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Is my 2½-year-old color blind?
Q: How can I tell whether my son is colour blind? He is 29 months old and his teacher said he's not able to differentiate colours. When we tried it at home at different times, he got the colors.
A: Serene, it’s most likely your son doesn’t name all the colors because at 2 ½ years old, it’s still too early in his development. Most children don’t reliably name the colors until 3-5 years of age. In fact, there are three basic steps to children learning their colors: first they learn to match colors, then they learn to identify them, and finally they learn to name them. You can check your son’s progress toward learning to name colors by the following steps:
  1. Collect some fruits, colored blocks, colored paper, or clothes with at least two objects of matching color. Pick up one colored object and ask your son, “Show me what’s the same color as this.” (matching)
  2. If your son knows how to match colors, he might have progressed to the next step. Ask him, “Show me the red one.” Try it for the other colors as well. (identifying)
  3. If your son can identify the colors, he might have progressed to the next step. Hold up a red object and ask him, “What color is this?” (naming)
Also check whether the rest of your son’s development is on track. Most 2½-year-olds can match similar objects, follow simple instructions such as identifying their body parts (“Show me your nose.”), say the names of family members and common objects, speak in 2-3 word sentences, imitate you washing the dishes or cooking, feed themselves, and run and climb. If you have any questions about your son’s overall development, ask the teacher and your son’s doctor to do a complete assessment of his development.

Although it is less likely, it is possible that your son is color blind. Color blindness affects about 8% of boys and 1% of girls. It is typically inherited through the mother, and would be more likely if you had relatives whowere color blind. People who are color blind can see colors, but not the same color or intensity as others see. The most common type of color blindness causes difficulty distinguishing red from green. Some people with a mild form of color blindness have difficulty distinguishing the colors only in dim light. Although color blindness cannot presently be cured, it usually does not cause any significant handicap for children and adults. If you have any questions, be sure to talk about it with your son’s doctor.
Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician