Posted on April 26 2019
Colouring: that age-old classic activity, designed to allow kids to get creative and have a bit of quiet, independent play that builds up their imagination. It’s sad that it’s an option that often gets rejected by children, who may favour the tablet, telly, or whatever their latest craze is.
If you’re hoping to dust off that pile of colouring books, then here are some good reasons to motivate you. It’s easy to get the little (or not so little) ones back into this fun activity - sometimes, you just need to show them the way. Here are our top ten reasons why colouring is a great all-round activity for young and old alike.
Colouring in is important for pre-schoolers, because it helps prepare young children for school - and in a number of ways. It develops their fine motor skills: for many, a crayon or felt tip pen will be the first implement they use on paper. As a child goes from the fist grip all the way through to the tripod grip (necessary for writing), they are strengthening their hand muscles and improving their dexterity. Research shows that colouring pencils are hugely helpful in these important motor skills, as the child has to press harder in order to make an impression (in comparison to colouring with pens, for example). So their hands and little muscles get to have a proper workout! All this helps the child to prepare to learn to write - a key part of the early curriculum at school. School also expects a certain ability to concentrate, to attempt a task and see it through, and to sit around a table and get creative. If a child has already been doing this at home, then it makes the school environment just a little bit less alien. And when they go from learning to write to working on their handwriting, then a child with well-developed fine motor skills and a strong sense of presentation is well-prepared for this challenge too.
2. Getting creative
It’s all well and good talking about getting ready for school, but there’s so much more to life than sitting in a classroom. Colouring in allows children to use their imagination and foster their sense of creativity. It helps to give you a window into their inner world too: are they scribblers who love a bit of chaos? Or are they highly ordered and neat? What does this tell you about your child; are their creations what you would have expected from them? Give a child some crayons and a colouring poster and they can lose themselves for ages in bringing their imaginary world to life.
3. Colouring in is therapeutic
You only need to go back to one of the great forefathers of modern psychotherapy, Carl Jung, to see that colouring in has long been seen as a form of therapy. Whether for adults or for children, colouring in can relax, combat stress and improve mindfulness. Jung’s mandalas were intricate patterns which he encouraged his patients to colour in, in order to enter an almost meditative state so that they could access their subconscious. Colouring lets you focus your attention entirely on a complex design, pushing intrusive or troubling thoughts to the back of your mind. Recent research shows that colouring in for just five minutes before bedtime can help you to have a better night’s sleep. For adults, it takes you back to a simpler time, when you had no cares or responsibilities and could just spend your time creating something just for the sheer enjoyment of it. Colouring is good for adults and kids alike, and should be seen as a great opportunity for shared time together.
4. Developing focus
Children need to be able to concentrate and to be able to see a task through from start to finish in order to cope with the most basic demands of life. This isn’t just about school or employment; it’s about doing something for the sake of it and feeling a sense of accomplishment at the end. It’s intrinsic to the building of self confidence and self esteem: looking at your own creation - something that you did - is an early lesson for young children that they can do things for themselves, be independent, and produce something of which to be proud. All the more reason to display their creations around the house, so that they can see that you are proud of them too. If you can build a whole picture all by yourself, then what else can you do? Colouring in helps to sow the seeds of all sorts of possibilities for young hands and minds.
5. Quality family time
Colouring in isn’t all about a kid sitting in a corner on their own, amusing themselves in their own little world. Colouring can be something for the whole family to get involved in, without any rancour over competition, winning or losing. These days, so many fantastic colouring products are on the market; why not all gather around a huge A1 colouring poster and colour it in together? As you do, you can chat about what’s happening in the picture, allowing your children to use descriptive language and critical thinking to develop a narrative together. Colouring posters for children are a wonderful family activity to all get together and just immerse yourselves in the picture before you.
6. Colour recognition
Colouring in is important for pre-schoolers because access to a range of colouring pens and pencils will teach them their colours. Use paints and the kids will start to witness the infinite possibilities of colour mixing. You can even get creative with just a small set of wax crayons (like they give out with the kids’ meals at your average high street café) and see what can be achieved with 3 or 4 colours. Wax crayons can be blended and layered as well, opening up more colour possibilities (and it’s nowhere near as messy as giving a toddler free rein on the paint palette). Before you know it, your little ones will be experts on how to make orange, what turquoise looks like, and which colours look warm or cold. Colouring opens up a huge world of possibilities!
7. You can incorporate any current phase or obsession
Long gone are the days where you simply coloured in a few animals in a traditional farmyard scene. Nowadays, whatever your child is in to, there will be a colouring book for it. Peppa Pig? Fairytales? Paw Patrol? Star Wars? Whatever their current passion is, you’ll be able to find a product that lets them bring it to life all by themselves. And this goes for adults, too. There’s a huge array of colouring books for grown-ups, from amusing to stress-relieving. Colouring in is good for you, whatever your age.
8. It reduces screen time
Most parents will know that keeping screen time to a minimum can be a challenge. And yet children need to be active in order to live a healthy life - to the extent that current advice is to limit toddlers’ screen time to twenty minutes a day. Find your kids a colouring project - or better still, gather round a colouring poster as a family - and get them focused on something creative, mindful and fun. And not a screen in sight!
9. Hand-eye coordination
As you look at the picture in front of you, you need to think through and plan what colours will go where. Small children will face an early challenge in hand-eye coordination, as what they can see and imagine may be different from what their hands can produce. This comes with practice, and colouring in is a brilliant way of developing this life skill from an early age. After all, we need hand-eye coordination for everything, from sharpening a pencil to catching a ball.
What is more boundaried than trying to colour within the lines? Pre-schoolers need to learn all about space, boundaries, and structure - whether physical or metaphorical. Colouring in is a good place to start. How do you approach the task in front of you? What is the structure of the picture? Can you segment it and colour it in sections? What happens if you go over the lines? Does it matter? All of these questions help children to problem solve and to see that structure and boundaries are sometimes there for a reason.
So there we are, our top ten reasons why colouring in is important, relaxing, fun, educational and therapeutic. Next time you’re stuck inside on a rainy day, why not all gather round a colouring poster and have a team effort at completing it together? Throw some snacks and hot chocolate into the mix and there’s no quality time like it.