Anti-Colouring Books


I don’t know why children are provided with a plethora of coloring activities in preschool. They do colouring activities in school, colour in Sunday school classes, colour while at a child assigned area in a mall, colour when they are given crayons and coloring pages while waiting for their food to be served in a child-friendly restaurant.

Colouring does aid in fine-motor skills training, help children develop compliant skills by coloring within the lines, improve concentration and attention span, and builds color awareness by learning how to use the right colors for the right items in the picture. But I think, coloring probably benefits adults more than it does benefits the children, as it keeps the children busy and quiet for a while.

In fact, I think the Sunday School that K attends over-does it with coloring every week. All they do, after teaching children about a character development lesson for that Sunday, is to get them to color till the end of the lesson :(  So lately when the teacher feedback that K does not stop talking during class, I am very sure that it is an indication that coloring is boring him tremendously in class! He is showing resistance lately when it comes to completing his homework from school. He finishes the written sections but when it comes to coloring, he tells me that he gets very tired of coloring.

But does coloring have a place in teaching young children art? According to the research of Viktor Lowenfeld, coloring book pages take almost all creative thinking away from 50-60% of children. The other 40% of children may not be effected as they may have been given other creative exposure to open ended art experiences to encourage their creativity. In fact, if a child continually focus on only colouring, he might find it hard to be satisfied with his own drawing. And might get frustrated when his drawings do not look like the adult drawings in coloring books.

I don’t intend to stop K from coloring, however, I will not provide any form of structured pages coloring activities from the art experiences that I will provide for him during our home-learning art sessions. Here’s is an article that I wrote for about the pros and cons of Structured Art and Open-ended art experiences.

So when I came across Susan Striker’s Anti-colouring book 3 years ago, I knew that I had to get a copy of that book for Kyle when he turned 5. These Anti-Colouring books with their open-ended ideas of presenting ‘canvases’ for children to draw and create on the pages will encourage opportunities for critical thinking, problem solving and thinking “outside the box”. Here are some sample pages to try, best recommended for kids above 5 years old.

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For our recent warmup activity for our open-ended art lesson, I got him to try a page from the book. This was the first time that K encountered an open art activity which involved ‘adding on’ to some ideas on the page, he was a little apprehensive to try it at first, but with some encouragement and modeling, he started adding onto the page.

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K’s drawing strongly reflects that he is in the symbolic stage of his art development, and enjoys incorporating words and numbers into his drawings.

We then went on to an open-ended art activity, and I was quite amazed by the result of it. 

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  1. Awesome post rachel, I have been anti-coloring myself, however never really read up about it being a con since I thought it was a opinion more so than a factual thing. Lol, u made my day with this post! I absolutely love the anti-coloring pages by Susan Striker, awesome way of unleashing creativity. Now I can’t wait for my son to be old enough to show off some of his works to me!

    Rachel Reply:

    Thanks Nadia. I used to hate coloring myself was I was child, so I got really thrilled when I came across all these research and books that supported it. I am sure your son will enjoy the experience when he gets older.

  2. This is an interesting perspective. My girl has is not as keen about colouring as I want her to be. She’s probably bored to bits too. Thanks for sharing.
    Janie´s last blog post hour before bedtime.

    Rachel Reply:

    I think most parents hope their child to like coloring, its like a pre-requisite in preschool…the kids get to color all the time. Hope this post has given you the perspective that it is not so bad for our kids not to like coloring very much 😛

  3. Thanks for sharing the book. I will definitely look into it. :)

    I am not that big a fan of colouring because I prefer tactile + painting + montage and exposure to different mediums. I personally find colouring boring LOL so thanks for sharing this article ! :p
    Alicia Tan´s last blog post ..The "Unsinkable" – Titanic

    Rachel Reply:

    You might want to look into this book when C is older, maybe in a year’s time. THere are topics in there that are not so suitable for younger kids, as it might take a while for them to relate.

  4. florinda says:

    i am an art student and I so not like doing it now…. adverse reaction

    Rachel Reply:

    Hehe…I guess creative people usually dislike having to deal with the constraints of coloring within the lines.

  5. What an interesting post, Rachel! As a child I was never a fan of colouring books. Poppy doesn’t like them much either! But once in a while she’s happy to colour a page or two. K gets colouring sheets at sunday sch? But he’s way past the age for colouring!!
    Adora´s last blog post ..Dancing in the Garden, and then, an Explosion!

    Rachel Reply:

    Yeah, I know! Colouring activities for 5 years old every week? Can’t change a thing about that though..have to deal with that :(

  6. i was a fan to colouring books, not as much as nowadays though. haa~! but I don’t “teach” my girl how to colour, only occasionally “guide” ;p. But slowly, i say more things when she do colouring, coz somehow, her way of colouring tells me that she does not have fine-motor skills, or her mind is off from her working, well…
    So this is timely, that i should lax more on her journey to learn arts:). Thank you.
    pc´s last blog post ..Her First Doodle

    Rachel Reply:

    Hehe..go easy on your girl when it comes to coloring. Let them do all that weird colors as I think it is a way for them to express themselves too. You are welcome PC, glad that u have found this post useful in your art journey with your girls.

  7. Thanks for sharing the book! I think that’s a good resource. I don’t really use coloring books but even with the very few we have at home, I don’t dictate what colour he uses on common objects e.g. he can colour an apple purple, as long as he likes it that way. But anyway, he isn’t fond of colouring and prefers to draw!
    Ruth´s last blog post ..Work & Entrepreneurship Series: To Nurture the Young

    Rachel Reply:

    You are welcome Ruth! It is a great resource for kids above 5, I tried it when K was 3, but he did not quite understand how to use it then, even with some modeling on my part. So many kids seem to love open-ended art so much more, I think as moms we should really encourage it, and not only go with what society has set up for them, which may not be the best for developing their creativity.