There are many kinds of coloring books available, such as cartoon books, educational books, animal books, and history books. They’re all based on the same activity, a child colors a pre-drawn picture. Although this may seem enjoyable to an adult, a young child who spends 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 a child does involves hand-eye coordination. When he picks up a raisin, puts together a puzzle, builds with blocks, or draws with a crayon on plain paper, he’s improving his skills. He doesn’t need a coloring book for practice.
Some parents believe that a child will learn to complete tasks if he works in a coloring book. But often, he’s unable to successfully 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. “I can’t do this.” And parents may be more critical of their child’s 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 at this.”
Children are often given pre-done 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 pre-drawn coloring books. Parents should limit coloring books until their child 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 (especially with fine tips), and crayons to color on blank paper. When your child 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. “Look what I made!” 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-anda-half-year-old said, “When you draw and draw, you get better.”
Keep art supplies available so your child can draw and color when he wants to. 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.