What Colors Do Kids Prefer? The Science of Playful Colors

November 1st, 2013
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Colors! We love bright and vibrant colors here at The GiggleBellies and we use them thoughtfully in everything we do. We hear from parents all the time how much they and their children love the vibrant colors of our characters and our worlds. But have you ever thought about why there are many toys for children designed using bright colors? Do children see or interact with colors differently than adults? Why do parents often choose blue for boys and pink for girls?

what colors do kids prefer

How Much Color Can Young Children See?

Scientific research shows that newborn infants’ vision takes time to develop, but scientists disagree on exactly how much color babies can see at birth. During their first few weeks of life, babies are at least partially color-blind. The ability to see and distinguish colors develops as their eyes mature over the first few weeks of their life. Newborns’ eyes are not even very sensitive to light; seasoned parents know that a baby does not need to be in a darkened room to fall asleep.

The What Do You See simulates how scientists believe babies see things.The “What Do You See” app simulates how scientists believe babies see.

From Pastels to Bright Colors

As babies mature, their eyesight does begin to develop and improve. They can soon distinguish light items from darker items, and after several months are usually able to distinguish all the colors of the rainbow. Many parents purchase brightly-colored items for their little bundles of joy: Rattles, teethers, and baby gyms are popular in bright primary colors in an effort to capture baby’s attention.

How Do Young Children Perceive Colors?

  • Children aren’t impressed by shades of the same color. Researchers have conducted tests, seeking to determine how babies see color and which colors they prefer. A study at the Surrey Baby Lab found that babies lost interest when viewing multiple shades of the same color – various shades of blue – but that their attention could be recaptured by seeing a new, different color – green or red.
  • Young children do prefer brighter colors. Babies who participated in the study had a tendency to stare at blues, reds, purples and oranges for longer periods of time than the color brown, indicating that bright colors are preferred. Baby color research is still in its preliminary stages, but scientists are eager to discover why babies prefer certain colors over others.
  • Children have more intense reactions to colors than adults do. A research study in 2001 found that children’s reactions to color were across the board more intense that adults reactions.
  • Children prefer more colors at once. Research at Cornell University found that children were most attracted to plates with six different colors of food. In the words of Cornell professor Brian Wansink: “What kids find visually appealing is very different than parents.”
  • Children do not find brown and gray appealing. Brows and grays consistently tested poorly; children preferred brighter colors.
  • Color preferences and reactions tend to span across cultures. Scientists have tested children from different cultures to determine whether color preferences were influenced by culture or environment. The results suggest that many of these preferences are hard-wired, not learned.

Blue is for Boys. Pink is for Girls. Right?

New parents-to-be have so much to do to prepare for their new bundle of joy. Diapers, wipes, bibs, bottles and other necessities must be purchased ahead of time, but preparing the baby’s nursery is often one of the most exciting pre-baby tasks for many couples. Transforming that sparse guest room into baby’s bedroom usually includes a few gallons of paint for the walls. For parents who know the baby’s gender in advance, blue for boys and pink for girls are the most common color choices.

But Does It Really Matter?
One scientific survey found that 57% of males (all ages) identified blue as their favorite color. Another study found that women prefer pink, red, or at least a “redder shade of blue”.

Some may argue that all this color chaos stems from marketing tactics that have brainwashed the human race, but a 2007 study found that there is a sex difference in the red-green axis of human color vision. Women seem to have an ability to discriminate reds from greens better than men, possibly explaining why so many females prefer the color pink. Additionally, several studies have found that color preferences and biases remain remarkably the same across different cultures.

What Color Toys Should You Buy?

Scientific research suggests that parents do well to choose toys and other children’s products that provide both:

  • Bright colors
  • Variety of colors

While it is true that boys are more likely to prefer blue and girls more likely to prefer pink, these rules are not set in stone. Also keep in mind that it is common for a child to quickly and decisively change what their favorite color is.

We understand that babies and toddlers prefer a variety of bright colors. So do we, but we are just big kids at heart! That’s part of what makes creating The GiggleBellies DVDs so much fun for us. We’ve been careful to provide a rich variety of bright colors in our videos to keep your children entertained and engaged!

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