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Added Oct 9, 2018
Children are fascinated with color, and learning to name and distinguish colors is
one of those early skills parents delight in observing. Maybe you've shared the
classic Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
with your child. Maybe bedtime has included My Many Colored Days
 or The Day the Crayons Quit.
 Color is an accessible way for children to learn to discern differences in their
environment, to understand their worlds with more specificity and to orient
themselves. Indeed, while we may not think twice about the importance of learning
about color, while we may think of it as a fun and engaging, but simple, skill, for
children, discerning color is a key to orienting themselves to the world around
them. As Montessorians, we know that the need to orient
ourselves is a deeply held developmental drive, and one which we must support in the
prepared environment of the classroom.

Montessori's formal lessons on color discernment begin with the Color Tablets, a
series of three boxes of increasing complication. The first box includes only six
tablets, small, handheld pairs of red, blue and yellow tablets that the child can
use to learn the names of the primary numbers and match them. The second box
includes twenty-two tablets: the primary and secondary colors, plus brown, white,
pink, black and grey. The final box, Color Box 3, includes sixty-three tablets,
constructed of seven shades of nine colors: the primary colors, the secondary
colors, brown, pink and grey.

In early exercises, the child matches pairs. As the child develops the ability to
discern more nuanced distinction, the number of pairs increase. Finally, the child
is able to create spectra of colors from darkest to lightest. Throughout, the child
is introduced to the labeling language for each color, plus the superlative language
comparing colors to each other.

Beyond the basic ability to name, match and categorize color, children will often
explore the color tablets to create beautiful extensions and designs. They may turn
the tablets on their side
or create new designs
. They may play distance games with friends or a teacher or find objects in the
classroom to match to the tablets. Throughout, children's ability to discern
differences in their environment, and thus to understand their environment and
orient themselves to it more fully, grows and blossoms.

Did you know? The shape of the color tablets derives from their original form: as
spools of thread. Extensions using actual spools
allow for children to distinguish ever more subtle distinctions. Check out these
lovely activities for rainy days at home. 
Catherine McTamaney, Ed.D.
Christopher Academy Alumna

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