Coloring has been a favorite activity for kids since kids have been a thing!
The first child likely used mud to create wonderful works of pediatric art.
The best part is that coloring is also a great tool for spurring development.
(Want to download a free martial-arts-themed coloring book for your child?
Scroll to the end of this article!)
BENEFITS OF COLORING
There are many developmental benefits of coloring. Young children learn about colors, explore different ways to categorize their world, and develop the physical fine motor skills they will need for future writing efforts.
Even adults benefit from this artistic activity as they find a few moments of harmony while working in an adult coloring book. And if you’re a parent, spending time coloring with your child can be a fantastic bonding activity as you each trade ideas about the best way to make a picture.
While it may seem a mindless pastime on the surface, coloring is a natural step in a child’s physical, intellectual, emotional, and social growth. In much the same way that play is the developmental work of childhood, the time spent coloring can benefit children in profound ways.
SCIENCE OF COLOR
There are many lessons a child can learn as they explore what color is. Some studies suggest that, by learning the names of the subtle shades and hues, our brains actually develop the ability to see those colors. Without a word to describe a color, some people simply cannot distinguish it from another, similar color.
As kids use different colors, they learn how two colors together can make a third. For many children, this is a moment of discovery that initiates a career of scientific discovery. Mixing yellow and blue to create green seems simple enough, but to a child, it shows them that interesting results happen when they try new things and that the world around them is, to some extent, within their ability to shape and change.
Some colors have also been tied to emotions. While this can be influenced by cultural norms, modern marketers make use of this concept by creating ads and sales displays that evoke emotional purchases. In the same way, we can use colors as a communication tool as we help young children explore the big emotions they experience. While they may not always be able to communicate that they are angry with their words, giving the added visual of a color chart so they can point to the red square can be useful.
MOTOR AND SENSORY SKILLS
When children color, they engage in a multi-sensory experience that engages their minds and bodies. Kids can learn valuable pre-writing skills such as making lines and shapes by manipulating a crayon or marker. One tip to help with future writing proficiency is to break crayons in half. This encourages kids to use a tripod grip rather than grasping the crayon with the whole fist.
Kids also experience a wide array of sensations as they color. Different types of paper have different textures, different writing implements move across the paper differently, and even the surface on which they place their paper can make a difference in the end result. Kids learn to process and adapt to these different sensory inputs, and how to adjust their pressure and the amount of force they use based on what they see and feel.
Categories are something uniquely human, and amazingly ephemeral. You see, categories don’t actually exist outside of our minds. Think of a category… any category. What you are likely thinking of, and even picturing, is not the category itself, rather the things IN the category. Humans and some other higher life forms have the ability to create the abstract category to organize the tangible things around them.
When kids color, they learn that some colors go together and some don’t. They learn about warm and cool colors. That some color combinations make other colors, but other combinations just make a brown mess. They categorize which parts of the artwork should be blue and which should be green.
In the Brain SKILLZ curriculum used at LIFE SKILL of Millbury, Category Formation is one of 8 skills we work into each of our martial-arts-themed child development classes. Similar to a computer’s file system and RAM processing, when kids can quickly and easily categorize information, including learning how some categories are more flexible than others, their ability to create and recover memories also improves, as does their working memory. Working memory is a cognitive system with a limited capacity that can hold information temporarily. Working memory is important for reasoning and the guidance of decision-making and behavior.
CONNECTION WITH PEERS & PARENTS
While many kids enjoy coloring alone, and an equal amount of parents enjoy their child’s time being occupied while they get their chores done, coloring can also be a great opportunity for bonding time.
One of the best ways to do this is to join the child in their world. Color alongside them, but let them make the rules. If a child chooses to color outside the lines, let them. Coloring is just as much about expression as about rules or skill development.
Spend time asking questions to encourage conversation. Keep the questions open-ended and free of judgment. For example, try asking why they chose a color, whether they think the frog in the picture likes flies or candy, what the dragon’s name is, or simply, “Can you tell me about your picture?” This last question is a particularly good one when you are presented with a piece of art by your favorite 5-year-old… and you just can’t begin to figure out what it is.
READY TO COLOR?
Kids are creative. Any writing implement, and, much to the chagrin of parents with freshly painted walls, any writing surface will suffice to let their creativity flow. However, for those who want to keep their young Picassos working on the paper, we have provided a free resource.
Simply click the “Download” button below and print out the free coloring book. Each of the pages has kid-friendly martial-arts-themed pictures for your young artist. There are also some keywords based on the activities in our LIFE SKILL Child Development classes that you can chat about while you create your masterpieces.
And remember, while your child will be learning valuable skills and their brains will be growing with every stroke of the crayon, the goal is simply to enjoy the experience.
Download your Free LIFE SKILL Coloring Book here:
To learn more about the powerful Life Skill Child Development program that uses elements of martial arts training as the vehicle for growth, or to get your child started at our Millbury location, click the button below to be taken to our membership application and to schedule your child’s free 1-on-1 placement evaluation: