Okay, everyone, have you checked out my friend Courtney’s (rockstar mama of two and incredibly pediatric occupational therapist) Tinker Kits though her OT OuTside account? If not, she makes amazing Tinker Kits you can buy — her creative activities allow you to connect with your children AND help them develop self-help, reading, writing, and play skills! Courtney and I thought it would be fun to collaborate when she releases new Tinker Kits, so today, I’m bringing you our favorite rainbow and color books to go with her March Tinker Kit. And if you don’t have a rainbow Tinker Kit, you’ll still love this list! Maybe you’re talking about rainbows for St. Patrick’s Day, or because it’s springtime and you’ve been seeing a lot of rainbows, or because like many young children, your kiddos just love rainbows! If any of the above are true for you, then check out the recommendations below.
Many of the rainbow and color books below also connect colors to emotions, so I’ve noted if the books have great social-emotional layers to them as well.
*** This list is arranged roughly according to publishers’ recommended age ranges. Always remember that you know your children best and may decide to use a book out of the recommended age range! All links are Amazon Affiliate links. When you buy a book through one of my links, your purchase price remains the exact same, but I get a *tiny* bit of money back… Which allows me to buy more books to share with you! ***
Our Favorite Books about Rainbows and Colors
What Makes a Rainbow by Betty Schwartz, illustrated by Dona Turner — Have you seen these Magic Ribbon books? They’re so neat! We received this one as a gift when our oldest was born, and it was LOVED in our house for the next 5 years or so. This rainbow book is perfect for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.
A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni — ***social-emotional layers*** Lionni introduces us to a sad chameleon who just wants a color of his own, so that he can be like all of the other animals around him. Lionni walks us through various colors we see in nature and changes with the changing seasons, and in the end, the sad chameleon’s solution might surprise you. This is a delightful introduction to colors and animals often associated with them and can even be used to generate discussions about the importance of being yourself. Ages 2-5.
Freight Train by Donald Crews — Ages 2 and up. This books is colorful and simple, perfect for your youngest readers (and comes in a sturdy board book format, too!). Crews won a Caldecott Honor Medal for this one, and rightly so. You’re drawn in by the colors and simple words, but you also feel the power of the train chugging its way through this book. Recommended for ages 2-5 but also perfect for younger!
Mix It Up! by Herve Tullet — Fans of Press Here or other interactive books will love this one about the results of mixing colors together. Kids get to touch the colors and “mix” them together, and then see what it would really look like if actual wet paint were on the page. I love that Tullet even gets into the effects of black and white on other colors. Ages 3-5
The Color Monster: A Story About Emotions by Anna Llenas — ***social-emotional layers*** This one even has it in the title… This is a story about emotions! Llenas cleverly works through the colors typically associated with various feelings (i.e. red is anger and black is afraid), especially when you’re feeling lots of things at once. *** Note that this book is built on the idea of separating your emotions into bottles, so if that seems too close to bottling your feelings and put them away, this may not be the book for you. I don’t read it that literally, but just wanted to let you know! Ages 3-6.
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers — While I do love the books on this list that can be used for deeper social-emotional discussions and goals, The Day the Crayons Quit may be my favorite book about colors. It’s just SO clever (written in almost exclusively letter format) and still completely relatable to children (in fact, we use our blue crayons and markers so much in our house that if we can find one at all, they are indeed “short and stubby” from overuse!). Note– there is a sequel (The Day the Crayons Came Home) and a board book (The Crayons’ Book of Color), too! Ages 3-7.
The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh by Supriya Kelkar, illustrated by Alea Marley — ***social-emotional layers*** Harpreet, an Indian-American Sikh, love to use his patkas (head covering) to show how he’s feeling inside. He’s got one in just about every color, and he dons them carefully based on the day– red when he needs courage, for example, or gray when he’s feeling sad. But when his family moves across the country, he wears white for a long time, white because he feels shy, “not wanting to be seen.” But once a classmate reaches out to him and lets him know she sees him despite his white patka, his colors start to show again. Be sure to read the endmatter note from Simran Jeet Singh, scholar and professor or Sikhism, about the history of turbans and patkas in the Sikh religion. Ages 3-7.
Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert — Ehlert’s colorful books are always delightful, but this one is especially perfect for this time of year. Planting a Rainbow may also inspire your children to get outside, dig in the dirt, plant some seeds, and take better care of the life and nature around us… Perfect messaging for spring, and fascinating to see the various flowers (many of which I couldn’t pick out if I tried… or most, if I’m being totally honest) that come in all colors of the rainbow. Ages 3-8.
I Feel Teal by Lauren Rille, illustrated by Aimee Sicuro — ***social-emotional layers*** This is another book on this list (you’ll see a few of them on here…) that builds associations between colors and emotions/feelings. Some of these are well-known associations (mauve and purple are on a page of royalty, red is anger…), and some are up to readers to associate (such as jade shown as the community walks into the school building). I love Rille’s direct message of “So when you feel them, let them through! They’re the palette that makes you YOU.” And the illustrations are absolutely beautiful! Ages 3-8.
Mixed: A Colorful Story by Arree Chung — ***social-emotional layers*** Chung cleverly accomplishes two goals at once: teaching children about primary and secondary colors, and addressing discrimination and appreciation of differences. Chung writes about discrimination, tolerance, and love without being preachy at all, largely because the surface level story is so… primary (didn’t plan on that pun there, but it worked too well!). Ages 4-8.
Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color by Julia Denos — This is a delightful story about a girl named Swatch who lives “in a place where colors ran wild.” Illustrated in bright shades of many colors, readers eyes are drawn to Swatch, like who, I’d imagine, many many children aspire to be. She dances with colors and hunts out new hues in nature, and she embraces her artistic, free side in an enviable way. The trouble happens, though, when she decides to catch the colors that come to her and keep them in jars… Problem resolved in an unexpected way! Ages 4-8.
My Blue is Happy by Jessica Young, illustrated by Catia Chien — ***social-emotional layers*** Another book that associates colors and feelings, but this one may be my favorite… Likely because like the main character, my blue is also happy! While many often associate blue with sadness, to me, it’s a sunny, cloudless day, the pool, the ocean… My Blue is Happy could serve as a mentor text for a really neat creative writing opportunity for children to think through their emotional associations with different colors. Ages 4-8.
Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall — ***social-emotional layers*** A wonderful story about looking past the surface of people to get to know them on the inside, as well as understanding that what makes each of us who we are is largely on the inside. Red is actually a mislabeled blue crayon, and this story tells of his journey to find who he really is. Heartwarming, touching, and not at all preachy, children will love this crayon adventure and parents will love its messaging. Ages 4-8.
every color by Erin Eitter Kono — Though this has been around for 3.5 years, it is new to us (and new, apparently, to our library system, too…). Bear lives at the North Pole, surrounded by white and shades of grey, but he longs to see the colors of the world. When a friend appears and pulls him away in her skiff, the two embark on a journey around the world. I love how Kono has tied introducing children to landmarks around the world (information can be found about each spread on the copyright page), as well as shown Bear sending mail to his friends from each stop on his journey. And, be sure to spend time with the Northern Lights spread! Ages 4-8.
One by Kathryn Otoshi — ***social-emotional layers*** If you don’t know Kathryn Otoshi’s “number/color” series, check it out. While Zero and Two are also phenomenal, this is my favorite. Otoshi uses emotional associations we have of colors (purple is regal, and red is “a hot head”) to effectively deliver a story about being an upstander when someone is treating someone poorly. It’s simple and fun and highly effective, so definitely read this one if you haven’t read it before! Ages 4 and up.
Niko Draws a Feeling by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Simone Shin — ***social-emotional layers*** I fell in love with this one a few years ago, when it was displayed in the art center of our amazing preschool, and I was thrilled to get my hands on it again for this list! In this book, Niko loves to draw, but his drawings are a little more abstract than people around him can really understand. Rather than drawing the sun shining on his face, for example, he draws the *feeling* of the sun on his face. I love how Raczka encourages children to use art, abstract or not, to express their emotions (especially at a time like this!). Ages 5-9.
The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons by Natascha Biebow, illustrated by Steven Salerno — Do you have children who love to color? With any tool, really, but especially with Crayola materials, or Crayola crayons? Then this book is a must-read in your house, as it tell the story behind the invention of Crayola crayons! Whenever this book is in rotation at our house, it is read on repeat until I put it away high on a bookshelf again (which, trust me, I don’t do because I tire of reading of it– no, this one’s entertaining and informative for adults too! Rather, I hide it away so that we can give other books a chance…). I did a whole review of this book last summer, so you can read more about our love for it here. Ages 6-9.
Spend some time browsing OT OuTside’s new blog or her Instagram page for wonderful developmental information as well as super fun (and more importantly, easy!) ideas of things you can do with your children to connect with them through play and process art, while enhancing their motor development and growth!
What rainbow and color books do you love reading with your little ones?