We do a lot of coloring in kindergarten. However, I think most people overlook the three main purposes for coloring: 1. Practice fine motor control. 2. Recognize colors and begin to see them in the world. 3. Follow directions. Most of our coloring has very little to do with art or creativity. It’s only a means of communication.
When I tell my little ones to “color the squares red”, I’ll score their papers on their ability to recognize a square, color it, and color it red. Seems simple enough, but I have students who will NOT do those three things. Some will not know the difference between a square and a circle. This is pretty obvious by the fact that they will color all of the shapes on the page. Some will use purple because they don’t know the difference between it and red. Others will not color the squares, but will put an X on each square or circle each square because they were not listening when I said “color”. And just because it is kindergarten, and just to keep it interesting, a few students will color their squares pink because that is their favorite color and surely I didn’t mean they really must use red!
What I will not do at this phase of child development is reprimand a child for coloring outside the lines. Their control over their crayons and markers and pencils is limited and constantly changing. We work daily on neatness and doing our “best work”, but that varies from child to child. I do give them my standard “Do NOT scribble” lecture, because I always have a few who will purposely color as quickly as possible in order to finish their work and move on to a “free choice” activity: journal, book, playdough. But it is apparent when a child is doing this and all I have to do is show them a sample of their work from our art lessons to prove my point that they are not doing their best work.
Art time is when my students have the opportunity to color with their own style and creativity. Sometimes I just give them a piece of paper and let them draw whatever they choose. Other times I dictate what we will draw that day and help them see the object as shapes. I’ll talk them through drawing a dog by doing it on the white board. “What shape is a dog’s head?” “Now what does he need?”….We talk about lines and colors and drawing to “show others what we think about”. There is no reason to critique this work. None. It’s all about praise and encouragement.
I don’t use coloring pages in class unless we are making a book about something. We might color four pages about birds or color five things that start with “o”. Again, the idea is to start thinking about the colors around us and to use them in a way that makes sense, not just color neatly within the lines. I am likely to have a discussion with a child about his coloring if he brings me a book with every page colored the same color, but I will not say “color neatly” unless he has shown an outrageous lack of control.
So…think carefully about what your child is coloring, how they are coloring, and most importantly, YOUR response to their coloring. It’s not just about staying inside the lines.