If you’ve stepped into a dollar store, craft store, book store, etc in the last couple years, you must have seen the HUGE variety of colouring books lining the shelves. From Frozen, to Power Rangers and Paw Patrol, to more specifically created colouring books to focus on mindfulness, there is literally a colouring book for EVERYONE. While we know that most children like to colour (and some adults too!), did you know that colouring is important to help your child’s development? Colouring is fun and can keep kids entertained and contained to a space for a while, but it can also be so much more. Here are a few of the benefits of colouring from an educator and occupational therapist point of view.
Hand Strength and Pencil Grasp (fine motor skills)
Often times we can get confused with the idea of practicing fine motor skills and handwriting skills such as hand strength and pencil grasp, with pure handwriting. Kids get frustrated when they don’t feel they have the spelling/vocabulary skills to write, so we get frustrated that they won’t practice because we are worried about their handwriting skills not developing. But the process of colouring can be a fun and creative way to practice holding the pencil with our alligator grip while working on control and coordination of the tool. By using a pencil crayon, children learn the amount of pressure they need to put on a pencil to make dark enough markings on the paper, and work on the strength of their hand muscles at the same time. As their skills get more developed, colouring will become neater and more in the lines (perfection is not the goal here!)
Visual Motor Skills
Also known as hand eye coordination, colouring requires attention to detail and precision in order to be able to colour within the lines. Visual perception can help strengthen awareness of the hand’s position and line on the page. Even just colouring in a simple shape can give your children an opportunity to develop coordination which will translate to many other skills in the rest of their lives.
If you are able to sit with your child while they are colouring, you may be able to help them further their language development as they share what they are colouring on the paper. Being an inquisitive parent/caregiver/teacher, can help them learn descriptive words to describe their art, names of colours etc, as you ask questions about their artwork! This can help improve their language development as they feel more confident in their vocabulary and can try using these words in different situations.
Colouring can be a great way to give a child some quiet time if they are over-tired, over-excited or stressed out. Colouring has the ability to relax the fear centre of your brain, which can help you find rest and feel more at peace – this is why adult colouring books have been all the rage lately! Whether you believe it or not, children often feel stressed and anxious, and can benefit from some time during the day for their minds to process their day, the ups and downs, and the emotions they may be experiencing. Allowing a quiet time to colour and process can help them talk about anything they may need help with or need to let go of, which can help them have a clear and ready to learn mind for school. This can also be a lovely time for your child to bond with their caregivers/siblings etc!
Focus & Attention
For a child who may struggle to sit still and focus for longer periods of time, an interesting, quiet table top activity like colouring might take a lot of work to focus, but can be a great tool to practice concentration and attention. Often times when we talk about attention, we focus on the idea of getting rid of distractions and keeping ourselves still, but we don’t focus much on developing the skill of concentration. Colouring pages can provide kids with a simple task they can complete by themselves, and can help them learn to complete a task despite the distractions around them. Just like handwriting, getting dressed, using scissors and eating properly are skills that need practice, concentration is a skill that must be learned and practiced so that your mind can master the ability. Colouring allows for a fun and creative way to practice, in a less academic manner (and maybe more enticing) than focusing on writing!
Brings out Creativity!
Creativity and imagination is a beautiful part of childhood that I wish could be fostered and captured from a young age and carried through out our lives. Colouring can offer a platform for creativity to be expressed, whether they are drawing an original picture, or colouring a store bought (or printed) colouring book. Creativity can help them grow and learn as they explore different styles, emotions, and worlds in their imagination as they colour, and they may find a hobby that they can carry with them through the rest of their lives!
Bonus : Communication and Social Emotional expression!
My favourite benefit of colouring is the opportunity for communication and social emotional expression. Colouring can be a peaceful way to process emotions and take the focus off challenging situations. From my experience working with children who are either in the hospital or have siblings in the hospital, colouring can provide a safe space to show how you are feeling, and to talk about it with someone. There have been many times where a child has given me a look into their world through the pictures they draw. Comic books can be a great way to tell a story that often can be inspired by real life events. Sitting with your child and perhaps drawing or colouring along side with them allows them the opportunity to talk with you without the formalities that regular social interaction comes with. They are able to share stories or emotions without making direct eye contact, and with another task to focus on if they feel tired of talking. I have often had extremely deep and meaningful conversations with children during structured art times. It can also just be a fun way for kids to connect! As a virtual camp counselor this summer, a couple of the 6 year old girls I ran programming with were super quiet and shy, but when I hosted a colouring and disney music session, they really opened up! Everyone was singing, sharing stories about their summer and their families, and it took the edge off of talking to new friends!
There are many articles as well that show that adults also get these benefits from colouring as well. I have a couple sketch books and basic colouring books on my shelf as part of my winter self care tools – it’s a beautiful way to escape from some of the anxieties you are experiencing in the moment. A cozy space, some enjoyable music, and some quiet colouring time can help you be mindful in the moment, and zone out a little bit. Crafternoons can also be a wonderful date to have with friends (even virtually during this time), where you can check out, be as chatty or as quiet as you like, and everyone is focused on their artwork so it is ok for you to show up however you need to in the moment!
Whether you’re colouring alone, with some friends or with your children, consider setting up some colouring dates this fall/winter to nurture a little self-love!
Are your kids a fan of colouring/drawing? As winter approaches, I am putting together some virtual colouring/guided drawing sessions – we’ll gather into a zoom call for 30 minutes, I will lead a guided drawing (or kids can just join with their own colouring books or draw their own pictures) and it will be an opportunity to socialize with some new friends through a mix of structured and natural conversation! Send me an email if you are interested in learning more – firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂