When I was a kid, I had a massive collection of coloring books. I intentionally created this collection because of my deep love for art and especially for Disney movies. I was very intent on becoming a Disney animator, and I spent a lot of time carefully coloring in these books. My favorite was my Lion King one. I loved the rust and gold colors of Simba. Now as a mom of a couple little girls and as an art teacher, I have gone to the other extreme and avoid coloring books when possible for my kids.
I’m not against them so much that I will take them away if they get their hands on them or anything like that, and I’ve never told my daughter that I don’t like them, but I don’t intentionally give them coloring pages. I do this for several different reasons. The first spark of this was when I was in grad school for Art Education. We were sitting around the seminar conference table talking about the development of drawing from scribbles to realism. We wondered together how the comments of the parent impact the development of the drawing or also how the kid might feel if an adult puts unrealistic pressure or expectations on the kid.
In a way, that is what I think is happening with coloring books. The child is coloring an adult-drawn picture, and she could be learning passively that there is a right and a wrong way to make a work of art. I don’t want her to learn that the adult drawings are “good” and hers are “bad.” I don’t want her to think that a brown dog is “right” and a blue dog(affiliate link–see below*) is “wrong.” I want her to express her creativity and individualism without being confined to what is already on the page. Just like I try to get toys that don’t have only one right way to play with them, there are lots of ways to draw and explore on a blank sheet of paper.
I am a former elementary school art teacher. I taught all of the students in the school (750+ kids!), and there were some students who were so stifled by a need to be perfect that they couldn’t get past the blank page. When you introduce a coloring book or even draw something for a child instead of letting them figure it out on their own, you risk this happening. Art should be fun and free and without expectations. There is nothing as a free and possibility-filled than a blank sheet of paper!
** This is an Amazon Affiliate link. A small fraction of your purchase goes to The Art Class Curator. Thank you for your support.
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