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Teach Your Child to Read by Age 3: A Free Reading Program

Teach Your Child to Read: A Free Reading Program

How DO children learn to read? Is anyone even asking that question anymore? Our government isn’t. The National Reading Panel submitted its findings about how children learn to read in 2000 and has not reconvened since, even though only 36% of 4th graders and 34% of 8th graders are reading proficiently or above in the United States of America (according to 2015 National Assessment of Education Progress reports).

Well I am asking that question. I want to know how children learn to read. And you know what? I figured it out. I cracked the code. I learned…no, I discovered, that children can learn how to read EASILY by the age of 3. By applying what I learned while being a teacher for 7 years and getting my Master’s degree with an emphasis on Language Acquisition to teaching my own five children, I learned what they are truly capable of.

I created this reading program to give parents the tools to teach their children how to read by the age of 3. By starting this program when children are between 6-8 months of age, the learning can happen a little bit over a long period of time during a crucial time of brain development that will make learning how to read easy and fun. (Children can start this program at any age and still follow the same 8 steps, it may just require more repetition and time.)

This blog is a portal to a series of 8 blogs I have written that explain in full detail how to teach your child how to read. I have spent the last two years creating my own font, hand drawing and digitizing flashcards, creating videos, apps, and more because there is nothing out there that meets the needs of teaching children how to read from a young age. So, please, enjoy this free reading program and enjoy teaching your child how to read!

Teach Your Child to Read: A Free Reading Program

  1. How to Introduce Your Child to Reading
  2. Learning the Alphabet Lays the Foundation for Reading
  3.  Memorizing Words is What Good Readers Do
  4.  Building Vocabulary with Colors, Numbers, and Shapes
  5. Phonemic Awareness Leads to Reading Success
  6.  Teaching Phonics with Three Letter Words
  7. Encouraging Children to Read Independently
  8. Reinforcing Reading with Writing
Reading with 3 Month Old Jack

Reading with 3 Month Old Jack

My Journey of Discovery

When my daughter Ruby was 6 months old (She’s now 7 and the oldest of my 5 children.), I started watching word videos with her and teaching her the ABCs. There was a silent period as she was soaking everything in, but then at 15 months, she had a language EXPLOSION! Not only did she know her letter names and sounds, but she was able to read the words we had been working on. People would say,

“Yeah, but she just memorized those words”, and I would say, “Yes!!! Memorizing words is a part of reading!”

I continued to work with her and read with her, and by the time she was 3, she was reading books. I worked with my remaining four children in the same manner, and I have seen that this is not a fluke, but a pattern with every child. An interesting thing to note is that due to a big move and some life changes, we did not start these pre-reading activities with our second child, Elliot, when he was a baby. Instead, we followed the same steps as with our other children but at a later age, and he learned how to read when he was 5. I really started working on creating my reading program with our third child, Ophelia, and she was reading fluently by the time she was 2.5. I worked with our fourth child, Julian, in the same manner. He is 2 now, and not only reads many words but has an extensive vocabulary as well. Our fifth child, Jack, is 3 months old, and I’m just starting to read with him now!

Scott Reading with Ophelia

Scott Reading with Ophelia

Brain Development

But don’t just take my word for it, take a look at the fascinating way in which children’s brains develop. From 0-3 months of age, the 4th trimester if you will, there is not a lot of brain activity, then at 6 months of age, there is an EXPLOSION of synapses (where two neurons connect). This happens because of EXPERIENCES and INTERACTIONS.  (Check out this AMAZING visual here.)

Whatever babies experience and whatever they interact with lays the framework for ALL brain development. This explosion continues until the age of 2 when synaptic pruning occurs and the brain starts to take a “use it or lose it” approach. (Read more about how children’s brains are wired for learning here.) If you lay the foundation for reading WHILE there is a synaptic explosion and BEFORE synaptic pruning occurs, it will make learning to read so easy!

Neural_signaling-human_brain

How the Brain Transmits Signals – Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons (2013) Gif created from Inside the Brain: Unraveling the Mystery of Alzheimer’s Disease

You Can Do It!!!

You don’t need to be a teacher, and you don’t need to know what you’re doing AT ALL in order to teach your child to read by the age of 3. If you go through my 8 steps and use the resources I’ve provided, you will be learning alongside your child in a fun and easy way. It makes me sad to know that only 36% of 4th graders and 34% of 8th graders are proficient or above at reading in this great nation of ours, but it also makes me hopeful because I know that if as parents, we take on the task of teaching our children how to read from a young age, those numbers would turn around fast. But it’s not just about the numbers, I don’t teach my children how to read at a young age so they can be good at tests, I teach them so that they will have a LOVE of reading and use that to unlock the mysteries of the world for THEMSELVES.

1. Introduce Reading

When newborns arrive into the world, everything is new, and they need to be protected and sheltered as if they were in the womb. But then, starting at about 6-8 weeks when their brains have adjusted to this new outside world, they start to become responsive and crave human eye contact and interaction. This is where language begins. (See Jack and I having baby conversations here.) By the time babies are 3-4 months, they can hold their heads up, grab things, follow a moving object, and are more interested in shapes and patterns. This is the perfect time to start reading to your baby. Read my blog: How to Introduce Reading to Your Baby to see my tips for introducing reading to your baby as well as my favorite first books to read with babies.

How to Introduce Your Child to Reading (Part 1 in a Teach Your Child to Read Series)

How to Introduce Your Child to Reading (Part 1 in a Teach Your Child to Read Series)

2. The Alphabet

Everyone knows that learning the ABCs is a crucial part of learning how to read, but did you know that children are totally capable of learning letter names and sounds by the time they are 15 months old? Why are we forcing children to wait until they are school aged when they WANT to learn earlier? The alphabet contains the building blocks of language, and when you teach babies starting at 6-8 months of age what this code means, their brains will weave this knowledge into its frameworks instead of trying to find a place to force it in later.

I have spent the last two years hand drawing my own font and creating flashcards, posters, a video, and an app (well, my husband made that) that will teach children the alphabet completely and thoroughly. Trust me, there is nothing else out in the market like this, and this is the reason why I was compelled to made it. So, check out my blog: Learning the Alphabet Lays the Foundation for Reading and you can have free access to all of my resources, plus tips on teaching the alphabet, and additional resources that will make it SO EASY to teach your baby (or child of any age) the ABCs.

Learning the Alphabet is the Foundation of Reading (Part 2 of a Teach Your Child to Read Series)

Learning the Alphabet is the Foundation of Reading (Part 2 of a Teach Your Child to Read Series)

3. Memorizing Words

People are always blown away when my little ones can read words while they are learning how to speak them. Teaching children how to memorize words (starting at 6-8 months to be proficient by 12-15 months) as their oral language is developing is a perfect fit. This is a VERY important step in teaching children how to read and is missing from every existing reading program out there. Some programs teach children sight words, but I am not talking about sight words here. I am talking about teaching children that letters are used to form written words, that these written words have meaning, and that they can communicate with these written words.

I have carefully selected the words that I use in my flashcards, posters, video, and app to be meaningful to children. Check out my blog: Memorizing Words is What Good Readers Do to learn more about the reasons why memorizing words is such a crucial part of learning how to read and to get teaching tips, all of my resources for free, and recommendations for additional resources that will help you to easily teach your child to memorize words.

Memorizing Words is What Good Readers Do (Part 3 of a Teach Your Child to Read Series)

Memorizing Words is What Good Readers Do (Part 3 of a Teach Your Child to Read Series)

4. Building Vocabulary

Children are naturally curious about the world around them. They want to explore, make a mess, figure out what everything is, see how things work, and learn what everything is called. As parents, we are their guides to this world, and the best way to teach them about it is to follow their lead and explain whatever they are holding and whatever they are interested in. In doing so, we are building their background knowledge which will aid tremendously in their reading comprehension abilities.

In these vocabulary resources, I have focused on creating materials that will help children learn colors, numbers, and shapes because these are as fundamental and foundational as learning the ABCs. Everything children learn is in layers, and if they can start at the bottom and work their way up in complexity, everything will stay in their zone of proximal development and be retained. Read my blog: Building Vocabulary with Colors, Numbers, and Shapes to get access to my flashcards, books, links to additional resources, and tips for helping children develop background knowledge.

Building Vocabulary with Colors, Numbers, and Shapes (Part 4 in a Teach Your Child to Read Series)

Building Vocabulary with Colors, Numbers, and Shapes (Part 4 in a Teach Your Child to Read Series)

5. Phonemic Awareness

Studies show that, “The two best predictors of early reading success are alphabet recognition and phonemic awareness“. But what is phonemic awareness?  Rooted in oral language, phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate all of the sounds that the letters make. (There are 44 sounds in the English language; each sound is called a phoneme.) The first 26 sounds are fairly easy because they are directly correlated with the alphabet. (When first teaching the ABCs, I recommend starting with the short vowel sounds.) The next 18 are a bit tricky.

In my blog: Phonemic Awareness Leads to Reading Success, I share resources that I have made to teach children (and adults) about the common spelling patterns used to make long vowels, other vowel sounds such as the long and short oo, r controlled vowels, and diphthongs, as well as digraphs.

Phonemic Awareness Leads to Reading Success (Part 5 in a Teach Your Child to Read Series)

Phonemic Awareness Leads to Reading Success (Part 5 in a Teach Your Child to Read Series)

6. Phonics with Three Letter Words

Each letter has a name, each letter makes a sound, and when we put those sounds together we make words. This is phonics. After children are familiar with letter names, letter sounds, memorizing words, vocabulary, and phonemic awareness, they are ready to start building words. In most cases, children don’t start to learn about phonics until they are in school, and then they spend a LOT of time going over every possible way to spell words with a plethora of worksheets.

What I have found, is that by keeping the focus extremely basic (by just teaching three letter word families with short vowel sounds) that children will get the basic concept and be able to apply it to new words on their own. This is the Helen Keller water scene moment for children where they finally see how all of the pieces are connected and reading begins to occur “as if by magic”. Check out my blog: Teaching Phonics with Three Letter Words to have access to all of my resources and recommendations for teaching phonics.

Teaching Phonics with Three Letter Words (Part 6 in a Teach Your Child to Read Series)

Teaching Phonics with Three Letter Words (Part 6 in a Teach Your Child to Read Series)

7. Independent Readers

Reading is awesome. I love reading, and I love sharing my love of reading with my children. These days, I’m primarily into reading nonfiction research pertaining to blog topics that I want to write about. When my kids see me reading, I tell them what I’m reading and what I’m learning. My husband does the same thing. He’s very techy and is currently learning about programming. Not only does he share this knowledge with them, but he’s teaching them about programming as well. He also really loves fiction and reads his favorite Illustrated Classics with the older kids before bed every night.

I want our children to see our passions, to see how we learn, and to see our reasoning and thought processes for choosing what we do, not so that they can learn about the same things, but so they can follow their OWN passions. In my blog: Encouraging Children to Read Independently, I share my tips for creating a reading environment, tips on encouraging children to read independently, and my favorite reading resources for children of all ages.

Encouraging Children to Read Independently (Part 7 in a Teach Your Child to Read Series)

Encouraging Children to Read Independently (Part 7 in a Teach Your Child to Read Series)

8. Enforcing Reading with Writing

When children are in kindergarten and preschool, they are taught to write letters WHILE they are learning how to read them. That is a LOT to do at once. Not only that, but the pace moves quickly and sequentially. If children learn letter names and letter sounds BEFORE they are introduced to writing, then they can just focus on writing and use it as a vehicle to reinforce what they learned about reading. Writing takes a lot of dexterity and fine motor control, and it’s not feasible to teach children how to write when they are babies like it is to teach them how to read.

That being said, there are things that you can do with children at a young age to prepare them for writing when they are ready. In my blog, Reinforcing Reading with Writing, I share my resources that will help prepare children for writing in addition to my favorite writing resources that will make learning how to write easy and fun.

Reinforcing Reading With Writing (Part 8 in a Teach Your Child to Read Series)

Reinforcing Reading With Writing (Part 8 in a Teach Your Child to Read Series)

In Conclusion

There is a magic window to teach your child how to read between the ages of 6 months and 2 years of age. During this time, the brain is laying its foundation based on experiences and interactions. If we take advantage of this window and teach children the letter names and sounds, how to memorize words, vocabulary, phonemic awareness, how to sound out three letter words and do so through quality literature, then learning how to read will come easily and occur naturally “as if by magic”. When we start pre-reading activities with our children when they are very young, the lessons can be simple, sparse, and short. Spreading a little out over a long period of time is a much easier approach than waiting for a ridiculously long time and then cramming in a lot over a short period of time.

But even if you haven’t started with your child at a young age, it’s not too late. You may have to work a little harder to make these steps exciting and engaging for an older child, but rest assured that if you follow this process, your child will learn how to read. By presenting children with the gift of reading, not only will they have complete access to the world around them, but they will be able to follow their own passions, read about their own interests, and go farther than you could have ever possibly imagined.

Reinforcing Reading With Writing (Part 8 in a Teach Your Child to Read Series)

Reinforcing Reading with Writing (Part 8 in a Teach Your Child to Read Series)

It is common practice to teach reading alongside writing, but the reality is that children are capable of learning to how read FAR before learning how to write. That being said, teaching writing AFTER children learn how to read is a great way to reinforce reading.

Ages and Stages

I have noticed that my children have been interested and capable of writing in very different ways and at very different ages. Learning how to hold a writing utensil requires special fine motor skills that take lots of time to develop. I think it’s good to introduce children to writing at a young age if they are interested, but I wouldn’t force it.

  • Toddlers – Use fat crayons and markers and encourage any kind of markings on a page. I love writing words and pictures, and my 2.5 year old son Julian LOVES coloring over them. My daughter Ophelia (now just 4), never really cared for crayons or markers, but she has always loved painting.
  • Preschool – Start introducing a pencil and model the correct way to hold it, but don’t push it. Start practicing lines, shapes, and letter formation. Let your child watch you as you draw and color. Provide lots of opportunities for coloring, and make it fun!
  • Kindergarten – Practice making letters and start writing words.
Julian Loves Coloring!

Julian Loves Coloring!

My Resources

These hand drawn resources are basically my ABC resources without the color. I created this font by hand then imported it into Gimp where I cleaned it up and digitized it. I wanted to make my own font because I wanted to teach children how to read letters the way we typically write letters. I also wanted to be able to color in my letters. Feel free to use these resources liberally for your own personal use.

If you are going to be making these, I highly recommend getting the following supplies:

  • Printer – A good basic printer like this will do the job, but if you’re going to be doing a lot of printing, I would recommend something like this.
  • Card Stock – I like to make sure I always have plenty of this around for all of my flashcards, posters, and other needs.
  • Three Hole Punch – This hole punch is really sturdy and can handle a whole stack of paper.
  • 1/4 Inch Rings – When making flashcards, I have found it’s best to use two rings on top to keep everything organized and easy to flip through, and this size is best.

To Make the Flashcards

  1. Print – Print on card stock.
  2. Cut – Use a paper cutter to cut the words apart.
  3. Hole Punch – Put the cards in order and then put two holes in the top. I like to angle each corner into the three hole punch and can do several cards at once with my heavy duty hole puncher.
  4. Rings – I like using the 1/4″ rings to attach the cards together.

To Make the Coloring Page

  1. Print – Print on card stock. *You can also bring a digital version into a print store like Kinkos and they can enlarge it to a poster size. 
  2. *Enlarge – You can bring a digital version into a print store like Kinkos and they can enlarge it to a poster size.

ABC Coloring Page

After children have learned their letter names and letter sounds, coloring them in will reinforce this skill. You can print out this coloring page, and have your child color over it or color it in using crayons, pencils, markers, or paint. When coloring with your child, it can be fun to color your own page while sitting next to him or her. This way, your child will be able to see how you do things like hold a writing utensil, stay in the lines, and choose what to color. Make sure you “think aloud” to tell your child what you’re thinking while you’re doing it.

ABC Coloring Page

ABC Coloring Page

Get a PDF of the poster here: ABC Black and White Coloring Page

ABC Coloring Flashcards

These one sided flashcards are a great way to reinforce letter names, letter sounds, and to introduce children to writing. You can print out one set and let your child scribble in it however he or she chooses, and then you can print out another set to color in yourself or color together. Your child will enjoy watching you color, and it’s fun to have a personalized set of flashcards. You could even laminate them when you’re done!

ABC Coloring Flashcards

ABC Coloring Flashcards

Inside View of ABC Coloring Flashcards

Inside View of ABC Coloring Flashcards

Get a PDF of the flashcards here: ABC Black and White Flashcards

Usborne Books

I am an Usborne book consultant because I LOVE their books! The pages are super durable, the stories are interesting, the vocabulary development is phenomenal, and the people and Usborne GET reading. They know that children should start young…I’m talking babies…and provide PLENTY of resources to get your little ones interested in reading. If you purchase books through these links (which will lead you to my own Usborne website), I will make a commission, so I thank you kindly.

  • Wipe-Clean Resources – Usborne has a TON of wipe clean activity books that you can look through. Wipe clean books are a great way for child to reinforce skills in a repetitive and fun way.
  • Beginning Pen Control – Before children can learn to write they need lots of practice with pen control, and this book provides plenty of opportunities. They can complete the various activities again and again, using the special wipe-clean pen provided. Includes mazes, dot-to-dots, things to draw and more.
  • Wipe-Clean Alphabet – This fun book is perfect way for young children to reinforce what they’ve learned about letters while learning how to write.
  • Wipe Clean Alphabet Cards – These alphabet cards are another great way to reinforce letter names and sounds.
  • Wipe-Clean 123 – Learning to write numbers is right up there with learning to write letters, and this book provides great practice.
  • Get Ready for School Wipe-Clean Activity Pack – This pack covers writing letters, numbers, common words, and comes in a neat carrying case with a handle.
  • Wipe-Clean Dinosaur Activities – If your child is interested in dinosaurs, this would be a great resource to practice writing. There are lots of other interest-based resources as well.
  • Wipe-Clean Dot to Dot – Dot to dots are a great way to learn about drawing and writing because the lines are short and controlled.

Additional Resources

Being a teacher-mom, I have been exposed to a TON of resources. The ones I link to below are simply the best of the best and have been a HUGE help as I’ve been teaching my little ones about writing. (*Note: These are affiliate links, which means that I will make a commission if you purchase them from these links. Your price, however, will stay the same.)

In Conclusion

The idea that children should be learning how to read the ABCs while learning how to write the ABCs is just absurd. Children are capable of learning how to read at a very young age, but the fine motor skills required to master handwriting take quite some time to develop. If children learn about letter names and sounds, how to memorize words, vocabulary, how to sound out words, and more complex phonemic awareness before learning about writing, it makes learning about writing the singular focus which is far less overwhelming for children.

Yes, This is Really a Post About Coloring Embracing Motherhood

Yes, This is Really a Post About Coloring

Why would I write a post about coloring? Because it’s really that important. Coloring keeps kids engaged in a creative activity, it helps them learn how to properly hold a writing utensil, and it is a gateway to learning about so much more. Especially during the summer, I like to make coloring part of our daily routine.

Have a Designated Place for Coloring

It’s so great for kids to be able to do an activity, especially something as basic as coloring, without needing your help. Even though my oldest is in public school, we have a designated “Homeschool Table” full of baskets of coloring books, coloring sheets, blank books, blank paper, activity books, and all kinds of markers, crayons, pencils, and more that the kids can get to on their own whenever they feel like it. This is part of how I create an environment that encourages independent learning.

Homeschool Table and Computer Station

Homeschool Table and Computer Station

Invest in Some Good Markers

Crayons are cheap and fun, but nothing colors quite like a marker. With our younger ones, I’ve always struggled with them not putting the caps back on the markers or little ones getting ahold of them and coloring things other than the paper (like the table, the wall, the bathroom door, and of course their bodies). But I feel like this is a fine price to pay for the joy that markers bring. If you’re worried about your children coloring on things (other than the paper), you can get some washable markers and they will easily wash off from anything.

If you’re worried about them losing the caps, just buy a bunch of cheap markers like these and create a “marker system”. I do this by having two boxes of markers and one marker stash. For my marker boxes, I just cut the flaps off from my Amazon boxes and put labels on them. One box is labeled “Good Markers” and this is where I put new markers. Another box is labeled “Old Markers” and I put all extra caps, any markers that have lost their caps, and any markers that are starting to not write so well. Then I keep a stash of new markers in the package tucked away that I can use them when I color with the kids and supervise their use. Lately, however, I’ve been keeping my good markers out in a nice office supply organizer with a handle that makes for easy transport since the big kids have been so good about putting the caps back on.

Good Markers, Junky Markers, and a Marker Basket

Good Markers, Junky Markers, and a Marker Basket

I have a few Sharpie markers and Ruby has recently really loved coloring with them, so I bought her a 24 pack of colored Sharpie markers and some thick paper to color on. At first, I was really afraid of what would happen to my house and home when I unleashed permanent markers, but she and Elliot have been very careful with them. (I keep them well away from our 2 year old, Ophelia!) Ruby is obsessed with coloring now and wants to color all of the time!

Ruby Coloring with Sharpie Markers

Ruby Coloring with Sharpie Markers

Coloring Books

Coloring books are great, and even though I don’t ever recall buying any, we have a ton! (I think we get a lot as gifts!) I try to rotate them so they stay exciting and fresh. I have a bookshelf where I keep all of the coloring books accessible, but not within easy reach, and a fresh stash of coloring books that the kids are most interested in in baskets (actually, my baskets are being used elsewhere these days, so I’m just using repurposed Amazon boxes) on our homeschool table. (These are the baskets that I usually use, but these are cheaper and look pretty good too.)

Coloring Book Box

Coloring Book Box

Here’s a blog I wrote about how we use some of our favorite coloring books written by my own dear mother and sold through my parent’s product website Amazing Michigan, the Michigan product line from their fundraising company Great Lakes Promotions. (If your school needs a fundraiser, look them up, they’re amazing!)

amazing michigan coloring book

Amazing Michigan Coloring Book

Watch Me Draw

I’ve never ever considered myself an artist of any sort, but I am pretty good at looking pictures and drawings and copying them. What I do is look at the way the lines are formed in one small section at a time and do my best to get the same angles and curves on my drawing.

A Drawing of Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony

A Drawing of Pinkie Pie

The kids love, love, LOVE watching me draw things. They will typically ask me to draw something that they really like like monsters or My Little Ponies, and so I will look it up on Google images and do my best to copy it. As I draw, they watch me with baited breath making suggestions as I go along.

Drawing Outlines

Then there’s the few things that I enjoy drawing freehand like rainbows, flowers, t-rexes, brontasauruses, stick figures with word bubbles, and other really simple things. I like to draw these with a dark Sharpie marker and the kids enjoy coloring them in.

Ruby Coloring in My Outline Drawing of a Dinosaur

Ruby Coloring in My Outline Drawing

Kids Free Draw

It’s amazing to see Ruby’s progression with drawing. Only a year ago, she was scribbling pictures, and now she’s carefully free drawing intricate pictures.

Ruby's Drawings

Ruby’s Drawings

Elliot, who is four years old, has never really liked free drawing at all. Only recently has he been inspired by Ruby’s love of drawing to draw his own pictures. It’s really cute because he only likes to draw monsters and so he’ll kind of carefully scribble an exterior and then add a bunch of arms, or a beating heart, or lots of teeth and blood, and he’ll be so proud.

Elliot free drawing with sharpie markers

Elliot Free Drawing

Ophelia, who is two, loves drawing careful lines with multiple colors. But she will draw on everything in the house and throw all of the markers and caps on the floor when she’s done, so I have to supervise her!

Ophelia's Coloring Pages

Ophelia’s Coloring Pages

Printouts

Elliot’s absolute favorite thing in the whole world is to sit on my lap and do Google image searches for printouts. While I type in whatever they want to color, like “monsters” and then add the words “coloring pages”, the kids will point to the images they like. (Sometimes I have to say “free coloring pages” if a lot of paid subscription pictures come up.) Then I open up the image, right click on it and select “copy”, open a word document, right click, and select paste, make the image fit the page, and print. Lately, I’ve been printing our pictures on card stock since they are using Sharpie markers these days.

Elliot Loves His Monster Printouts

Elliot Loves His Monster Printouts

Things My Kids Like to Color

My kids are into different things at different times, and it’s always fun when a certain topic, genre, or set of characters sort of permeates their minds. I like to use their interests to find coloring pages, books to read, movies to watch over and over, imagination games to play, and more. Here are some of the obsessions my kids have had.

  • Land Before Time (Did you know they made NINE movies in this series? We have purchased many many dinosaur toys that have been a part of numerous imagination games.)
  • Dora (All three of our older kids still love watching Dora over and over. I think it’s a great show.)
  • Superheroes (Superhero Squad to be exact.)
  • Spiderman (We like watching the 1967 or 1980 versions on Netflix.)
  • My Little Pony (Ruby loves the Friendship is Magic series. I always buy little ponies at garage sales and thrift stores and the kids spend hours playing imagination games with them.)
  • Princesses (Ruby loves finding princesses with really pretty dresses.)
  • Monsters (Elliot has been obsessed with monsters for as long as I can remember. I use them to make his Favorite Things books and ABC books. Look for more on these in a future post.)
  • Mario Brothers (My husband plays these video games with the kids, and they love the characters and the story.)
  • Sharks (Do all boys like sharks or what?)
  • Octopuses (or octopi)
  • Minecraft (Elliot absolutely loves playing this game.)
  • Angry Birds (Another Elliot favorite.)

Great Resources for Printouts

Usually, I just do Google image searches to make printouts, but these are the sites that pop up over and over again that have been great portals for finding more coloring sheets.

  • The Color – You can color these online or you can print out the pages and color them. We love the interesting pictures and simple drawings.
  • Hello Kids – These drawings have more intricate details and require more precision to color, but they are very interesting.
  • AZ Coloring Pages – This page has all of the favorites like My Little Pony, Batman, Hello Kitty, holidays, animals, and more.
  • Coloring Book – This seems like the most comprehensive collection of character coloring pages. I love how they are organized by pictures of the characters.

Coloring Tips and Tricks

  • Don’t Force Coloring in the Lines: At Ruby’s first kindergarten conference, the teacher told us that one of her goals was to work on coloring in the lines, and while I knew that this was the next natural progression for her, I didn’t pressure her to do it. She is the type of personality that always does her best, and I didn’t want to discourage her from coloring just because she couldn’t stay within the lines. Now, when she sees Elliot “scribbling” and tries to chide him for it, I remind her that he’s doing his best and scribbling is just what he is working on for now. 🙂
  • Color the Edges First: When I’m coloring, I really think about all of the little things that I do that help me to color neatly. One of the things I do is color the edges carefully at first before delving into the middle. (Sometimes I even like to do my edging with marker and color the inside with crayon.)
  • Use a Variety of Colors: While it’s perfectly fine for children to scribble a picture using only one color, I like to encourage them to use a variety of colors and talk to them about the color names in the process (magenta, midnight blue, aquamarine, lavender, etc.).
  • Be Creative: Sometimes it’s fun to color a picture with the exact colors that it should be, but more often than not, it’s more fun to be creative and use whatever colors we please. I tell my children to color what they see in their minds.
  • Add More Details: I also like to encourage my children to add more details to pictures. Especially when we’re coloring our printouts, I encourage them to add a background. (What’s the setting? Where is this taking place?)
  • Color What They’re Into: Whatever children are into, you can find a coloring page for their interest. Just type whatever they are into from sharks and princesses, to viruses and biology. If you add the words “coloring page” afterwards, you will find something.
  • Bins For Coloring Pages: I have a place to put printouts that the kids can easily grab when they want to color, a place for finished coloring pages, and a place for pictures that they are still working on. When the “Finished” bin is full, I take the best ones and decorate our “Homeschool Room” with them.
a bin with Coloring Pages Ready to Grab

Coloring Pages Ready to Grab

Finished Pictures on the Wall

Finished Pictures on the Wall

In Conclusion

While coloring seems like a basic and insignificant childhood activity, it is actually a very important developmental milestone. By encouraging children to color and giving them plenty of opportunities to do so in a way that is fun and exciting to them, children will thrive in this area. In doing so, it will help them to express their creativity, get prepared for writing, and stay busy doing something productive. By giving value to coloring and the things children color, we give meaning to this precious activity, and children will see it as something important instead of just something we use to keep them busy for a little while.