Blank Paper is Better for Children than Coloring Books

Exercise your child's creativity by coloring outside the lines

Germany, Children (2-5) sitting at table drawing pictures
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Many parents and educators realize the importance that creative art, such as coloring, has on the development of a young child's brain. When it comes to the development of fine motor skills, creativity, problem-solving skills, personal expression and so many other important skills and processes, creating art can help a child grow by leaps and bounds.

Childcare providers, teachers and parents often rely on giving children coloring books to nurture their creativity.

 But commercial coloring books have pre-drawn pages that a child is simply expected to decorate and color. In order to be done well, the coloring page is expected to be shaded in with the right hues and the crayon marks within the lines, which can be helpful for the continued development and refinement of fine motor skills for children who are developmentally ready for it. However, coloring books are certainly not the only option for developing these skills, and in fact, they may not be the most appropriate choice in all cases.

Why Coloring Books are Not Always the Best Choice 

While coloring books can be a fun and harmless activity when used correctly, they may not be the best choice to encourage a child's creativity. By giving children a page with a drawing already on it, parents and teachers are not encouraging them to make a drawing of their own. Instead, they are teaching them what art is "supposed" to look like.

By sending them the message that someone else does the drawing and they may only color within these prescribed lines, caregivers may actually be stifling children's ability to create original works of art. Moreover, toddlers, preschoolers and children with developmental delays may lack the fine motor coordination ability necessary to color in the lines and may be severely frustrated by adults' attempts to make them do so.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAYEC) emphasizes the importance of developmentally appropriate practices for all children. The NAYEC points out that as preschoolers develop, they "make important cognitive gains that invite them to represent their world in pretend play, symbols, objects, drawings and words." Providing opportunities for creative, less-structured free expression is important.

The Artistic Needs of Older Children

Older children, between the ages of 7-10, will often protest that they "can't draw" when asked to make their own original drawings. In many cases, this is because the idea that a good drawing looks a certain way has already been ingrained into them, and they don't feel confident with their own attempts. They know that their dog or horse will not look like the one in the coloring book, so they are discouraged from the start.

Rather than giving children someone else's artwork to color in, educators and parents should encourage them to make their own original drawings.

This will build confidence and allow them to practice their skills without an intimidating standard set out from the beginning. It allows children with less developed fine motor skills to create without frustration. This encourages them to embrace fine motor activities, which in turn helps them develop important foundational skills.

Areas of Development Improved by Creative Art

Giving children a blank piece of paper and letting them explore and express themselves on their own aids in their development. Here are some of the many ways it helps:

  • Physical development - Using crayons, markers, paintbrushes and other art tools allows the child to practice their fine motor skills and gain control over their small hand and finger movements. This will help them when they start to learn to write.
  • Imagination - Art gives children a venue for free experimentation, where they can try different things and see what happens. This will help them in the future so that they can come up with creative ideas as older children and adults.
  • Emotional development - Being free to express themselves as they see fit in their own artwork allows children to represent ideas and emotions that they might not be able to verbalize. It has been shown that children's drawings tend to be out of proportion, with the important items exaggerated. If your child draws a portrait of you where you are taller than the house you are standing next to, don't criticize and instead take it as a compliment!

Wrapping Up

The benefits of creating art are not only important for children who end up working in the creative sector when they grow up. Art improves children's emotional health and problem-solving skills and offers stress relief and much more. So, do children a favor and don't insist on using coloring books all of the time. Instead, give them some nice juicy markers, fresh crayons or bright paints and a stack of blank paper and encourage them to let their imaginations run free.

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