Most children enjoy being creative with pencils and crayons. But did you know there are an impressive number of reasons why both kids and adults should partake in this peaceful pastime?
The significant benefits of coloring are now being realised for all age groups as it takes its place alongside yoga and meditation as an enjoyable way of improving mental and physical well-being.
We hope that by highlighting the vast benefits of coloring that we may even inspire teachers to use it in primary and elementary schools as an effective way of calming their students and introducing them to mindfulness.
Benefits of Coloring For Children
Coloring can be a highly effective way of fostering physical and psychological wellbeing in children. While it's a relaxing form of self-expression that stimulates creativity it also promotes a range of benefits to nurture well-being.
• Enhances fine motor development
Coloring is an activity that helps children build the muscles in their fingers, hand and wrist which aids in manipulating small objects.
Click here to read why it's so important to develop fine motor skills.
• Improves hand-eye co-ordination
Coloring in requires great attention to detail and precision to keep within the lines which gives children an opportunity to develop co-ordination.
• Develops spatial awareness
Visual perception is an important skill to develop in young children. Coloring can help strengthen awareness of the hand's position and margins on the page to help children keep their pencil within a given area.
• Builds concentration and focus
When children are asked to color between the lines, they may need to concentrate more than they would with freeform drawing. Because they are contained to a specific area, they will need to stay focussed on the space they have to fill and be more precise in their application.
• Promotes creativity and self-expression
Coloring allows children to express their individuality through color selection and medium. It's interesting to observe how much pressure they apply, the color choices they make, and whether they color loosely or tightly. Everyone is different and so is each masterpiece. One study also showed that using coloring pages can increase the novelty and variety displayed in the pictures they create.
• Teaches colour and shape recognition
Filling in the spaces with color on a printed page helps children to recognise hue, perspective, shape and form as well as giving them an opportunity to explore different color combinations.
• Relaxes and releases emotions
Coloring can have a profoundly therapeutic and calming effect on children as they shift their focus to concentrate on finishing their picture. This peaceful activity can provide an outlet for processing emotions and take the focus off challenging situations.
Benefits of coloring for adults
One of the things that convinced me about the benefits of coloring for adults is an article I read by an art therapist and psychotherapist who saw first hand the changes in her clients when she put coloring books in her waiting room. She echoes many who believe in the power of coloring. The following are some of the benefits I feel are most noteworthy to mention:
• Modern self-help tool
When testing to measure improvements in psychological outcomes, a study concluded that "Coloring participants showed significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms and anxiety after the intervention... We conclude that daily coloring can improve some negative psychological outcomes and that it may provide an effective, inexpensive, and highly accessible self-help tool."
• Coloring helps maintain focus
Coloring is becoming accepted within a University setting as a tool for students to maintain focus. Theresa Citerella, a student studying art therapy at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass. said that “A lot of my fellow graduate classmates bring these coloring books into the classroom setting as a tool to focus more on lectures.” She explained that more professors are beginning to welcome this behavior. “For my internship, I find the clients who are fidgeting and cannot sit still ask for coloring in books in order to concentrate on group discussions.”
• Coloring can help you sleep
It's well documented that using light-emitting electronic devices prior to going to bed delays the circadian clock and suppresses levels of melatonin (a sleep-promoting hormone) which results in more time required before falling asleep. Most of us are guilty of using such devices in the evening so if sleeping is an issue, replacing devices with coloring books can be beneficial.
• An alternative to yoga or meditation
A psychologist in Melbourne, Australia is an avid fan of coloring as an effective tool for helping his clients relax and unwind. Dr. Stan Rodski shared that he was having trouble getting his clients to use traditional techniques such as breathing, yoga and meditation to help control anxiety. When he saw how quickly and easily coloring relaxed children, he decided to research it as an alternative for adults and found it helped them achieve the same deep sense of relaxation. Dr. Rodski maintains that "five minutes of colouring a day is enough to get the same effect on the brain as about an hour worth of conventional meditation."
"If you look at it from the brain perspective, when they started colouring their brain recognised it as a happy place and it helped them to feel quite youthful again," Dr. Rodski said.
"It’s a carefree happiness because with that childhood memory comes a sense of no responsibility, accountability or pressure, and the brain reacts to that."
He's so convinced of the little known power of coloring that he even created his own range of coloring meditation books.
How does coloring help people relax?
When people are stressed or anxious, they can find it difficult to stay focused in the present moment. That essentially means that their thoughts are centred around their worries or to-do list instead of what's happening right in front of them at the given time.
The act of coloring is likened to meditation or mindfulness in that it gives people something else to focus their attention on. When the brain is focused on a simple activity that takes us outside of ourselves and with a predictable outcome, it's able to relax.
Dr. Joel Pearson, a brain scientist at the University of New South Wales in Australia explains: "You have to look at the shape and size, you have to look at the edges, and you have to pick a colour. It should occupy the same parts of the brain that stops any anxiety-related mental imagery happening as well. Anything that helps you control your attention is going to help.”
It's amazing that something so simple and enjoyable can have so many unknown benefits for users of all ages.
Share your experiences
We'd love to see your results and hear how coloring benefits you and your children so please feel free to share your experiences and photos of your masterpieces!
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AUTHOR: Lisa Currie - Ripple Kindness Project
Lisa is the founder of Ripple Kindness Project, a community and outreach program, and primary/elementary school curriculum. Passionate about improving well-being and reducing bullying, RIpple developed a whole school, evidence-based SEL, kindness and mindfulness curriculum to build character and emotional intelligence to nurture positive, happy and safe school communities.