Coloring Books… Creativity Killers? or Art Fun?

I have a college degree in Early Childhood. That being said, people that know this automatically assume my children will be different than other children. Like acquiring this degree is some kind of magical ticket to having a smarter toddler. Not really the case as this degree has not changed who I am or my parenting style.
 What did I go to school to learn you ask? I can write so incredibly neat that it almost looks like type. I can sing about a million and five finger play songs which Lou Lou frequently benefits from. I could make you a math sensory game out of a tissue box and a handful of small toys. I know about child psychology and using our “I am” phrases. I can tell you about small and large motor activities and their importance. I know about Emotional, Social, and physical growth patterns and what to watch for.
The biggest most important thing that was pounded into my head was not related to the use of proper English or something useful like how to potty train a toddler. The most important thing that I heard over and over again was never ever ever use a color sheet or craft even if your life depends upon that cheerful finished color sheet or Rudolph’s head craft. You know when you walk into a daycare or preschool and all along the wall there are lines of art that each child’s looks just like the last? That kind of crafts and color sheets are the epitome of evil in early childhood according to my past instructors. They constrict creativity and inhibit the creative flow. They prohibit creative growth and development. They take away the child’s imagination. Apparently color sheets should be illegal before the age of 7 and blah blah blah… I don’t agree.
I’m sitting here watching my wonderful children color in their Hello Kitty and superhero coloring books. They are laughing and talking as the crayons glide over the paper creating colorful marks. Neither of them is really concentrating on the task. I’m pretty sure Batman isn’t rainbow colored but it’s ok because his batman in his imagination may be all those colors. They are free to express how they choose. Lou Lou is right there with them, playing, giggling, and coloring.
I will, however, confess I did hold out and not give my older children color books when they were little. When I would give them crayons they would get blank paper. Carebear didn’t see the inside of a color book till she was five and Super bub was four. What ended the streak was the start of school. Carebear went to Kindergarten and didn’t know how to color inside the lines. She would color creatively all around the paper and then the teacher would uncreatively circle all around the paper. This caused my child to feel like she had done something horribly wrong. I had to give my five year old a crash course in how to color. It didn’t matter that my five year old could read or knew how to count up to 100 going into school. It didn’t matter that she could write and spell the world silver, along with many others. It boiled down to the fact that my child could not color and she was not going to succeed in kindergarten if she didn’t learn. So my child that never colored inside the lines, who was taught to be a creative free spirit became a slave to coloring books. She grabbed them off the store shelves like some kind of new addictive drug, she couldn’t get enough of them. We even got a few for superbub to get him started learning how to color inside the lines as well.
We colored for hours every afternoon. My hand would get so tired and I would ask to do something else ANYTHING else. I would get denied.
She did learn to color although it still isn’t her strongest skill. She did succeed in passing kindergarten with flying colors. She is still one of the most creative little girls I know. Are coloring books really bad for young children? I don’t know. I do know I have let Lou Lou color in her older siblings books as often as she likes. I don’t, however, encourage her to color inside the lines.
 I have used somethings I have learned while in the course of earning my degree but most views on child rearing I have were not changed by the education I received. I’m not saying that any degree is not worth achieving or devaluing my degree in any way. I earned it from years of hard work. I just don’t think it has changed who I am. I respect anyone in the position of working with young children as this is one of the most important and challenging jobs a person could have. It is also the most rewarding job a person could have. I no longer work in the field but did for a few years before I had my first baby. I then couldn’t see leaving my child with my mom to go take care of someone else’s so I quit to be with my baby. I have no regrets.