Saturday, 6 August 2011

Colouring mad!

In recent years there has been talk in some spheres questioning the educational value of colouring books. They supposedly stunt the imagination, being too prescriptive, allowing for too little freedom of expression and imagination. I say pish and piffle! Being too prescriptive or unimaginative begins and ends in that space between your ears, I say!

There are some amazing colouring books out there. I want to share a few with you, and show how it is possible to use ready made pictures as a springboard to give children a framework within which they can be free to do their own thing. If your children are creative types they'll use the lines as guidelines and have a riot in between. 

This kind of sums up my attitude full stop. The lines are there as a guide, but meticulously colouring everything neatly between the lines has never been my style. I'm more of an invent your own rules kinda gal!

Colouring can be so much more than simply filling in a space with colour. It can be a rather hypnotic, meditative activity, bringing a calmness, a kind of zen state. There is something very beautiful and pleasing about the simplicity of mandala or celtic patterns, or indeed any type of repetitive patterns. They can be both mathematical and if you choose to view them in this light, you could argue that some types of colouring even have a kind of spiritual quality about them - if you look at celtic or islamic patterns, or say, illuminations from stained glass windows, they can be rich with meaning, marrying art and belief. The perfect symetry and mathematical perfection therein is a reflection of those principles at the heart of that particular belief. But these need not necessarily take on any religious meaning at all, and can be enjoyed aesthetically anyway.

I try to buy colouring books that are interesting and inspiring. We have a whole spectrum of different types on many themes, in many styles. I'm not kidding when I say we probably have over 50 in total! Some are instructional and informative, teaching about some particular subject. Some are just for fun, and celebrate the non-sensical, the lighter side of life, the trivial. All are fine with me, since life is an eclectic jumble anyway! 

Here's a selection from some of our fave colouring books and some examples of how the children have, as I said earlier, sometimes used 'the lines as guidelines and had a riot in-between'. 

 A really special book, combining nature and maths and art all in one.





  R2-D2 and C3P0 get a makeover in this printable from the internet

A very flambuoyant Shakespeare coloured in by one of the children from one of  David Ochiltree's historical colouring books. I wrote to him directly and ordered every book in his series a few years back, and he gave me a discount because I bulk ordered for some fellow home educators. He was very friendly.

 A page from the splendid, magnificent Anorak magazine! Chock full of groovy stories, each by different artists in radically different styles. You never quite know what each issue might be like, and the colouring pages are always fun, often quite psychedelic and always highly imaginative.

This is a beautiful book with little footnotes on every page explaining the different creatures and symbols etc... It contains illuminated letters, spirals and knotwork, geometric step and maze patterns, and beast, bird and plant designs. Gorgeous!

One of many many Dover Colouring books we own, we LOVE the breadth of choice and the topics covered. Mini Dover Series is also good.

 Printables from maths websites with images such as this Isometric Dot Paper  can be great. This one above was used by Finn to make a honeycomb pattern for a card for a bee-keeping friend. 

Taro Gomi is really prolific in Japan and has written and illustrated many books. The pictures act as a prompt. He starts them off and leaves a suggestion. The Sunday telegraph quote on the back of the book reads "Battily brilliant heaven for idlers and slackers of all ages". I have a particular soft spot for this type of open-ended suggestive kind of colouring book because there's a myriad of ways each picture could be added to by each child. There is no single right answer or way of drawing in it. We love this book so much I have bought it for several children. I even have a copy in French!  It's as thick as The Yellow Pages and cost us about £10. That might sound like a lot, but it's worth every penny.

As it says on the cover, 30 countries drawn as mazes. A home ed must-have.

Hours and hours of fun! The page below is one of a double page spread from this brilliant book that took a few days on and off.

Hurray for colouring books and printables! Which are your favourites?


  1. Colouring books have their place as long as they don't replace free artistic expression I reckon. My two won't colour in someone else's picture but love patterns (eg the rather marvellous Molecular Colouring Book given to us by a lovely person ;-)) and mandalas. I think there is something quite meditative about colouring patterns especially. Ooh, and I'd like to recommend this for colouring:

    Obsessed with quilts, moi?

  2. Will check out that one Viv! I agree they shouldn't replace drawing freestyle. The books by Taro Gomi probably leave the most room for free interpretation and expression out of this selection. Children may be asked to do such things as "draw the invisible man sitting down for breakfast" and then the page is completely blank! But sometimes blank paper is better, depends on the mood!

  3. Colouring is cool, bring on the colour! A basic form of Colour Therapy, it's relaxing, it's all good. S prefers to draw everything herself but enjoys colouring patterns and the doodle books, A&W at age 4 love colouring and are obsessed with horse colouring at present enough to make a huge collage. Every horse has their own creative input using colour and different types of pen. L, on the other hand will do both but only in short bursts - it bores him. Am going to check out your recommended books so big thanks for the idea x

  4. My four all love colouring in and always have done even from being tiny. We have one of the doodle books too and I agree it is totally fab! You have opened my eyes to lots of new ones though so thank you for this lovely blog post. My youngest daughter and son love printing themselves pictures of the web and colouring them in, they always adapt them in some way or another and I find that they go in a 'zen-like' state when colouring in. I've enjoyed catching up with your blog this morning1
    Zoe x