Thoughts on Coloring Books

Here is my view on coloring books.

coloring books teach a child a lot. The big rule is stay within the

even predrawn lines, woe to the child that likes texture or wants

their drawings to be more expressive. the most important thing

coloring books teach the child, is that their own drawings have no


Coloring books and color in worksheets have been around for a long

time. A 1914 teachers manual for teaching drawing, consisted of

much tracing. copying and filling in the color, type projects. In

the 1920’s the idea that drawing and art in general should take

into account and promote self expression was being advanced.. In 1948,

Victor Lowenfeld first published his book” Creative and Mental

Growth” Since then he has continued his research on the creative

development of children.

You see the concern is with the long term effect on children of color

books. Do kids like coloring books? You bet they do. They say

they are fun and easy. They are right, for they require almost

nothing of the child not thinking, no decisions, in some they don’t

even have to choose the colors. It’s kind of like watching most

TV. I have been to]d that co]oring books teach small musc!e motor

control, by having them stay within the lines. But research has shown

that children stay within the lines better when they make their own

drawings. My answer would be, what is wrong with the child making

there own drawing and then filling in the areas to fulfill this

need? I’ve had discussions with some elementary teachers (thankfully

there are many that do not use the color in the blank drawings) some

teachers have said they ape not teaching art but use them for- teaching

math or some other subject. Why can’t little Johnny or Jane draw three

circles and color two or whatever the task is? What kind of pride

can one have when all the drawings look the same ? When there are

coloring contests at stores or restaurants it is the child who is

least creative that is rewarded, not the child who is creative or

expressive in their work.

If one looks at the research by Lowenfeld and others, you will find

that the childs perception of the world is different than adults.

There are definite stages of development a child goes through. The

first is the scribbling stage ages 2-4, the child will name their

drawing when asked, but we are talking about enjoyment of making marks

at it’s most basic level and as parents know, every thing is fair

game as far as working surfaces ape concerned. Paper, walls whatever

gets in their range. I’m not advocating children should be allowed

to do draw on walls but on the other hand if you have a wall

that’s not in use?

The second stage, ages 4-7, is called the prescematic stage the child

uses geometric shapes, the body is drawn as parts. The use of

symbols are dominate. A concern for self is very strong.

Stage three ages 7-9. is the Schematic stage, they will exaggerate

the important parts of a idea and eliminate the unimportant parts.

A favorite example of this stage is a drawing by a five year old after

he was at the dentist. X-ray pictures become prevalent during this time

also. As well as taking things apart. Ages 9-11 we have a dawning of

realism. The child becomes more aware of details and the adu]t world.

Process drawings. where the action takes place in real time on the

paper and when they are finished there is nothing to look at. The

process is finished and so is the drawing. ll-13 continues with a

strong deserve for naturalism. A urge for 3 dimensional expression.

Unfortunately this is also the stage where for many children. ideas

outstrip their technical abilities. Many adults have stopped their

drawing skills growth at this stage. There is

also at this stage, a orientation of the way one bases their

expression. There is the Visual oriented person who sees the

concrete appeapence of things. To many people these are the students

who can ‘draw’ because they are logical in the way they interpete

their surroundings. The other extreme are the Haptics, Haptics

interpret the world through emotional responses. They become part of

their pictures. Most of the population forms a third group. in the

middle the Inbetweens, not one extreme or the other. Research has

shown that a person may be visually minded even though they have been

blind from birth. .

Now, coloring books are equally bad for both extremes as, even the

visually orientated child interprets nature as they draw lt. For the

Haptics child they ape dlsasturous. as they do not allow for any

emotional involvement of the child. When a child does their own

drawings. The descion making requires a lot of thinking. First you

must decide what to draw what to include in the picture what to leave

out, how much detail the arrangement of the forms. sizes of objects,

textures, what kind, how many. and then there is the whole question

of color. Yes coloring books are easier , easier for the adult to

interpetes easier for the child to do. Do they promote or model

thinking skills? Or do they make one child’s art look just like

everybody elses. step. Give the child paper. any kind of paper they

don’t care. It’s the original art on the refrigerator thats