Childs Color Perception

Table of contents

The Color in a space gives more depth and mood to it .When perceived by a person, psychological effects and reactions are made on him or her due to the physiology of color. According to child psychologist Jean Piaget (1954), children during preoperational period (Age 2-7) communicate more with colour than language. He further explains the importance of colour in sensory & cognitive development of a child during this period.

Despite of being the most deeply affected group of users, children are presently the least able to influence the design of their own environment. Not only are children seldom consulted about these matters; their needs are often forgotten when such facilities are being designed.

Architects design environments which uplift the spirit and enhance sense of well being for People. They are able to modify the way a person would perceive, think about and behave in an environment. In this case Architects have a greater responsibility in shaping the built environment of the Kindergarten where the primary user is the child (Age 2 ½ -5).

Since the early education methods are based on principles of child psychology, environments of early learning and the colours used for its ambiance are interrelated and play a vital role in child development.

Hereby it is important to understand the type of color combinations required as spatial characteristics to fulfill the needs of Kindergarten activity and to discuss in what extent it is achieved in the Sri Lankan context.



Chapter 1 gives a background of the study, which will establish its needs, objectives, scope and limitations, method and benefits.

Background to the subject

The manner in which we experience the sense of being in the world has been driven by a pure sensory understanding. Human contact in the world is through the sensory organs that respond through tactile, visual and audible means of the physical environment. Amongst these, colour plays a significant role in visual transfer of information from the surroundings to the perceiver.

Colour is first and foremost an experience which permits human beings to enhance the total experience of the world around them. The ability to use the sense of color to an advantage in visual arts, clothing, external architecture, landscape architecture and interior architecture is one of the distinctive features of the human kind (Kuehni, 1983).

Unlike the adult human who comprehends his external environment within a complex array of experiences children are mostly extroverted by nature: they not only absorb the many avenues of interest in the environment, but also experience the many emotions it evokes with candour and eagerness. As young children are instantly attracted to colour, it is recognised as one of the best mediums through which they can represent the feelings they realise. (Birren, F., 1976)

Faber Birren (1988) states that Children’s responses are more colour dominant than form dominant: hence its application in the spaces that children occupy requires a conscious effort.

Accordingly learning spaces, such as preschools, colored appropriately, provides an unthreatening environment to the child that improves visual processing, reduces stress, and challenges brain development through visual stimulation/relationships and pattern seeking. (Simmons, 1995).

Use of color in early learning space

Although the use of color becomes a very sensitive and important application in preschool environments, is it is wrongly considered a surface application than an actual design element which addresses functional, aesthetical and psychological aspects, of the user. . Therefore it is important to understand that a colourful space does not necessarily provide the appropriate solutions as one would assume a colorless space would not.

“Color for the sake of color accomplishes little that is constructive, just as bleak environments accomplish nothing constructive either” (Mahnke, 1996, p.180).

Research has demonstrated that specific colors and patterns directly influence the health, morale, emotions, behavior, and performance of learners, depending on the individual’s culture, age, gender, and developmental level, the subject being studied, and the activity being conducted.

Mahnke F.H. (1996) states the use of preferred colors and color schemes in preschool environments increases the attractiveness and the sense of belongingness. Producing a fruitful and enjoyable education process… Therefore Children’s preference for color should be carefully regarded in the colour application of preschools.

1.2 Objective of the study

The main objective of this study is to analyze the use of colour in early learning spaces and its contribution to the kindergarten concept of ‘learning through play’. While it is apparent that color in child environments are necessary what is less clear is the combinations and variations that work as stimuli in a kindergarten environment and work positively towards the learning activity of the child. Moreover, this main objective can be further detailed with the following.

To analyze color preferences of preschool children, in relation to age and gender.
To analyze the use of color through the identified principles and apply them to the “Learning through Play” method adopted in kindergartens.
To discover how the use of colour in a pre-school environment particularly affects the kindergarten activity, the ambiance and the behavior of the child.
 To identify possible colours and colour schemes with the aid of natural light conducive in creating an ideal kindergarten environment for “Learning through Play”.

1.3 Methodology

Initially the Kindergarten and early childhood education and the concept of ‘Learning through play’ is studied through a literature survey referring to Local and international examples of kindergarten architecture to determine the nature or specific features of the spatial quality required.

Subsequently theories and principles relevant to color for ‘Learning through play’ is reviewed through literature in order to identify key principles relevant to the study: the main intent being to analyze colours and colour schemes used in kindergarten environments through which to establish the colour principles to be adhered in order to achieve the particular spatial quality required for ‘Learning through Play’ Once established these factors form the basis for the examination and evaluation of case studies.

The data researched to evaluate the key principles will be collected through a process of systematic observation during different times of the day and a field survey.

The three case studies will be selected, investigated and analyses through derived principles which form the scheme of analysis: Accordingly, students of three kindergartens of Colombo District will be chosen: each study will contain different colour applications in specific identified areas: namely the classroom, play areas and the corridors which are then each tested against their colour preferences respectively. The results of the studies will then analyze.

The research concludes with a discussion on how colour is manipulated and made meaningful in the Kindergarten concept of ‘Learning through play’ with an emphasis on its effect on optimum learning. It further discusses other considerations such as location and the levels of light and glare that may be accountable for the variables observed in the study.

1.4 Scope and limitations

Study is focused on identifying the “use of color” with regard to Child behavior patterns and the early learning spaces only.
Further limitations of this dissertation are:

The user group will be limited to the pre-operational period of childhood (2 1/2 – 5 year old children) of Nursery and kindergarten Method.
Interpretation of Colour in Architecture would be confined to the Nursery and Kindergarten Method.
Literature reviews on child based research and use of color on kindergarten environments.
Case studies are analyzed based on accepted research, accepted theories on colour, childhood development and sensory perception without entering into a discussion on divergent views.

Architectural benefits of the study

Identify which color combinations are more suitable in a healthy learning environment for children.
Create an opportunity for discussion to establish a perception on how to use color for early learning spaces.
Create awareness for innovative use of color in the context of early learning space design in Sri Lanka.

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