I used to be of the belief that coloring pages were stiffling. Everywhere I looked, children were encouraged to color in their coloring books, to stay within the lines, to color things correctly…Coloring pages weren’t encouraging creativity, and neither were the parents, teachers, or caregivers who issued the orders behind the use of them. I never bought my children coloring books, but we have always had a wide assortment of dynamic and static art supplies available for their use. This worked for us. My children loved to get into the process of creating and I wasn’t stiffling their creativity.
Then one day I read an article on radical unschooling specifically about this view on coloring books that opened my eyes. It hit me like a brick. Of course it wasn’t the coloring books that were stiffling; it was the adults – the ones who said you had to color things appropriate colors, stay within the lines, etc. I thought about this for a long time. I could see the value of coloring books for a child who was wanting to experiment with color alone, so I began looking for some inexpensive coloring books that my children would enjoy. The prices of coloring books have gone up over the years. It wasn’t until last Fall that I found some for $1.
The coloring books are available, along with all of the other art and craft supplies we have out. My children have colored in them some, preferring to make their own creations most of the time. I do see them occassionally using the coloring books when they want to experiment with how certain colors go together.
I’ve also noticed that my husband enjoys using the coloring books with the kids. He can sit down and color with them and just enjoy being with them. I have really wanted to get some geometric coloring books. Dover makes some nice ones, but they are pricier, and so far we have choosen to spend our money on other things. I think these would be great for experimenting with color and geometric design. These are also something I could color with the kids and still enjoy.
I recently found out about Color Pages for Mom, which has free coloring pages (not just for moms, though), including some cool geometric pages. I’ll be printing some of these out to enjoy.
I think colouring books are fine for older children, but not for children under the age of about 5 or so. My mother is an artist, and I love reading through her books on art. One of them contains a study that shows children are dramatically ‘less-creative’ with their drawings after using colouring books. This particular entry came with photos…before and after. The ‘before’ picture was a bird a 5 year old had drawn. It was very detailed, although childlike. The child had included all the important parts…beak, wings, body, head, even a feather pattern. This is how the child sees the bird. Then the same child was given a colouring book with some generic pictures in it. Afterward, this child drew birds the way they were depicted in the colouring book…like little ‘V’ shapes in the sky. The child had wanted her drawings to be more ‘adult’. So instead of trusting herself and her own way of drawing, she chose something ‘safe’ and conformed to the crowd.
A blank piece of paper is a fine way to test out how colours go together.
When I read this study, at the age of 15, I decided that whenI finally have children, they will never use colouring books! Now I’ve had my first child and he is still far too young to even hold a pencil, but I’m going to stay with my decision. No colouring books.
I am not convinced by the study and here is why. One child was studied? Was there any suggestions or influences given to that child other than the coloring book?
I was taught in training at the child development center on base that we were not allowed to use coloring books either. So I thought I would never use them.
My husband is an artist who is extremely creative and he used many coloring books, I also know close to 20 artists who have also grown up with them and their creativity has not been stifled.
For me, I now like this scenario: lots of papers of all kinds, colors and textures, coloring books, variety of mediums and colors for E to select from as she chooses.
Thank you for the great article and links!
i agree with lauren, we don’t do coloring books in the early years either. i got my degree in child development and i remember in class after class after class being taught by every instructor on the matter that coloring books stifle creativity.
i thought i would never use coloring pages or books actually, but my older child changed that and i’m more comfortable with it now, in the later years. but only once the child has gotten comfortable with drawing things on their own and hence formed their own style and joy of drawing.
so i avoid coloring pages/books as much as i can for my 4.5yr old. i’ve talked to my 9yr old about keeping any coloring books she may have in her room (she has very few, she still prefers drawing her own pictures) and not bring them out when he’s around. she understands that we want him to develop his own style before he starts coloring in other people’s art.
its hard, though, because everyone gives them coloring books and pages everywhere we go! even my mom, who knows my feelings on the matter! so i just don’t make a big deal about them when they are given them, and then recycle the things later, so they don’t stay in our house for long.