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Why I Don't Give My Toddler Coloring Books

I believe strongly in authentic art experiences for children, and despite some crazy crafting urges that overcome me this time of year (and that result in more adult-initiated, holiday-themed craft projects), I mostly enable my daughters to do plenty of process-oriented art.  I don’t want them to oh-so-carefully color in the lines of a drawing of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I want them to draw and paint, collage and sculpt, to create just as they desire.

I don’t buy my toddler coloring books and here’s why:

  • Coloring books teach children to be passive about their art. Rather than drawing something themselves, they are coloring in adult-drawn images.
  • Coloring books teach toddlers to compare their art to an adult’s.
  • Coloring books set toddlers up for failure. Coloring inside the lines? How many toddlers can, or better question, should, do that?
  • Scribbling is linked to future literacy. The more toddlers scribble and draw, the easier it is for them to learn to write later. As toddlers scribble, they learn to make all the shapes necessary to write the alphabet. Coloring inside predetermined lines doesn’t allow this to happen.

So what do I do instead? I celebrate the scribble. I provide blank paper and markers (or crayons, paints, pastels…) for my toddler to explore as she sees fit. And I’m careful about the way I talk about her art.

That’s not to say we don’t own any coloring books. My older daughter has been given a few over time and I don’t make a big deal out of it. She enjoys them for a few days then I put them away on a closet shelf (they are not missed, in case you are wondering) . Every once in a while—on a rainy day or when she is home sick from school—I get one out briefly for its novelty.

How about you? What do you think about coloring books? Do you use them wholeheartedly? Sometimes? Never?

Read more of Jean’s writing at The Artful Parent.
And don’t miss a post! Follow Jean on Twitter and Facebook!


Want some more authentic toddler art ideas? See these 11 art activities.

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