No Coloring Books for Preschoolers, Please!

18 January 2017


So many well-meaning adults give coloring books to young children. Yet here and now I’m going to say this and I really mean it: I can’t stand coloring books. I know they’ve been around since the dawn of time, but that doesn’t make them any more acceptable.

As an early childhood educator, I have some very good reasons for my feelings about the use of coloring books for young children. In the first place, when you give a coloring book to a young child, you are providing them with a book full of adult images. And these images are far beyond what the young child can obviously produce on their own. Children who are frequently given such patterns to color are, in fact, being told that they and their art are inadequate. How could a young child produce the type of images found in coloring books?

I believe that a pattern of a dog for children to color says to them-- more clearly than words could-- "This is what your drawing should look like; this is the right way to make a dog.” Often, when I look at the coloring books given to young children, I see lots of scribbling on the blank inside cover and back pages. I’ll also see random scribbling all over the images. This shows me that they, obviously, have the good sense to use these books in their own, creative way. Scribbling is developmentally appropriate. Coloring between the lines is not.

Instead of coloring book pages, give your child a variety of art supplies, large blocks of time, and the freedom to work-- and learn-- at their developmental level. And sometimes, try giving your young child new and different tools, such as pastel crayons, or paint pens, to inspire new creative  adventures. And don’t overlook all the possibilities tried and true crayons provide on different types of paper. Head on over to our Preschool Materials Guide for our recommendations on what specific art materials work well with young children.

For more great ideas, try our Color Outside the Lines activity collection and my blog series on Scribbling Stages so you can encourage your child’s creativity in a developmentally appropriate way-- and never with coloring books!

Give these ideas whirl and let us know how it goes! What do you and your child think of coloring book alternatives? We're always glad to know what you think-- you can give us your feedback right here.