The Colour Tablets

Material Description:

Box 1: A box containing six tablets made of lightweight wood, one pair of each of the primary colours, red, blue and yellow

Box 2: A box containing twenty-two tablets, one of each pair of the primary colours (red, blue and yellow) the secondary colours (orange, purple and green) the tertiary colours (pink, brown and grey) and a pair of black and white tablets

Box 3: A box containing sixty-three tablets, divided into nine compartments, each containing seven gradations of each of the primary, secondary and tertiary colours

How to hold:

Hold the wooden or plastic ends with the thumb and index finger


  • Box 1
  • Place tablets one at a time, randomly on the table or working mat
  • Isolate one colour
  • Find it’s match and pair – place together and to one side
  • Continue for the other two pairs
  • Mix the pairs and invite the child to pair

  • Box 2
  • Remove the secondary pairs and place at random
  • Invite the child to pair, arranging as for ox 1
  • If the child shows interest continue by showing the tertiary colours and black and white tablets

  • Box 3
  • Note: Present only one set of graded colours at a time
  • Let the child choose one of the colours of the graded sets
  • Take out each of the seven tablets and place them at random on the table
  • Close the box and place it to one side, so it is not a source of distraction
  • Choose either the darkest or lightest shade and isolate it
  • Choose the shade one gradation different and place it to the right side of the isolated shade
  • Continue until all the tablets have been graded
  • Mix and invite the child to grade
  • The child continues to work with each of the different sets over a period of time


  • Do not correct mistakes, prolonged exposure to the material will help accustom the child to seeing the differences
  • If the child has difficulties reduce the number of grades, leaving three, the extremes and a mid-shade, add more mid-shades when the child has success
  • The child may have a lift-right tracking issue, making the grading difficult so try putting the shades vertically rather than horizontally


  • Mix tablets of contrasting colours, ask the child to sort and grade
  • Introduce additional primary, secondary and tertiary set until the child is working with all sixty-three shades at one time
  • Variation: show the child different ways to organise the shades, for example as spokes of a wheel


  • Boxes 1 and 2, the names of the colours. To be covered in the three-part lesson, giving no more than three names in each lesson, to be taught when the child can discriminate the different colours without hesitation and before Box 3.
  • Box 3 positives, comparatives and superlatives

Criteria of Perfection (Control of rror):

  • The child’s ability to discriminate colour

Direct Aim:

  • Provides the child with a ‘Key’ to orient herself in the world of colour
  • Development of the chromatic sense

Indirect Aim:

  • Provides a basis for an intelligent, tasteful and aesthetic appreciation and application of colour
  • Preparation to understand the symbolic use of colour

Age at Presentation:

Three years

Games (Further Exercises): 

  • Used to promote visual memory
  • Game 1
  • Set out two mats at a distance
  • Place one tablet from each pair from Box 2 on each mat
  • Show on tablet and ask the child to find it’s identical pair, the child brings the pair she thinks is identical and compares

Game 2

  • Show any tablet from Box 2 and ask the child to find a match from somewhere in the environment (first check that one exists)

Game 3

  • Set out two mats at a distance
  • Place one tablet from each pair from Box 3 on each mat
  • Show on tablet and ask the child to find one shade “lighter” or “darker”, the child brings the pair she thinks it is and compares

Game 4

  • As Game 2 but with Box 3

Game 5

  • Scatter all the tablets form Box 3 onto a mat
  • At a distance show the child an object and ask her to find the nearest match
  • Child selects a tablet and holds it up to the object to check

Game 6

  • Make discs of colour using high quality crayons and by inserting a pencil through the centre spin to show colours merging.  All the colours of the spectum spun make a white disc


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