Why Color Theory Can be a Useful Tool in Teaching Kids About Their Emotions

Why Color Theory Can be a Useful Tool in Teaching Kids About Their Emotions

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By Amy Scheidegger Ducos

As an artist advocate and illustrator of children’s books, I have dedicated my life to art. For six years, I led an organization called the Artistic Rebuttal Project whose mission was persuading government officials to allocate tax dollars towards the arts. We accomplished this goal by sharing the artwork and voices of both children and emerging artistic professionals.
During my time leading Artistic Rebuttal, I learned that most children engage in art from an early age without instruction at all. This showed me that creating art is an instinctual part of being human because it serves as a means for us to study and replicate our surroundings.

Color theory –

the psychology of using color to convey the emotions artists want their viewers to feel – has been developed and refined by scholars and artists throughout history, but the modern understanding of color theory is often attributed to Johannes Itten.
Itten’s theory emphasized the psychological and emotional effects of color and he developed a color wheel that classified colors into primary, secondary, and tertiary categories and showed the relationships between these colors. 
Knowing color theory for a young artist means knowing the way our brains work when presented with certain colors. Beyond learning color theory to evolve their own art…colors affect a child’s emotions, their ability to focus, and even their educational growth. The colors we surround ourselves with have a profound impact on our emotions, our energy, even our productivity. 

Monotone environments may induce more feelings of fear,

restlessness, and difficulty concentrating because a minimal range of colors can under-stimulate. Young children find contrast and brighter colors just the right amount of stimulating, mainly because their sight doesn’t allow them to see subtle changes in color yet, while older children prefer cooler or more subdued hues, which can result in a better ability to focus on more complex things.

When I began writing my children’s book about bullying in 2017, I was determined to incorporate color theory at its core in the illustrations. My childhood experiences inspired the story, and I believed that using color to display emotions would bring it to life in an impactful way.

The book chronicles the journey of Olivia, a transplant from Ecuador who moves to a small town in North Carolina. Olivia, a student with exceptional creativity, is subjected to targeted bullying. Her peers only befriend her when they need her to paint banners for school events like the bake sale or the science fair. Afterwards, Olivia is overlooked and ignored by her classmates.

The story’s colors shift from blue to yellow to green to orange to red and back again, as Olivia navigates a range of emotions such as sadness, hope, happiness, caution, anger, creativity, introspection, and acceptance – each with a specific color association.

Overall, color theory can be a powerful tool for helping children understand and express their emotions. By learning about color associations, children can develop a deeper awareness of their emotions and how to convey those emotions to others in the medium of their choosing.

Here are some ways to use color theory in teaching kids about their emotions:

  • Color charts: Create color charts that represent different emotions, such as red for anger, blue for sadness, and yellow for happiness. Encourage children to use these colors to express their feelings through art.
  • Color-coded emotions: Assign a color to each emotion and have children associate that color with the feeling. For example, orange can represent alertness, while purple can represent creativity.
  • Colorful writing: Encourage kids to write about their feelings using different colored pens or markers that correspond to different emotions. This can help them identify and express their emotions more clearly.
  • Mood boards: Have children create mood boards by selecting images and colors that represent different emotions. This can be a fun and creative way to explore the relationship between colors and moods.
  • Colorful conversations: Use different colors to represent different emotions during conversations with kids. For example, use yellow when talking about positive feelings like happiness and love, and red when discussing negative feelings like anger or frustration.

These activities can help children to develop a vocabulary for expressing their emotions and can empower them to better understand their feelings. Additionally, they can also help to foster a greater appreciation for color and art as a means of self-expression.

About the author
From art school in NC to teaching Arts and Entertainment Management in PA to living abroad in Quito, Ecuador, Amy Scheidegger Ducos has lived a creative life from the very beginning. An artist by age 2, Amy has spent all of her life dedicated to using her design and freelance expertise for the good of others. In addition, Amy runs a graphic design and illustration business, Rock & Roar Creative. Courage Takes Practice: A Color Theory Storybook for Young Artists is her first children’s book. For more information, visit https://www.couragetakespractice.com.

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