Using Color to Enhance Learning and Influence Mood

Using Color to Enhance Learning

You’ve probably noticed that color influences your mood, but have you stopped and considered how you can use color to enhance learning and influence mood in the classroom or other educational environments? The colors you choose to use in your classroom or center can actually have a major impact on children’s mood and how children learn and absorb information. For example, using yellow in your classroom will encourage children to be creative and will also help you maintain their attention. In her book Start Smart: Building Brain Power in the Early Years, Revised Edition, Pam Schiller, PhD, includes the following chart and ideas for using color to enhance learning and influence mood:

Color Impact


Creates alertness and excitement.
Encourages creativity.
Increases appetite.
May be disturbing to anxious individuals.


Creates a sense of well-being.
Sky blue is tranquilizing.
Can lower temperature.
Inhibits appetite.


Creates a positive feeling.
Optimum color for maintaining attention.
Encourages creativity.


Increases alertness.


Creates calmness.


Creates calmness.


Promotes a sense of security and relaxation.
Reduces fatigue.


Creates positive feelings.
Helps maintain attention.

Ideas for Infants and Toddlers

  • Infants only see black and white when they are born, so providing bright colors in their environment will help their brains learn to recognize color.
  • Wrapping red fabric around bottles or placing red placemats under children’s plates will help even the pickiest of eaters get the nutrition they need.
  • Using crib linens in cool colors (blue, green, purple) can calm children and help them rest better.

Ideas for Preschool Children

  • Wearing a yellow or off-white apron or smock when you present information to children can help maintain their attention.
  • In areas where children need to be attentive, try placing a yellow placemat, a yellow vase of flowers, a picture of yellow flowers, a yellow folder, or a yellow pencil case to help them pay attention.
  • Using calming colors (different shades of blue, beige, and green) in quiet areas can calm children and help them feel relaxed.

Ideas for School-Age Children

  • You can teach children about how color affects their moods, appetites, behavior, and learning by asking questions about how they feel around certain colors and whether they agree with research findings about the impact of color.
  • Include a discussion about color-related phrases (e.g., feeling blue, seeing red, true blue, having a green thumb) in your lesson plans. Ask children if the phrases and their meanings match their experiences with color.
  • Make an effort to display art from different artists in your classroom. The artwork you choose can lead to discussions about why the artists chose certain colors and how they used colors to create emotional reactions to their work.

Ideas for Small or Large Groups

  • Hang crepe paper streamers to influence the moods in certain areas. For example, dark-colored streamers in a reading area would help children relax and focus on what they are reading.
  • Use reds and yellows in areas where you would like to encourage creativity (e.g., art learning center, dramatic play learning center, writing area/learning center).
  • Consider the effects of color when planning family engagement events or other classroom activities. Bright colors may overstimulate children if they are already excited.

Be sure to read Start Smart: Building Brain Power in the Early Years, Revised Edition for more information on how color can influence learning and mood and for a variety of other fun ways you can help children learn and grow.