The Benefits of Coloring for Both Adults and Children

Dr. Karolina Pekala

Coloring with Children

Using adult coloring books is a wonderful way to unwind, practice mindfulness, or even enter a state of flow. Engaging in pleasant activities, even if for a few minutes a day, can improve overall well-being and reduce anxiety

As we find ourselves spending more time with our families and little ones during the pandemic, children are naturally intrigued by what we are doing and like to join. 

While toddlers may be satisfied with scribbling away in an adult coloring book, their fine motor skills tend to be less than ideal. As children get older, they naturally start comparing their work to others, and they may be upset that their artwork isn’t as nice as that of their playmates, siblings, or parents. Children may become frustrated at the intricacies of certain projects and their inability to make the picture look the way they’d like it to.  As adults, we have more finely developed motor skills, leading to greater form and the ability to color small areas in adult coloring books. Here are some ways to include young children in your use of adult coloring books, be they your own children, family, or those for whom you care.  

Coloring as Parallel Play with Your Children

1. Match the theme of their book to yours. This is especially easy with holidays, seasons, and hobbies. There are endless supplies of adult and children’s Halloween, Thanksgiving, and winter holidays (e.g., Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, etc.) coloring books. You can also match nature books easily or those featuring gardening, flowers, fantasy, or animals.

2. Ask their opinion: which color should I use to color X or which picture would you like me to do? Children especially look up to individuals older than them. They are simply delighted if you ask their opinion on something and respect it. When we respect children’s opinions, they feel valued, important, and that they have a voice. Studies have shown that such interactions foster children’s self-esteem.

3. Have them color in a part of your picture. Is there something large and symmetrical enough, such as a sun, tree trunk, etc., that would be easy for them to color? Say you’d love for them to color it in for you. With children, it can be such a special experience and greatly beneficial to not only do artwork side-by-side, but to create something together.

4. Have blank pages or pages with faded gray patterns in your coloring book? Go ahead and ask your child to color those in for you. As time passes, the coloring book will fill, and you’ll have a lovely keepsake you created together.

Coloring Can Make the Day Smoother for Both Caregivers and Children

Including coloring as part of a routine has benefits for children and caregivers alike. Routine provides us with a sense of structure, safety, and comfort. Coloring can also help speed up tasks children dislike, such as if your child is lagging in the morning. For example, you can remind them that they have 15 - 30 set minutes in the morning to color, and that time is only there as long as everything else gets done in its allotted time. This may encourage them to complete onerous tasks more quickly (e.g., less arguing over brushing teeth or putting socks on so they have more time to color). A gentle way to remind them is to say, “I understand you don’t like brushing your hair, but the quicker you finish, the more time you have to enjoy coloring.”  

As coloring becomes part of a routine (and one you may do with your child), it serves to promote your child’s well-being, a sense of calm, and acts as a way to start the day with a sense of connection. 

Coloring has myriad other benefits for children, as well, and ends up being a win-win situation for everyone. 

Coloring and Motivation


It is important to remember not to deny time for coloring or other artistic/intellectual pursuits as punishment. Denying children the chance to color, play an instrument, or read their favorite book can diminish creativity, intellectual curiosity, and intrinsic motivation, as well as their sense of joy. 


Additionally, we want our children to enjoy learning, expressing themselves and pursuing their passions because of internal or intrinsic motivation, which is seen as the best and most pure form of motivation (i.e, doing things because we enjoy them, not solely because others compliment us, we obtain a reward, etc.). As such, using positive reinforcement tends to be a much more beneficial way to alter children’s behaviors. 

The Art of Play


Navigating parenthood and self-care can be overwhelming. Coloring has many benefits, whether it’s connecting with our children, reducing our own anxiety, or being able to be fully present (mindful) in the moment

The act of coloring also taps into a forgotten aspect for many adults; that of play. 

Play in adulthood increases communication, connection, and can even promote positive personality and perspective changes and reduce feelings of depression. By connecting with our children in this way, we can ultimately connect with a deeper sense of ourselves.  You can learn more about how we help parents increase their sense of well-being by visiting our website.

Dr. Karolina Pekala is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist at NY Health Hypnosis & Integrative Therapy. To learn more about how mindfulness & hypnotherapy can help you or to make an appointment, please contact us here.

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