Creative Alternatives to Coloring Books

I am beyond thrilled to be guest posting here at I can teach my child!  I have been inspired by Jenae for so long and am so excited to be able to give back.

By the way, I’m Krissy from B.Inspired Mama. I won’t waste time with introductions, though. You can learn more about me here and here. I just wanna get right to the goods…

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As a former art teacher, I have a love-hate relationship with coloring books. In my art education courses in college, there was always lots of talk about how traditional coloring books and teaching children to “stay within the lines” only hindered their natural creativity. At the time, I was in complete agreement. And I still agree to some extent. But as many of you know, becoming a mom changes your viewpoint on many things! And this didn’t go unscathed. I’m definitely not as “anti-coloring book” as I once was. Trust me; we have a whole bin full. My kiddos use them all the time. And “coloring within the lines” can be great for fine motor development and practicing following directions. So I’m not a coloring book hater, mamas. I’m just an art educator (well, former, but always will be inside!) hoping that you look beyond the coloring book once in awhile. Here are a few alternatives to the traditional coloring book that might boost that little one’s creativity a bit more…

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  • Start with a LineI found this cool Crayola Squiggles & Doodles Workbook at the Dollar General for a buck! My oldest loves it (as you can see in the photos). But honestly, all you have to do is draw a squiggly line on a sheet of paper and hand it to your child. SAME THING! Tell him or her to turn it into something. (In my son’s case, this almost always ended up being something with wheels…)  You might be surprised at what they come up with!
    • Start with a ShapeAnother part of that same book included pages that had a splotch of color instead of a line to start with. Who needs a book to do this, right? Cut out a geometric or free-form shape from construction paper and paste it to drawing paper. Or let your little one paint splotches on paper. Let it dry before letting your child use a marker or crayons to turn the shapes into something.
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      •  Slide a Picture in a Sheet ProtectorMake a creative canvas by sliding a picture (of a scene from a magazine maybe?) into a sheet protector. Then give your kiddo a dry erase marker to add crazy details to the picture. Use a family photo and see how many mustaches and crazy hats you get! Just wipe it off and the fun can be had over and over again.
        •  Doodle Ideas in a Jar Write down a bunch of drawing prompts on small squares of paper. Simple nouns (like truck, house, pet, etc.) are great for little ones and can be tied into what the child is learning about at the time. Have your kiddo pull a square from a hat or jar and draw it. They can even keep pulling and adding to their same picture to come up with some really fun artwork.

          Now, don’t throw out all of your coloring books. But DO try some of these creative alternatives. And come visit met a B.Inspired Mama and let me know how you made out! I’d love to have you.

          8 Comments

          1. These are great tips! I especially like the drawing prompts. So often they sit down and just don't know where to start.

          2. I love these ideas, even moreso because they can be adapted to a variety of ages. I remember using the "Anti-Coloring Book" series when I was a kid and loved them!

          3. Thanks for the positive feedback, everyone! I do find that my little one is even MORE creative with a prompt (a line or shape) to start with than just a blank page. BUT less creative when there is an entire picture (like in a coloring book).

          4. I also have a love-hate relationship with coloring books! I teach kindergarten and do see some value in occasional worksheets.

            While looking for ideas for art lessons I have noticed lots of posts (on pinterest) about “three star coloring” How do you feel about teaching children that the colors they choose for their pictures need to make sense? (i.e. the grass is green the sky is blue)

            I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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