Creativity is innate in all of us, and children are no exception. Putting color on paper by way of crayon, marker or paint is a fun way for babies and toddlers to express their creativity. They enjoy seeing their creations come to life. If you think about it from their perspective, it really is a magical thing. A stick that makes colored marks on paper! How fascinating!
If you’re ready to stock up on some supplies to get your baby’s creative juices flowing, resist the urge for coloring books and printable coloring pages. While many well-meaning coloring book suppliers have marketed to you that they are beneficial to your child’s development, the truth is, they are robbing our youngest children from reaching their full creative potential.
Children from 0-3 are not developmentally able to color in the lines, and asking them to do so is not only frustrating for them, but also hinders their creative processes. Think about if you set out to make a picture of a tree. You were given two pieces of paper, one with a tree already printed on it for you to color in, and a blank sheet of paper where you could express your creative thoughts. Those pictures are going to look very different. For children, it goes even deeper because they may not yet know what they want to produce. It is a process for them, one that connects deeply to their brain development.
Let me give you an example. I homeschool my children, ages 9 and 6. They have workbooks for math and reading (although this is a very minimal part of their homeschooling day). My 3-year old also wants to do “homeschooling”. So the other day I handed her a sheet of blank pumpkins from my older daughter’s work to color on. She immediately became frustrated because she physically couldn’t color the pumpkins “perfect”. It is ingrained in me to give young children BLANK paper, yet I handed my 3-year old a printed pumpkin and the result was just as it should have been, frustration. So the next day during homeschooling I gave her blank paper and she was engaged for about ten minutes (which is great for her age!). More importantly, she was proud afterwards, excited to share about her picture. A picture she created, all on her own.
Years ago, experts would argue that coloring pages were beneficial for children’s development, because they supported fine motor strength. We know better now. There are far more beneficial activities for fine motor development-- that encourage cognitive development as well. If you are interested in supporting fine motor development, give your child items like string and beads (remember to consider choking hazards depending on the age of your child), shovels and scoops, tongs and tweezers.
Instead of supporting your child’s creativity by way of coloring sheets, give them lots of blank paper instead. The smaller the child, the larger the piece of paper. Give them lots of ways to make art--pencils, markers, crayons, paints and paintbrushes, dotters, etc. Give them time, space and freedom to create. And watch their masterpieces come to life!
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Every day is an adventure.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Amanda
Amanda Dixon is a mother of three young children and has her master’s degree in early childhood education. She spends her days homeschooling her kiddos, freelance writing and teaching college. Her favorite things are a good cuppa tea, chocolate chip cookies, books, and her 3 dachshunds.