My 5 1/2 year old only knows a few colors. Is this normal?
Probably not. Children usually begin recognizing colors by about 2 1/2 years of age, and most kids can name at least one color by age 3 1/2.
By age 4 years 9 months, 90% of children know 4 colors.
So knowing only one or a few colors at age 5 1/2 is delayed, but it is now important to try and figure out if this is an isolated delay, like from being color blind, or if it is a part of a more global delay.
Some questions to consider to help figure this out include:
- Does he recognize pictures in books?
- Can he count to 5?
- Does he know his letters?
- Can he spell his name?
- Does he know the primary colors (red, yellow, blue)?
- Do other family members have problems with color vision, like recognizing traffic lights?
If he can do all of these other things, especially if there is a family history of color blindness, then he just have a problem identifying colors or telling the difference between colors.
Color vision defects (dyschromatopsia), often called color blindness, are a common problem, and it is estimated that 4% of people have problems with their color vision.
These defects may either be congenital (you are born with it) or acquired later in life as part of another disorder that affects your vision.
Of the congenital forms of color blindness, most are inherited on the X chromosome and mostly affect males.
Defects can range from total color blindness (complete achromatopsia), which is rare, to just having problems confusing colors, like blues and violets, red and brown, green and brown, green and gray, green and white, blue and purple, red and yellow, or red and green.
Red/Green color blindness is the most common color vision defect, causing problems distinguishing reds and greens.
If you think that your child has a problem with his color vision, testing by a Pediatric Ophthalmologist might be a good idea. Plate tests, in which symbols made up of colored dots are 'hidden' inside other colored dots, are often used. People with normal color vision and see the difference in colors and recognize the symbols, whereas people with color vision defects can not.
Since these tests often use letters and numbers, they can be hard to use in younger children. Another test, the Color Vision Testing Made Easy, uses shapes instead of letters or numbers and may be easier to use for preschool age children.
Fortunately, even though there is no treatment, most people who are color blind are able to function well. There are often other cues to tell what a color is or supposed to represent, such as the shape of a stop sign or the position of the lights in a traffic signal.
In school, being color blind can cause difficulty if teachers are using colors to represent things that they are trying to teach your child and he can't tell the difference between the colors. Or if he is supposed to match or group objects and your child can't recognize the color differences among the objects.
Online Color Blindness Tests
Color blindness tests on the internet can be a good screening test that you can use at home. They do depend on the type of monitor you have and its being properly calibrated though.
Online tests include: