I thought it might be helpful to look at this issue in more detail…
If you open a Google page and put in ‘colouring pictures for children’ you will find thousands of different illustrations just waiting for the addition of a crayon, pencil, felt tip pen or paintbrush. Children all over the world love colouring in pictures. I remember many happy hours spent as a child using my colouring and magic painting books. Personally, I must have been on holiday the day the ‘drawing recognisable pictures’ and ‘cutting in straight lines’ genes were handed out, but colouring in was something I could do… in fact, it was something I could excel in!
Should the feeling of pride and satisfaction I had every time I showed my parents my lovely coloured in picture have been denied me because I went over the lines occasionally or because an Ofsted inspector decided I might be creatively stunted?
Let’s think about what colouring in teaches children. When we offer colouring in resources we are supporting children to…
· Use fine motor skills and develop hand eye coordination (physical development);
· Follow their interests, choosing pictures that link to something they enjoy or are interested in learning more about (PSED);
· Make choices (PSED);
· Follow their individual learning styles – you will find that children who are visual learners (like me) are particularly enthusiastic about colouring in pictures (learning characteristics);
· Use technology as they select pictures and print them (understanding the world);
· Learn more about the world around them through art and craft (understanding the world);
· Use their imagination choosing colours and making designs (art and design).
Let’s look at the EYFS for guidance...
The EYFS tells us that we need to a balance between adult led and child initiated activities … and meeting children’s individual needs … and offering a wide variety of approaches to creativity … and providing children with lots of different experiences … and ensuring children have access to a wide range of diverse resources to meet their learning styles and to follow their interests.
Let's think about what parents want...
Have you ever spoken to parents and asked them what they think about their children colouring in? I asked my families and they all said they didn’t have a problem with providing their child colouring in sheets as part of the rich and varied curriculum they know we offer their child. In fact, they thought it was a bit of a daft question! They know we offer their child lots of opportunities to express themselves creatively – colouring is just one method we use – and their children have great fun on a rainy day going online, choosing their favourite picture and helping to print it before selecting their favourite colour to fill it in … and their parents like knowing what they have been drawing and chatting to them about their pictures!
I do not think there is any harm in giving a child who has watched and enjoyed the latest Disney film a picture of his hero or heroine to colour in – even if he ‘scribbles’ all over it, he will be expressing himself, enjoying the experience and practicing his mark making. I believe colouring in is a lovely activity as long as the colouring picture is given in context to, for example, follow up an interest, provide new learning or follow a child’s request.
We must, of course, make sure there are lots of other mark making resources the child can also choose to access should they wish such as -
· Paper and card - different shapes, sizes, coloured designs etc, some of it lined, some plain
· Crayons and pencils – thick, thin, lots of different colours
· Paints and paintbrushes – different colours and types of brushes
· Collage materials and glue – to decorate pre-cut and drawn pictures as well as for free exploration
· Tracing sheets and pencils to teach hand eye coordination and pencil control
· Scissors and tearing activities
· Rubbing boards, stencils and pencils
· Junk modelling resources that can be painted and lots of tape etc...
I believe our role as facilitators in children’s learning is multi-layered … we have to offer them a wide range of experiences. Yes, if we only offer colouring pages to the exclusion of everything else creative then we are doing them a disservice - I didn’t like seeing 30 identical sheep displayed on the nursery wall, eyes thoughtfully placed in the correct position by practitioners, when I collected my child – even though, let’s be honest here, I did find it easier to talk about than repeated splodges!
However, if colouring pictures are part of a wider range of resources offered so children can choose what they want to do… I fail to see the problem and I would argue this with an Ofsted inspector … and if they chose to downgrade me for offering the occasional child-chosen or carefully selected colouring in picture I would despair at an inspection system so inherently flawed that an outstanding provider with 20 years-worth of early years’ experience cannot be trusted to offer appropriate learning activities to early years children.
I am interested in your views... thank you. Sarah.