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.
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.
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!
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.)
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.