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so what is the lowdown on coloring books?

1489 Views 35 Replies 30 Participants Last post by  hsmamato2
The art teacher who wrote "Young at Art" feels strongly that coloring books are a no-no. She practically says, "do not give your child a coloring book."

what happens if others give these books? of course i am not going to interfere with her choice of colors or ask her to stay in the lines or anything ... but i worry that the nature of hte coloring book makes children feel that they should stay within the lines. i am not sure how 'bad' this is and i am just thinking aloud right now. most of the time i give my dd plain white paper on which to draw or paint but the other day a coloring book turned up, i dont even know from where, and she wanted to paint in it. she asked me to paint also and of course i painted within the lines. this made her feel that she could not paint as well as i could, and she said as much ("i can't do this"). so next time we got out the coloring book i made my painting slightly more random. i noticed that thistime she was also able to paint pretty much within the lines. so that is great as far as her motor skills go, but what about art? i realise that one coloring book is not going to mess up her creativity but i want to really understand the theory behind this and what others are doing and thinking about this.
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I think the "problem" with coloring books is that they don't encourage the child to draw her own pictures. Thus they limit creativity, because the child learns to just color, not draw.

I personally see nothing wrong with having coloring books around along with plain paper, colored paper and other mediums.
This is the current theory - no coloring books, no setting examples, just give the kids the supplies and let them go to it. Yes, it's creative and exciting. Yes, we do it sometimes -- often even.

But no, I don't agree with it as the ONLY approach to art. Art, like any other form of creative endeavor, requires learning the rules, before you can break them.

As a writer, I had to learn spelling and grammar (no snide comments, please!) before I could learn to write engaging poetry and essays - and often break those rules for good effect.

Unfortunately, I was raised at the dawning of this theory to never teach kids how to draw anything . . . and guess what? I don't know how to draw anything.

I think, that like everything, there is a balance . . . and I think it's important to not let our kids down by forgetting to balance creativity with the learning of skills as well - whether those skills be learning how to stay within the lines, or how to make a horse look like a horse.

In other words, let your daughter choose. She may sometimes WANT to do coloring books. Which is fine, just as long as she is also comfortable experimenting on a blank piece of paper. It's all good, so long as it's all in balance.
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I've never given my kids coloring books because I felt they were boring as a kid. My mom was an artist and turned me on to drawing on empty paper from an early age. But saying this, my nine year old announced to me the other day she loves coloring books. She finds them at the thrift now and then.

My thought is to start your kid off with blank sheets and let them go nuts drawing and coloring and after awhile introduce coloring books as just "another" choice.

The best thing I've been able to find, besides the child's own work, has been the Anti Coloring books by Susan Striker. She tells you why she's not in to coloring books here.

What is wrong with coloring books by Susan Striker.
My kids have coloring books. They don't particularly care for them. They are definitely not limited to just coloring books and never have to color inside the lines or color anything the "right" color.
This is not a clear-cut issue to me. I personally really enjoyed coloring in coloring books as a child, it was sort of relaxing to me- an activity I could do but didn't have to be as fully engaged in? However, while I am not particularly "artistic" I spent a lot of time creating my own art, drawing free-hand, creating paper-dolls with period clothing, making cards, etc.

I don't want my child to only color in coloring books, but I will probably have some high-quality ones around in case she feels like it. But we also have lots of supplies for her own creations.

Right now she has a cheap-o one b/c she just likes to scribble, but she is not at the "coloring inside the lines" stage yet anyway. I also print out pages for her from places like in line with her current interests (I found a lion page there, for example) but usually she just wants scratch paper & her crayons/pens or her paints and goes to town.
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I think that the coloring book thing has become one of those nice things to think about and somehow become something that is applied (or not) without really thinking about an individual child.

Some kids will be fine art-wise and interpretation-wise if for some reason all they access is coloring books. Some will find their imagination stunted to some degree. Most will have no discernible alteration. Like most things, there's a spectrum of responses and the best thing is to go with your instinct and not worry about it. Susan Striker is selling books with a certain point of view and - as lovely as the books really are (they're great!) - that needs to be kept in mind as one reads her thoughts on the subject.

My son has done well with about 75% plain paper and the rest in coloring/activity pages. He's never (ever!) felt pressured to color within the lines - much to his grandma's despair - and doesn't feel he needs to draw figure X in a certain way because he saw it that way in a book once. My daughter, on the other hand, seems to do better with primarily blank pages (gets upset if she's scribbling/coloring a tree and she doesn't have a green crayon, for example). She's not yet 3 so perhaps this will change but for now that's where she is.
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Originally Posted by white_feather
In other words, let your daughter choose. She may sometimes WANT to do coloring books. Which is fine, just as long as she is also comfortable experimenting on a blank piece of paper. It's all good, so long as it's all in balance.

I completely agree. When I first read the book " Young At Art" I turned kinda nutty. Every time my dd went to the art table I was worried about how my behavior was affecting her creative spirit lol. I used her methods but then scrapped it and started calling her the " Art Nazi" taking away all of the colors just did not feel natural besides dd lost interest fast when she realised her favorite colors where gone. I donated all the coloring books to charity and now when dd wants to color I print some coloring sheets off the internet and let her go to town. Her interest in art has exploded and she paints, draws, does collages etc etc everyday. I think as long as you provide your child with interesting art material, an area where your child can be messy and freedom to do what she needs to do with little interference then it's all good!
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My DD would go through an entire ream of paper in a week with all her drawing. She does like coloring books, as well, especially certain themes (princesses, for example). I certainly don't think kids sould be limited to pre-drawn pictures for "art" time (and that's the case in many "preschools"), but I don't think they're evil, either.

My mom actually keeps a coloring book and crayons in her desk at work and pulls them out for a few minutes when she's feeling stressed out.
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It isn't clear cut........

Coloring books can give a child a since of accomplishment.

A place to practice shading outsid of their own pictures befor they draw their own. Coping and example of shading and trying to get it to match can develop this skill nicely. It also can help with teaching proportion.

Trying to stay in the lines and learning to color can be a good motorskills development activity. My son has motorskills issue so he never drew because he couldn't. If I would have encouraged a small closed ended activity it would have help prevented the issue and/or brought the issue to our attention sooner.

If you approach coloring books as you have to color something this way or that way then it becomes stunting.

You have some drawing/coloring books that teach by having a picture of the child to mimic. Once they master (ok in our case have an idea) they can build on it in their own pictures. These are not your cheap coloring books though.

Also coloring books can be life savers in at times you need to keep them busy and out of trouble. We had a large stash when we were in the final days of my grandfather's life.
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Originally Posted by UlrikeDG
My mom actually keeps a coloring book and crayons in her desk at work and pulls them out for a few minutes when she's feeling stressed out.

My college roommate and I used coloring books to de-stress during finals week!

There's something calming about letting your mind wander freely while your hands are occupied. It's almost meditative. I find the same thing now when I'm doing my hand-quilting, crocheting, or cross-stitch.

BTW, I've heard it recommended that this kind of hands-busy-mind-free activity is great for helping kids concentrate during read-aloud story time.
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This subject always pushes my button. I think the choice of whether or not to use coloring books is one of those things that should be completely left up to a child, with no conditions or concerns. I'm an artist - art is very, very important to me - and I loved coloring books as a child. They neither helped nor hindered my artistic development, but I would have really resented some outside authority deciding whether they were okay for me to use. Many people never grow into an interest in expressing themselves artistically or mathematically or musically or whatever - but we can't be controlling every little thing children do to make sure they come out well rounded. Children need freedom to experiment and grow in their own ways - which makes me think of that Einstein quote:
"It is... nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wreak and ruin. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty."
I realize this seems a strong reaction over what seems like very little, but's always been something that's rubbed me wrong. Like KC, I loved coloring books, and it would have been pretty annoying to have been restricted to having to create something of my own all the time.

Edited to add: But Cheery, I realize that no one here is suggesting restricting the use of coloring books - you were just asking about the thinking behind the concept. Those comments were about the art teachers who are suggesting restricting children's choices.

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My dh makes his living as an artist. He loved coloring books as a kid, and when I mentioned to him what the Young at Art lady had to say about them, he could hardly keep himself from rolling on the floor snickering.

I read him selections from that book and his response was, "That lady really needs to get over herself."

He thought the idea of limiting kids to one color at a time was positively barbaric.

I am in no way an artist. I'm not particularly into art and I can't draw worth a darn. I had coloring books as a kid and sometimes I used them. Sometimes I did not. What I liked most about coloring books was that sometimes I could just make a pretty picture without all the effort. Sometimes I didn't want to "make art," I just wanted to color a nice picture.

my ds uses them in interesting ways he might color one thing in the picture, then cut it out and glue it into his original drawing or create a puppet with the cut out and come up with this elaborate story based on I provide them along with a bunch of other stuff and step back and let him create..
We love coloring books at our house! And I'm glad to see I'm not the only adult who still likes to color once in a while. I think coloring teaches motor skills and eye-hand coordination. As long as kids aren't *only* given coloring books to the exclusion of plain paper I don't think there's any danger of their losing the ability to draw freehand. I can see the conformity aspect of coloring inside the lines, but I think it's a better symbolic point than a literal one. And worrying about their future artistic development from coloring vs. drawing... oh, please. That's right up there with those SAT-study-for-babies tapes and college prep preschools. In my ever so humble opinion
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Originally Posted by dharmamama
I read him selections from that book and his response was, "That lady really needs to get over herself."
Yeah, I've had that feeling about any number of art experts!
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Originally Posted by Brigianna
That's right up there with those SAT-study-for-babies tapes and...
Brigianna? Were you just being facetious? There isn't really such a thing - IS there? Say it isn't so....
- Lillian
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My kids have coloring books that we've picked up here and there. But neither of them really care for them.

We use a lot of backsides of computer paper, envelopes, etc. The kids love to make their own drawings.

I haven't encouraged/discouraged them from using paper or coloring books. They just have an area where their art stuff is and they pick.
I feel like most here, let the kids do whatever they want; coloring book, plain paper, whatever. My kids prefer plain paper now, but did enjoy coloring books from time to time when younger.

I remember when I was in kindergarten a boy in my class outlined his ditto copied coloring book page in black crayon. It looked so good, made the colors inside of the picture look so rich and colorful - so I did the same. I can still recall the "art teacher" firmly informing us that "The world is not outlined in black!"

I think that mentality, that art can only be done one way, or with one result, is much more dangerous than any coloring book could ever be.
I haven't read Young at Art, but I have to say, we love Striker's Anti-Coloring Books around here. They're really a combination of a coloring book and blank drawing paper. You're given a drawing prompt (which Kenzie often disregarded when he decided he had a better idea) and there is usually a drawing to accompany it (for example, a drawing of a magician and the question "What trick can this great magician do?" or a drawing of a dragon and the question "What is the worst thing a dragon might do?" or a drawing of a boy in the grass and the question "What do you daydream about?"). You can draw or color or both - whatever you feel like. Pretty cool, really. We have old editions, but it looks as though they're all available on Amazon with shiny new covers.
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