Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Coloring vs. Drawing

A reader asks:

"For 5 and 6 yr olds with limited artistic skill (for now!) would you recommend coloring pictures related to stories/poems when making books about them, until their skills have improved (I am thinking of doing a sketch journal for them to practice, that doesn't have to be "perfect")?"

You could do this, and I occasionally do it with my five year old, but generally, I prefer my child to create the picture in his mind rather than rely on a black and white simple drawing to take the place of developing a vivid imagination. There's nothing worse than creating a beautiful image in your head about a tale you have just heard only to have it replaced by a simple cartoonish picture that you must color. I've done this to my children before and have heard in a disappointing voice, "Oh. That's not how I pictured him to be."

Granted, you are helping your son develop fine motor control by teaching him to stay inside the given lines, color in a particular direction and also distinguish the difference between light an heavy shading by applying varying degrees of pressure. These are valid skills and if not overemphasized, certainly helpful. I would just caution you against relying on coloring pages too much. They really do stultify the imagination. Although some children naturally love coloring and will not complain, a hurdle has been placed in front of the skill of developing a beautiful imagination. We use coloring books, but generally keep it separate from most of our read aloud tales.

Drawing can certainly be postponed if a child really dislikes it, but I've learned that the sooner he becomes comfortable with it, the easier it will be for him when older. Practice, practice, practice is so important in order to develop this skill. My five year old son draws at least once a week, but he uses a very simple drawing book that guides him in copying simple animals from shapes in just four steps. This makes him feel successful. Now he draws constantly, whereas at the beginning of the school year, he was extremely frustrated at his scribblings and was afraid to draw.

I refrain from requiring drawn narrations at this early age due to the frustration it generally creates- he simply can't get that beautiful picture in his mind down on paper. Of course, some children don't mind a bit and love to draw what they have in their mind's eye. I think that is wonderful, too.

one step at a time...


  1. Whoo question made the blog! Seriously, though, I took your advice, and have introduced the little ones to Ed Emberley's drawing books...we're working on "Faces" right now, and we've also been enjoying his "Picture Pie" book, where you take paper circles and keep them whole, cut them in half, in quarters, and eighths, and use them, with drawn lines for necessary "straight things," to make all sorts of creatures and designs.

    Interestingly, my older two HATED coloring, but loved to sketch with pencil from a very early age.

  2. Neither of my kids like to color! Never have. Their Sunday School teachers have always looked at me like there is something wrong... Another great book is Drawing with Children by Mona Brooks. I'm planning on using this with my girls.

  3. Julie17.9.08


    What is the name of the simple drawing book that you use with your youngest?

  4. Hi, I hope you don't mind me posting this! I'm a new reader, and I'm loving your blog. I just wanted to mention that one of the books recommended on a Charlotte Mason site was 'Young at Art' by Susan Striker. I haven't got it yet (my oldest is nearly 3) but it's on my wishlist ;)
    Blessings, Clare

  5. My boys are only 3 1/2 and 5 and they both love to color and draw. They draw in composition books to narrate what I'm reading to them and although the images are generally stick figure type they are thrilled to tell me what they drew and what each part of the drawing is.

    I say just let them have a pencil or crayon and paper and go at it so they can develop a sense of being comfortable and confident in their ability to draw what their thinking.

    Thanks for all your helpful advice!

  6. Deanna22.9.08

    What drawing book are you using with your 5 year old?


  7. Julie and Deanna,
    I didn't mention its name because I don't recommend it. It's not that great, but we make it work. The drawing part is fine but the extraneous activities are useless and we ignore them. Just look for a drawing book for kids that has very simple drawings that can be completed in four or five steps only. There are many available. Do not use the GRID kind. Yuck. If and when I find a particular one I can recommend, I'll let you know.