Tuesday, February 26, 2013

My Inner Speech Therapist Hates Colours and Numbers

(inspired by a comment on this rainy saturday post... thank you Amy!)

There is almost nothing more useless than knowing your colours. From a communication standpoint.

No really. I really couldn't care less if a 2, 3 or even 4 year old knows their colours. It is the least useful language component we could teach our children... and yet that is the first thing when I hear that a kiddo is "so smart" because they "can count to 10 and know their colours".


I would much prefer a child say a noun, a preposition or better yet... an ACTION word! Oh, how I SWOON over verbs. Instead, we're focused on how he can say "boo" (ahem, "blue" for you non-toddler speak).

How communicative is a colour or number anyway?

If you had a bowl of fruit filled with bananas, lemons, golden delicious apples and cut pineapple and your child pointed and said "LELLO" (yellow...) would you know which one he wanted? What about if he pointed and said "TWO"... two what???

Recently I saw a little guy (4 and a half) that was learning French. It was obvious what they were focusing on at preschool. Oh, he couldn't follow simple commands, recognize French words or even string together a two word phrase in French to save his life but he sure could label his colours and count to ten. It was maddening.

Do you know what is the best class of words to get kiddos to combine words? VERBS. Yeppers, in French and in English (and I would assume other languages), action words trump them all. The beauty of that is that in every.single.thing that we do there are verbs. AND children LOVE to be active and physical... you can model "jump/saute" probably a million times as you jump up and down with your child and I guarantee they will have a fabulous time.

Sure, exposing children to colours and numbers before school is academically (and ok, somewhat communicatively) useful... but that's doable as a pre-academic (as in, pre-school year) goal. And has nothing to do with intelligence or language skills.

ps- a kiddo needs to hear a word at least 500 times before they will try it.... drop in a bucket.

My speech therapy advice? Forget the colours and numbers- verbs and nouns are where it's AT. :)

(please note: Although I despise colours and numbers, I am a big fan of referring to speech therapy- big surprise since I am a Speech-Language Pathologist. Speech Therapy (in Canada) is free, you don't need a doctor's referral, and it's fun. If you do have any concerns about your child's communication development, please refer to your local public speech and language services. It's much more difficult to make progress once school starts, and waitlists can be long, so why wait?)


  1. Haha, I love this post!

    My youngest, turning 3, has not mastered colours or numbers, or a heck of a lot of our language yet, which isn't a surprise as she is so young, and I try not to sweat it. I have been down this road before with my older daughters and they all eventually learned their colours and numbers. But as a parent it can be sooo hard to not get a little anxious when you hear other children counting to 50 and describing things in clear little voices, along with the parents cooing proudly about their children's vocabularies. In a fit of anxiety I chatted with a friend who is a speech and language pathologist. She basically said the same things you've said here.

    1. exactly- why would you focus on colours and numbers if there are other things that are more functional that he could say? :) It's difficult (and since I don't have my own I can only imagine) not to compare, since every child is different. But 'performing' and communicating are two different things.

      And... because I'm a speech therapist, I am a fan of referring just to make sure. It's free (I assume you're Canadian by the way you spelled 'colour' :)), it's fun and it's SO much easier to give their communication a boost before school entry. You just wouldn't work on colours lol.

  2. All right, as a mom to be... I'll bite. There are tons of kids books out there focused on teaching colours and numbers, but do you have any recommendations for books teaching verbs and nouns? You know, in addition to modelling and repeating words?

    1. well... actually any book where something is happening in the photo is good. I really like very hungry caterpillar- it's colourful and the caterpillar EATS everything :) Plus there are tons of food vocab.
      I typically don't 'read' the stories though with little ones. We look at the pictures and talk about them. BUT, it is a skill to learn how to hold a book upright, to turn pages, to listen and attend to a story.... but for the really young infants and toddlers it's all about describing, pointing and looking at the pictures :)

  3. I'm totally bringing my kid to you when Matt and I have kids :)

    1. haha- i am always up for meeting kiddos!!! although i'm sure they won't 'need' to come see me :)

  4. I do agree with you but there is also some benefit to teaching colours and numbers beyond just knowing them for the sake of it. Early detection of vision issues, like colour blindness, is something that can be picked up if you do teach your kids colours at an early age. Also, numbers are used all around us all the time, they are part of our vocabulary. So it seems like having a balanced approach with action verbs, colours, numbers along with other vocabulary would be the best approach so that the kids have all the tools needed to communicate effectively.

    1. I agree- (which is why I feel it's appropriate as a pre school entry year goal as mentioned). I would clarify that colour blindness isn't usually tested in preschool aged children as it's difficult to do at that age. It's also done by distinguishing between colours (typically using numbers in the shape of different coloured circles actually). They most likely have images that they could use as well to determine if the child can pick out the image between the two colours. So- no knowledge of colour names or numbers necessary to test for colour blindness. :)

      also- I'd like to specify that it's extremely rare that a child will have NO knowledge of colours or numbers if we don't specifically teach them. We use colours and numbers in our every day speech, and children learn language from live models (not apps or tv). The same applies to verbs. The difference between the two, if you want to give your child a language or communication boost (other than referring him/her to an SLP), focusing on verbs will be much more productive and functional in the 0-5 year developmental range. :)


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