Dr. Lenore Peachin Wineberg takes child’s play very seriously. After all, it is through play that young children mentally, socially and emotionally grow. Yet in her research Wineberg was finding that fewer parents actually engage with their children in play. It isn’t an issue of outfitting the child with the right toy, but seeking out the right activity for child and adult to do together. Even with the best of intentions, today’s multi-tasking, non-stop, parents may begin to focus solely on playing with a youngster, but the adult quickly becomes distracted, preoccupied, lured away by texts, emails, phone calls or another pressing task that may only take a few minutes to complete.
Children can build positive associations with coloring books from the way the medium is introduced to them. Since many adults often have positive memories associated with coloring books, their genuine enthusiasm should be shared with their younger counterparts. Wineberg looks back at her own childhood, when she remembered getting coloring books as a “treat” to feel better or a small gift from a relative.
As you color together, let the children take the lead: allow them to choose the types of coloring books (assuming it is age appropriate), pick the colors and decide how to add details. This may result in pictures of blue trees and orange oceans, but they were all created from the child’s unique perspective. When the child has completed the picture, ask him or her to tell you about it. Asking questions like, “What do you like about your picture?” avoids judgment and encourages conversation. You can decide together if the picture should be hung in a special place or given to someone.
Wineberg offers another important reminder for grown-ups when using coloring books: “Respect the materials”. Remember that coloring books are books, too and should be treated with care. Designate a space for storing coloring books, crayons and markers. She recommends using a desk organizer for papers or even a dish rack to display coloring books so kids can locate them easily.
Lenore Peachin Wineberg holds an Ed.D from George Peabody College for Teachers of Vanderbilt University and has been teaching at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh for 23 years. She has published 20 articles related to the field of early childhood education. Her current areas of research include: coloring books, homeless families and male early childhood teachers perspectives of their career. She regularly presents at international and national early childhood conferences. Dr. Wineberg is past president of U.S. National Committee of the WORLD ORGANIZATION FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION (OMEP).