A child colouring in a picture

Colouring in | Your secret weapon for great handwriting

As a child, did you love colouring in?

It felt a bit like cheating, didn’t? Filling in someone else’s drawing. But it was satisfying – even therapeutic.

But it’s not really drawing, is it? Does it have any value?

Some early years teachers frown on colouring in because it’s not creative and has a pre-determined outcome. But that misses the point.

Has your child ever produced something like this:

It’s actually quite sophisticated. One mark for each character, and an early understanding that the marks must be contained within the border – even if the execution leaves a lot to be desired. 

From here, it’s a surprisingly small jump to neat, well-formed handwriting. The back and forth, zig-zag lines get closer together until they are parallel. At this point, with lines all going in the same direction, there are no white gaps and the pencil is under complete control.

The other important skill is to reverse direction when the pencil reaches the boundary. Think about how your pen rises to form the ascender of a ‘b’, then descends along the same line. Getting to the top and going back the same way is like colouring right up to the edge. It also helps to keep letter height consistent.

Over the preschool years, colouring in gives you the benefit of hundreds of hours of handwriting practice – and all without a worksheet in sight.

What age is best to start colouring in?

Your child is never too young. A baby swishing her hand from side to side across the tray of her high chair is colouring in. A baby shaking her rattle back and forth is colouring in. These repeated, back and forth movements, as they become more controlled, form the basis of the ascenders and descenders of letters and the parallel lines of confident colouring.

Why not print out a couple of pictures today? Weekend mornings are colouring time in the 100 Toys house. All four children spend a happy half hour with pencil and paper, Open up Google and type FAVOURITE_THING + colouring page. You’ll get thousands of results.

We went to a fireworks display last night so for us today’s search is ‘fireworks colouring page’, but other favourites are horses, football, ballet and unicorns.

One of the great things about colouring is that it’s easy to keep it fresh. Christmas, Easter, Halloween, yesterday’s trip to a castle… there’s always an excuse for a new printout.

What will your child colour in?

Are you ready for school?

Do you have a preschooler? Would you like them to develop some key skills before starting school? How wonderful to go into school on that first day feeling like you belong.

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