NZ Herald ran an interesting article recently how children's colouring books dropped off the top sales list to a parenting book and this behoves the question as to what might be happening to this traditional and essential tool for children.
The first step was to check out Google and see what came up as to the history and types of children's colouring books. Go no further, there are hundreds of web sites dealing with this aspect and another and another ....
For generations upon generations children's "colouring books" and "colour pencils" to aid and abet the past-time has been a mainstay of children's gifts. Even today, in this computer age with children's computer games, yet when walking the isles of those variety stores on view for sale are colouring books and colour pencil sets.
I even recall at a Baptist Minister's Retreat the speaker who was raised in an orphanage where money was tight, told the story of one Christmas morning waking up with much excitement to find his one single gift. It was a children's colouring book and three colour pencils. When he opened this new prized possession with much anticipation, he discovered I had already been coloured in.
Sunday Schools have utilised as a mainstay of instruction for as long as memory serves either bible story colouring books or sheets where the children hear the bible story and then colour in the story as presented on that page or sheet.
I can recall many an occasion my own children when tiny tots full of joy and excitement running to us after Sunday School with their coloured in sheet of paper. This is the experience of parents who have their children at Sunday Schools around the world.
There are some recognised benefits with children's colouring in. These are some of them, sent to me in my research by a friend this value-add list by Amanda Glover:
Visual discrimination, fine motor practice (colouring in the lines, etc), following directions (if there are any), colour by number or some other symbol is actually an early math skill as they are learning symbols / that one thing can represent another, the picture itself can convey information (often some kind of reading readiness skill), there are colouring books that focus on history lessons or even human anatomy.
There are colouring books that focus on bible verses and bible story messages and these are utilised by Sunday School and Christian education.
Again Google provides a thorough run down on the variety of colour pencils available, from the cheap varieties for the littlies to professional artistic colour pencils which galvanise the eye to remarkable art works.
My wife of 40 years Delma creates a variety of cards and often uses colour pencils to crate images of beauty and clarity. Delma attends a weekly 'pen and ink class', which might have better have been coined the 'colour pencil and shading class'. The instructor aims to hone the students skills in such endeavours. Colouring in has become an enjoyable part of her time when at the study desk.
We recently had a missionary family visit us from overseas. They had thee children ranging from 11, 8 and 3. As is our custom we look to purchase something for such children when they visit with their parents, and we got two sets of colour pencils and children's colouring books for the youngest two and a tech-set (compass) for the oldest.
Their parents could not have been more pleased as these occupied the children during their visit. As an aside, the oldest was seemingly gifted at maths and knew exactly what to do with the tech-set although he had never seen such a set before. His father was most impressed. Yet they all had access to computer games of one sort or another. It was the hands-on activity that took charge (as it were).
Children need things to occupy them regardless of what age set they are at. As grand-parents we have received in the mail copious sheets of coloured in sheets from Sunday School when they were in those pre-school years. In my Executive Ministries over 40 years I've been in many a corporate office and seen these sheets of colouring in pinned to wherever there was space.
These activities help children develop cognitive skills along with eye to hand development (like we all did when we were their age) and is part and parcel of growing up.
As a Christian, one of the saddest things is where in the third world these basic essentials for learning are not available or simply not allowed. There is much we can do to help Christian aid agencies in these very basic core educational items.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html