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Lesson Plans

death to coloring books

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Mike Odden (modrawer)
Fri, 14 Nov 1997 14:13:13 -0600

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Here is my view on coloring books.
coloring books teach a child a lot. The big rule is stay within the
even predrawn lines, woe to the child that likes texture or wants
their drawings to be more expressive. the most important thing
coloring books teach the child, is that their own drawings have no
Coloring books and color in worksheets have been around for a long
time. A 1914 teachers manual for teaching drawing, consisted of
much tracing. copying and filling in the color, type projects. In
the 1920's the idea that drawing and art in general should take
into account and promote self expression was being advanced.. In 1948,
Victor Lowenfeld first published his book" Creative and Mental
Growth" Since then he has continued his research on the creative
development of children.
You see the concern is with the long term effect on children of color
books. Do kids like coloring books? You bet they do. They say
they are fun and easy. They are right, for they require almost
nothing of the child not thinking, no decisions, in some they don't
even have to choose the colors. It's kind of like watching most
TV. I have been to]d that co]oring books teach small musc!e motor
control, by having them stay within the lines. But research has shown
that children stay within the lines better when they make their own
drawings. My answer would be, what is wrong with the child making
there own drawing and then filling in the areas to fulfill this
need? I've had discussions with some elementary teachers (thankfully
there are many that do not use the color in the blank drawings) some
teachers have said they ape not teaching art but use them for- teaching
math or some other subject. Why can't little Johnny or Jane draw three
circles and color two or whatever the task is? What kind of pride
can one have when all the drawings look the same ? When there are
coloring contests at stores or restaurants it is the child who is
least creative that is rewarded, not the child who is creative or
expressive in their work.
If one looks at the research by Lowenfeld and others, you will find
that the childs perception of the world is different than adults.
There are definite stages of development a child goes through. The
first is the scribbling stage ages 2-4, the child will name their
drawing when asked, but we are talking about enjoyment of making marks
at it's most basic level and as parents know, every thing is fair
game as far as working surfaces ape concerned. Paper, walls whatever
gets in their range. I'm not advocating children should be allowed
to do draw on walls but on the other hand if you have a wall
that's not in use?
The second stage, ages 4-7, is called the prescematic stage the child
uses geometric shapes, the body is drawn as parts. The use of
symbols are dominate. A concern for self is very strong.
Stage three ages 7-9. is the Schematic stage, they will exaggerate
the important parts of a idea and eliminate the unimportant parts.
A favorite example of this stage is a drawing by a five year old after
he was at the dentist. X-ray pictures become prevalent during this time
also. As well as taking things apart. Ages 9-11 we have a dawning of
realism. The child becomes more aware of details and the adu]t world.
Process drawings. where the action takes place in real time on the
paper and when they are finished there is nothing to look at. The
process is finished and so is the drawing. ll-13 continues with a
strong deserve for naturalism. A urge for 3 dimensional expression.
Unfortunately this is also the stage where for many children. ideas
outstrip their technical abilities. Many adults have stopped their
drawing skills growth at this stage. There is
also at this stage, a orientation of the way one bases their
expression. There is the Visual oriented person who sees the
concrete appeapence of things. To many people these are the students
who can 'draw' because they are logical in the way they interpete
their surroundings. The other extreme are the Haptics, Haptics
interpret the world through emotional responses. They become part of
their pictures. Most of the population forms a third group. in the
middle the Inbetweens, not one extreme or the other. Research has
shown that a person may be visually minded even though they have been
blind from birth. .
Now, coloring books are equally bad for both extremes as, even the
visually orientated child interprets nature as they draw lt. For the
Haptics child they ape dlsasturous. as they do not allow for any
emotional involvement of the child. When a child does their own
drawings. The descion making requires a lot of thinking. First you
must decide what to draw what to include in the picture what to leave
out, how much detail the arrangement of the forms. sizes of objects,
textures, what kind, how many. and then there is the whole question
of color. Yes coloring books are easier , easier for the adult to
interpetes easier for the child to do. Do they promote or model
thinking skills? Or do they make one child's art look just like
everybody elses. step. Give the child paper. any kind of paper they
don't care. It's the original art on the refrigerator thats

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