In between AE jobs, I spent 6 years in Early Childhood Education. I
concur with your assessment of your neice's coloring activity being
mainly for relaxation.With my students and with my own children I found
that ignoring coloring books was more effective than banning them. I
kept some coloring books at my craft center and they were rarely, rarely
used because the other materials there were more fun and conducive to
creativity and exploration. But I didn't worry that I was damaging their
minds if they (very) occasionally felt like coloring in the books. The
children usually left the page unfinished or extended the activity with
cutting and pasting.
But I always made it clear that the coloring-book pictures were
"grown-up drawings" and that "they only put the ones they liked best in
the book. The other ones got thrown in the garbage and we only see the
ones they want us to see." And then I would add that I liked "kid
pictures" better anyway: they're more fun and more interesting.I said I
thought coloring-book pictures were ok but kind of dull compared to what
they did themselves.It seemed to help.
Now that I think of it, I'm still saying that as a middle-school art
teacher, where so many kids aren't satisfied unless their first try
looks like a professional's best try. We have to spend a lot of teaching
time building their self-esteem, don't we?
I might ask your neice why she expects to draw like an adult when
she's seven years old, especially since 7-year-olds' work is so great
just as it is? And point out that when you were seven you did 7-year-old
work and it was fine.