Toddlers want what they want when they want it. Have you ever tried to tell a toddler “no” when they demand to wear their favorite outfit over and over again? Was that outfit perhaps head-to-toe neon orange — your toddler's favorite color? I would bet money that if they didn’t want to take it off, a tantrum ensued. It happens to the best of us. But what does your toddler's favorite color really mean to them?
As an adult, we can rationalize decisions based on what we know to be best for us, but toddlers — they live in a world all of their own where they make the rules for now while they learn about ours. This applies to the psychology of color theory as well.
I spoke with child wellness expert Maureen Healy, author of The Emotionally Healthy Child, about why toddlers become so attached to specific colors. "From my own perspective, colors are like food to children," Healy explains. "From a color theory perspective, every child is drawn to the colors they need emotionally at the moment, and I have no problem if boys or girls 'get stuck' on certain colors as their favorite. Sometimes a particular color makes a child 'feel better,' whether it calms them or simply puts them at ease."
She notes that colors that are reminiscent of water such as aqua, blue, or denim may be soothing to some children, but that other children may be drawn more to warmer colors such as red or orange for soothing purposes. It all depends on the specific needs of the child.
"Also, colors can be symbolic or representational — for example, the heart represents love and is most closely aligned to pink and green. So a love-focused child may only want to wear her pink princess dress during kindergarten, but then in third grade when she's more into unicorns, fairies, and mystical objects she changed her favorite color to purple," Healy says.
Even adults can change color preferences throughout their lifetime. So if your toddler seems stuck on a certain favorite color, it may change in time. Meanwhile, here's a handy guide with just a bit of insight into what your toddler's favorite color says about them in that moment.