Coloring is one of favorite children activities. Kids like it because it is fun. Parents like it because it calms down their young ones calm down for at least few minutes. Teachers like it because it promotes discipline. Sounds like everybody wins, right?
Some people don’t approve coloring books and they even try to expel them from kindergartens and schools. Why? Coloring pages can limit inborn creativity and sometimes cause serious frustrations. This belief is especially popular among academics.
So who is right and who is wrong?
(intro image credit: mycoloringland.com)
Benefits of coloring
1. It is fun!
Through coloring children explore different media, learn to recognize objects, their relations and the use the of right colors in playful way.
Their hands are busy, coloring can be done alone or in groups and can be for instance nice way to brother-sister or parent-kid bonding. Thanks to coloring sheets kids enjoy good looking pictures before they are actually able to make them.
2. It teaches discipline!
One of basic requirements of coloring pages is staying with colors inside the lines. This way children learn to control and stay focused. They are also encouraged to finish what they started.
3. It has health benefits too!
Coloring improves eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills in general. Thanks to coloring kids forget the momentary problems and relieve stress. This works for adults too, so coloring is more and more used in different therapies.
What about the cons?
Without doubt drawing inside the already existing lines impose certain limitations and can suppress the thinking out of the box ability. Several researchers suggested this kind of drawings doesn’t offer equal emotional relief as drawing on totally blank sheet of paper.
It can be also frustrating because kids soon realize their drawing abilities are inferior to drawings made by professionals.
But to be honest we must add this believe is largely based on works by Viktor Lowenfeld and his students. Lowenfeld was huge authority in the field of art education for children and his works about the artistic stages are still the foundation for observation of mental and emotional growth at kids.
Unfortunately his conclusions about coloring pages are built on wrong assumptions and supported with wrongly designed experiments (mixing anecdotal cases with scientific research, without control groups, lacking double-blind experiments etc.)
I will not go into details because they are all available on-line, so you can make your own conclusion, but I would like to provide my thoughts:
Coloring pages can be important part of children educational and artistic development in many different areas, just like picture books with quality illustrations. Their tremendous value lies especially in ability to present ‘serious’ things in fun, playful way. They are definitely useful in certain therapies for kids and grown-ups.
It is our (parents, teachers, therapists) responsibility to evaluate the impact of coloring pages and use them in proper ‘doses’. As everything else they are not perfect and they never intended to be. So use them but use them with a pinch of salt.
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