Colorful Childhood: Color and kid’s perception

The role colors play in a child’s life

Author: Sagneet Kaur 

Colors have the ability to influence the perception of anybody, especially children

The way water, food and shelter are important for human survival; color is another important thing without which human existence is impossible. Colors are part and parcel of the way we think, behave, look, feel and interpret. Red, blue, black, yellow and many other colors have their own significance in our life, imagining a life with color, in black & white or colorless is next to impossible.

Colors, quite literally brings colors to life, they give identity, flavor and significance to each and everything in the universe. However, perception of colors is the function of certain technical concepts like hue, value and saturation, identified by the rods & cones (receptor cells) of the human eye (Olesen, 2017)

The color psychology is a widely studied concept in the field of education even in branding & marketing. Colors have the ability to influence the perception of anybody, especially children. Each color comes with a different set of meaning perceived across and they are competent enough to evoke a different emotional, social and physical response among human beings. In general, each has a positive as well as a negative emotional and behavioral connotation attached to it (Wright, 2017).

7-10 years old like stronger and more vibrant colors, shades of blue – green coupled with yellow creams stimulates study & learning

Color Psychology & Age

In general, the most favorite colors of children and adolescents between the ages of 1 to 18 years (Hallock, 2003) are blue (44%), green (27%), red (10%), orange (10%) and grey (9%), whereas the least favorite colors are maroon (45%), purple (38%), orange (10%) and yellow (7%).

0-2 Years:

  • Scientific research (Gigglebellies, 2013) states that in the first few weeks of life, babies are at least partially blind and have extremely less sensitivity towards light.
  • They aren’t impressed with shades of same color, this make them loose interest, they want different colors
  • They also prefer bright colors instead of shades of brown or gray
  • Younger kids prefer more colors at once (around 5-6 colors)

Research also suffices that toddlers’ reaction to the different kinds of colors is different. Toddlers elicit happiness, feel comfort and cozier with warm colors (like red, orange, yellow and pink). Red, emotes & excites them; pink signifies empathy, femininity & calmness; Yellow is bright & and symbolizes happiness, memory & metabolism, sometimes anger & frustration as well and Orange promotes welcoming and socializing behavior among kids (Lascurain, 2017). Cool colors (like blue, purple and green) have a soothing, relaxing and calming effect. Blue calms the mind & body, lowers blood pressure, aggression and increases respiration, purple is sign of wisdom and maturity, provides luxurious feel and is associated with wealth and royalty; whereas green promotes serenity, health, healing, wellbeing.

Male infants and toddlers prefer aqua blue, flex grey and vanilla yellow, whereas female infants prefer sunlit coral, blush candy pink and candy orange (Brown, 2016)

2-10 years

The children in this age range prefer soft pastels, not bright and strong color, like tones of green, pink, red, yellow and orange. This radiates warmth, peace and has a soothing and comfort effect. These colors are found to promote love and security among kids (Atkinson, 2004).

2-7 years old boys prefer arctic blue, lime green and amber yellow, whereas girls prefer cupid pink, lavender grey and tiffany blue (Brown, 2016)

color psychology

Empirical evidence (Boyatzis, 2014) found that the 69% of children within the age of 5 to 6.5 years have shown positive emotional responses (e.g. happiness and excitement) to the 9 colors shown to them. The following inferences were highlighted:

  • Positive reaction to bright colors (e.g. pink, blue and red), negative to dark colors (e.g. brown, black gray)
  • As age increases the bright colors get more positive reactions
  • Girls showed preference to brighter colors and dislike to darker colors (61% of 5 years old and 56% of 6.5 years’ girls found dark colors as negative) as compared to boys (36% of 5 years and 35% of 6.5 years)


Another study highlighted the preferences of children within the age range of 7-8 years, where

  • Boys were more indecisive than girls in marking emotions to colors and gave more appropriate and quality responses
  • Boys were happy with colors like red & brown, whereas girls were unhappy with the same
  • Boys were found to be unhappy with colors like pink & purple, whereas girls were happy with the same
  • There was no gender difference observed in the emotional preference for colors like yellow, orange, blue, green & black

7-10 years old like stronger and more vibrant colors, shades of blue – green coupled with yellow creams stimulates study & learning, whereas fruity coral reds, & violets enhances their social, creative imaginative play, whereas less use of orange and yellow create stimulation and energy (Atkinson, 2004)

color psychology dark

10-19 years

Colors like fluorescent bright, red, bold blues, citrus greens provide excitement and mental tranquility; purple stimulates social awareness, outward thoughts among teenagers, whereas black is not good enough for emotional development of the teenagers (Atkinson, 2004)

Teenage boys love charcoal black, denim blue and splashed white, whereas girls like jade black, crimson red and tangerine orange (Brown, 2016)

color psychology dark 10-19

Research also highlights that children show more intense reactions to colors as compared to adults. It was found that red made adults feel angry but the children felt calm; adults and children both felt happy with the color Yellow; but felt calm with the color blue (Cole et al., 2014)

Psychological, biological, occupational, medical changes are one of the main reasons of the age related changes in the perception of colors (Dittmar, 2001). The way one appraise the situation also leads to associating a color with a particular emotional reaction.

Color perception and Learning

Research evidence sheds light on (Olesen, 2017) the existence of correlations between different colors and their effect on cognitive aspects of the child.

  • Blue: enhances creativity & stimulates cool & relaxing environment, when not used extensively
  • Red: evokes passion for learning but sometime instills strong feelings of threat among kids
  • Yellow: stimulates intellectual and critical thought
  • Green: stimulates & contributes to better mental health in kids, simulates speed and concentration
  • Pink: helpful in grabbing attention
  • Orange: enhances critical thinking, memory and exam performance

Choice of colors should vary as per the academic standpoint of the kid, the designers working on school interiors or home interiors for kids should keep into account the effect on the psychology of the colors on the academic performance, concentration and intellect (Olesen, 2017).

  • Pre-school and elementary school – Warm and bright color schemes are ideal
  • Upper grade and secondary – Cool colors are recommended to enhance concentration
  • Hallways – Wide range of colors can be sued to impart distinctive personality
  • Libraries – These do well with cool green or pale/light green for enhancing quietness and concentration

To create a sense of balance and have positive effects on the psychological, emotional and academic aspects of the kid, overdoing of colors should be avoided. Pairing warm with cooler colors might help temper the negative effects of any particular color.

International investigation in the field of color psychology (Rouw et al., 2014) evidenced the association of Alphabets or days with different colors, it was found that people speaking Hindi, English & Dutch found following associations:

  • Monday: Blue & red
  • Tuesday: Yellow & blue/green
  • Wednesday: Green & yellow
  • Thursday: Green & blue/purple
  • Friday: Red & blue
  • Saturday: Red & yellow
  • Sunday: White & yellow

They also found association of various alphabets with colors in the psyche of humans in association with the language they speak, such findings are as follows:

A B D E F H K I/cap i l/small L n S T U W
English Red, blue Blue, black Brown, blue green, yellow Red, green Brown, yellow, purple Brown, green White, green Yellow, blue Brown, green, yellow Green, blue Green, blue Blue, purple White, blue
Hindi Red, white Blue, white, red Red, green, blue Red, green, blue Red, green Yellow, red, orange Black, red Red, blue Red, yellow Green, yellow Blue, red Green, blue Yellow, blue Black red

Many research findings state that colors are positively correlated to brain development, decreased absenteeism and aggression, enhanced productivity, childhood to adulthood transition, improved sleep habits, increased memory and enhanced academic performance.

Color and Consumer Psychology

Not only does it affect learning but also purchase decisions of customers. Research states that the most vital influencer in the buying behavior among kids and parents is color of the product.

Colors create instant subconscious judgment and help people make up their mind for a particular product within the initial 90 seconds of interactions with the product. Memory retention studies conclude that a word or phrase printed in color than in black and white is 78% more likely to be remembered by consumers (Singh, 2006).

Color psychology & Culture

India’s identity is marked by different colors of cultures, the existence and associations of different colors here define the unique traditions, cultural objects and spaces that are part of our identity. India, the home to myriad emotions is a hub of diversity in people with regards to geography, culture, and religious institutions they follow. Research (Wou, 2015) portrays the meaning different colors have in India.

  • Red is found to be highly auspicious and pure. It is correlated with sensuality, prowess, bravery and protection.
  • Saffron is connoted as sacred, pure, religious and abstinence.
  • Green is a festive color, connotes happiness, life, stability and nature
  • Yellow exhibits knowledge, sanctity, learning, peace, competence and mental development
  • White is for purity, cleanliness, peace, knowledge, but as a depict mourning, disruption and violence in southern part of India
  • Blue is for bravery, manliness, determination, stability
  • Black shows lack of desirability, evil, negativity, anger, barrenness and death

Though Indian culture has different understandings and associations to different colors, according to cultural diversity, the general meaning of the colors is not far different from that of the other countries. In a study conducted, both Indian and British samples, males’ preference is limited to blue and green colors whereas females show an additional taste for pink and purple. Across cultures, females compared to males have higher ranks for turquoises, pink and purple and a lower rank for olive green, brown and beige (Bonnardel et al., 2012)

Kids especially have more intense correlations and emotional as well as social interpretation of colors more than adults, which influence their learning, adaptability and emotional balance. The environment, be it a classroom, personal room or a product experience for that matter should carry age appropriate colors that have positive and healthy outcomes in children thereafter.

Research also highlights that children show more intense reactions to colors as compared to adults.


Atkinson. C. (2004). Resene Colour. Retrieved online from:

Bonnardel.V.; Beniwal. S.; Dubey. N.; Pande. M.; & Bimler. D. (2012). Color Preferences: A British/Indian comparative study. Retrieved online from:

Boyatzis. C. J. & Varghese. R. (2014). Children’s emotional associations with colors. Journal of Genetic Psychology.

Brown. E. (2016). Age & gender based color preferences. Retrieved online from:

Cole. S.; Donenberg. N.; Agunga. A. & Rutledge. B. (2014). Color Psychology: Children vs. Adults. Retrieved online from:

Gigglebellies (2013). What colors do kids prefer? The science of playful colors. Retrieved online from:

Hallock. J. (2003). Color Assignment. Retrieved online from:

Olesen. J. (2017). Color Psychology: Child behavior & learning through color. Retrieved online from:

Rouw.R.; Case. L.; Gosavi. R.; & Ramachandra. V. (2014). Color association for days and letters across different languages. Frontiers in Psychology, 5.

Wright. A. (2017). Color effects. Retrieved online from:

Wou (2015). Colors of Hinduism. Retrieved online from:

About the Author

DR. Sagneet Kaur

Dr. Sagneet Kaur works with LXL Ideas in the research and development domain. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology, and has more than 9 years of experience in the area of cognitive developmental and applied psychology.  Her doctoral research entitled “Facilitating Ego-Identity Formation in Adolescents: A Psycho-Educational Intervention” was to design and test the impact of identity related intervention on process of ego-identity establishment in adolescents. She was appointed Research Intern/Fellow by Maulana Azad National Fellowhip, under the UGC grant, which included full time teaching assignments for postgraduate students in the university. In between she has always maintained connect with the industry by leveraging her skills in the domain of behavioral sciences to develop marketing and pre-launch plans for various companies. Applied psychology and impact measurement have been her areas of major interest throughout her short career.

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