, crayons can be utilized for much more than that. Crayola has done a fantastic job naming its crayons. When you take a look at these names from an educator’s perspective, you’ll see that they can be used as a fun teaching tool and a wonderful way to connect with children. Through examination of these color names, we are able to target many speech and language goals, including: categorization, phonological awareness, articulation, word play, and beyond. With one crayon comes an ocean of creativity and fun.


How Far Can You Go with a Color Name?

crayola color names

Imagine looking at a box of crayons. Not a small box of ten crayons, but the big box of 50+ (or even a tower of 100+!) that includes all the shades in a rainbow and at least 20 shades for each basic color. What are the differences between all of the shades of orange? Why were they each given a separate name? How was each name chosen? Do you also envision Bittersweet as a shade of red? These thoughts only scrape the surface of the countless questions that can overflow within your mind when looking at one crayon, its color, and its name. Children’s imaginations are wild and untamed, which is what makes them magnificent. Examining a single crayon can lead to an array of ideas and topics of conversation.

Let’s take “Pink Flamingo” as an example. Imagine looking at this crayon together with a child, then asking, “Why do you think this color is called Pink Flamingo?” “What color do you think of when I say “flamingo”?” “Do you like flamingos?” “What do you know about them?” “Let’s look at the name. How many syllables are in Pink Flamingo?” “What else do you notice about the name?” The list of questions continues with no end. From a speech-language pathologist’s perspective, the name “Pink Flamingo” contains the consonant blend “fl” which is often challenging for young children. By rehearsing the names of the crayons, we are working on articulation in a hands-on, fun manner.

Color names can also be used for ‘Question and Answer’ activities. Many children in speech therapy are working on responding to “wh” questions to target their receptive language and comprehension. For example, you can ask a child, “What do we call the pasta that has orange sauce?” The answer is “Macaroni and Cheese”, which is a Crayola color! “What’s the name of the medal that is given to the person who wins first place?” “Gold!” If one color’s name can lead to many conversations on its own, imagine how much learning can arise when we dig into all the many shades available to us.


The Emotional Tie

Along with targeted efforts in the areas of articulation and language, crayon colors can be used for increasing conversation skills. Synchronous and collaborative coloring activities allow us to work on asking and answering questions, sharing thoughts and opinions, and making connections. Color is also a fantastic means of self-expression. Linking colors with emotions can give insight into a child’s thoughts and feelings as well as deepen a relationship with another individual. By referencing blue, a child can express his or her emotional state of “feeling blue.” Likewise, yellow can refer to “happy” or “playful.” We can help to cross gender boundary lines by giving boys experience with the more traditionally feminine colors of pink and purple and vice versa for the more masculine colors of blue and green.


Reasoning Skills & Venn Diagrams

Going back to the use of crayons in language therapy, the many categories (e.g., animals, flowers, food, nature) allow us to explore and work on visualizing, defining, describing, and sorting. We can use Venn diagrams as a way to organize our information. A Venn diagram is a figure that shows all possible logical relations between a finite collection of sets. Rather than only seeing black and white, Venn diagrams exemplify the importance of grey areas. By using Venn diagrams for educational purposes, children are taught to be imaginative and creative by learning that there is not always one answer or one correct place for an item, rather an item can be a part of many groups and multiple categories.


How do Venn diagrams relate to our crayon topic? How can something be a part of two groups? Venn diagrams allow for great conversation and exploration. At Communication Clubhouse, children often use the large dry erase board to draw two circles overlapping in the middle (portraying a Venn diagram) and engage in activities that ask them to place various items into different sections of the diagram based on their categories. This is one example of a wonderful learning process that opens up children’s minds to the grey areas, the in-betweens, and the question marks of life.


Extending the Fun

Crayola colors are a fantastic jumping-off point into to the world of color. If this topic is of interest to you, you can extend it far beyond crayons.


The Pantone matching system is a wonderful resource. It is publicly referred to as the “world-renowned authority on color” — it is THE book of colors. If you Google search any of its colors, they will pop up immediately with official, codified names. The Pantone: Colors children’s book introduces children to nine basic colors and 20 shades for each. The book teaches a child about the idea that one color name refers to a variety of dark, light, and in-between shades. Children can work on naming the colors of the monochromatic images, expanding the colors conversation, and developing their sense of visual discrimination. Furthermore, the Pantone matching system can align with the Crayola colors because there is an overlap of many color names between the two, such as Pink Carnation and Fuzzy Wuzzy! One of my favorite things to do is have the child think about all the names that might come up on the page before we take a peek.

Another superb resource is the Montessori color tablet system. Montessori education is characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and self-motivation as well as decision-making skills. As part of the extensive collection of Montessori products, the color tablets are traditional, powerful items to work with. This product is a set of colored tablets that include many shades of all basic colors. The tablets do not vary in size or shape but only in color, which makes it easier for children to understand the difference between colors. With these simple color tablets, we can explore colors through a hands-on approach by matching like shades as well as grading colors from darkest to lightest and vice versa.


Color systems can be incorporated into your child’s everyday life quite easily through simple conversation and observation. When you walk down the street with your son or daughter, be aware of all the color surrounding us and be verbal about it. Point out the bright yellow sun (but sometimes the sun is orange, isn’t it?!), the plump red tomatoes at the fruit stand and all the vibrant colors of other fruits and vegetables, the fresh green grass, the pink polo shirts in the shop window. Strike up a conversation as you notice that all stop signs are red or that most street signs are green. Share your curiosity with your child about why that may be. There is so much color in our world. Color is what makes our lives feel bright or gloomy at times; it is how we express ourselves. The color system is a very powerful resource and when used for educational purposes, it can lead to even more beautiful outcomes than the colors themselves.



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