There are many kinds of
coloring books available, such as cartoon books, “educational”
books, and animal and history books. They all are based on the same
activity—a child colors a predrawn picture. Although this may seem
enjoyable to an adult, a young child who spends too much time with
coloring books may miss out on the chance to create his own artwork
and know the enjoyment of drawing.
Parents sometimes buy these books because they think coloring within
the lines will improve their child’s hand-eye coordination. Yet, so
much of what he does involves hand-eye coordination. When he picks
up a raisin, puts together a puzzle, builds with blocks, or zips a
zipper, he’s improving his skills. He doesn’t need a coloring book
Some parents believe that a child will learn to complete tasks if he
works in a coloring book. But often, he is unable to stay within the
lines and becomes frustrated. A child between three and five may
feel like a failure when he sees how “messy” his coloring looks. And
parents may be more critical of his work when the task is to color
within the lines rather than to draw whatever he likes. Eventually,
he may lose his interest in drawing and coloring: “I’m just not good
Children are often given pre-made or partly completed artwork in
nursery school or day care centers. They shouldn’t then spend most
of their arts and crafts time at home with predrawn coloring books.
Parents should limit their child’s use of coloring books until he is
at least five- or six-years-old. At that age, he will be better able
to color within the lines and may find the activity more satisfying.
But even then, the use of coloring books should be limited.
The best kind of artwork is the child’s own. Your three- to
five-year- old will enjoy using pens, pencils, markers, and crayons
to color on blank paper. When he has a chance to draw what he likes,
the drawing will be a part of him, and his pictures of people,
animals, boats, and so on will be unique. Of course, some children
are more interested in arts and crafts than others, and some will
show more skill. But all children enjoy drawing if they feel
successful. And as one four-and-one-half year-old said, “When you
draw and draw, you get better.”
Keep art supplies available so your child can color when he wants
to. He can draw on plain paper, scrap paper, newsprint, paper
plates, lunch bags, and grocery bags. If you have a variety of pens
and pencils, he can pick the ones that are most comfortable to use.
Many young children who have trouble drawing with crayons do much
better with pens and markers.