How I used physical sensations when explaining colours to a blind child

Guest post by Fern
blue flower

“Miss Fern, what is blue?”

I looked up from where I was struggling to untangle the result of playing hairdresser with some of the other children at kindergarten.

“What is blue?”

The girl, we can call her Krista, was not looking at me when she said those words, nor would she ever. Krista was born blind and had her entire four-year-long life never seen a single colour.

“Some of the other children talks about their favorite colour, and they said I had to have blue since the other colours were taken. But what is blue?”

“Well…” I said, thinking fast. How do you explain the concept of colours to a small child who had never seen anything but black? When we were told that there was to be a blind child at our kindergarten class, we got sent to a course in how to best stimulate such a child. The number one thing we learned was to play with her other senses, which is often more developed than in people with normal eyesight.

“Wellโ€ฆ” I said again. “Have you ever been at the beach or at a pond and stuck your foot or hand in the water?”

Krista smiled. “Yeah! And the water is all cold and wet and if you lick your fingers afterwards they are all salty!”

“Well, that is the colour blue. Many people like blue because it is a cool and calming colour.”

I could see Krista digesting this. “So blue is cool like water. Are there more colours?”

“Oh yes, there are lots. I like the feeling of yellow, which is just like when you are out on a summer’s day and you feel the hot sun on your skin. And you have green, which smells like grass.”

“Hannah said she liked pink. What does pink feel like?”

“Well, for me pink taste just like strawberry flavored bubblegum.”

“Then I like pink too! And green and yellow and blue!”

I gathered Krista up in my lap. “You know that most other people see colours with their eyes, but you can feel the colours instead. And there are lots and lots of colours which I can show you another time.”

Krista smiled and slipped down from my lap. In an ideal world we would spend the afternoon talking about the world’s various colours, but there were other kids to take care of, lunch to prepare, hands to wash. But as I walked away I heard Krista proudly tell the other children: “I like blue, because it is cool like the sea. And Miss Fern will teach me to feel more colours tomorrow.”

Sometimes we have to see possibilities and I am excited to show Krista, and maybe the other children as well, how to feel the effect colours have on us — not just what we see with our eyes. And that sometimes feeling is better than seeing.

Comments on How I used physical sensations when explaining colours to a blind child

  1. Beautiful. When I read the headline my automatic thought would be to explain through taste and smell, but I love how you used physical touch and feeling to explain it as well.

  2. Such a lovely way to explain colors! And that’s something I never thought about before…trying to explain colors to someone who can’t see. Not just colors, but other visual adjectives like shiny, glittery, dark…

  3. Your explanation reminds me of this:

    (yes, it’s an ad – but the way of describing colour in it is very similar)

    More background to the ad and the woman it features here:

  4. That’s amazing, well done for such quick thinking ๐Ÿ˜€ I’d have been pretty stumped, I’m so impressed that you came up with such a beautiful and apt description of blue, and the others. Good teacher ๐Ÿ˜€

  5. One of my colleagues taught her (non visually impaired) students The Black Book of Colors. It’s a really beautiful book with a very similar concept. From one teacher to another, go get it! ๐Ÿ˜€

  6. There is a book named The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria that explains colours by smell, touch and sound. I was able to get a copy through the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) as a fund raiser they had. There are both print and Braille copies of the book , though I have only seen the print copy. The pictures are all tactile, but are all printed on black paper with black embossing. It also has the Braille alphabet in it. It’s an amazing book! I hope this helps!

Join the Conversation