Coloring books for kids remain ever-popular, populating countless store shelves and often being given as gifts for young children. However, educators, especially art educators, agree that coloring books are not educational and can even hinder creativity in young children.
To those who say coloring books are relaxing, some argue that this is not the case for all children. In fact for young perfectionists, coloring can be a frustrating experience.
Whether you completely ban coloring books or still allow them in the home, there are also plenty of alternatives to coloring books for kids that can help children expand their creativity, develop motor skills, enhance their attention span, and even hone their critical thinking skills—all while having fun.
Here are 10 coloring book alternatives that will make great gifts for kids this holiday season or any time of year.
10 Alternatives to Coloring Books for Kids
Draw – Creative Drawing Prompts for Kids
by Elle Simms
Rather than just coloring in a picture someone else drew, try Elle Simms’ Draw – Creative Drawing Prompts for Kids. This book of drawing prompts is filled with ideas of things to draw and then color. Your child will get to draw an alien from another planet, turn blobs into animals, and more.
Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Trucks and Trains
by Ed Emberley
Ed Emberley has several wonderful step by step drawing books for children (and they’re also a lot of fun for adults). They are simple to follow with visual instructions. Things that may seem complicated and difficult to draw—a train, a log truck—are simplified into rectangles, circles, and lines. Another great Ed Emberley book is Ed Emberley’s Make a World.
Kumon has a lot of educational workbooks for kids, but some are geared toward arts and crafts, helping children develop fine motor skills through cutting, pasting, and folding. There are entire books dedicated to skills, such as folding, and you end up with some pretty cute crafts. These books are perfect for ages two and up. You can buy a complete set or just one book to work on a particular skill.
This is a great toddler activity book with open-ended drawing prompts to spark children’s imagination. Children are presented with a squiggle and then get to add on to transform that squiggle into part of a picture of their own imagination and creation.
by Herve Tullet
This book is ideal for children around five to six years of age. It will help them learn to follow instructions and enhance their fine motor skills. The book is filled with bright dots and shapes and simple instructions. For example, one page presents a series of colored dots, and children are prompted to draw loops around the dots. This will be a fun mental and motor challenge.
All About Marvelous Me!: A Draw and Write Journal
by Becky J. Radtke
This fun activity book is a great introduction to journaling for young children. They get to write and draw about themselves, their experiences, their best friend and more. Children are prompted to reflect on their experiences, their future, and their personal challenges. They even get to take fun personality quizzes. This is a fun way for children to get to know themselves better while practicing writing and drawing. This activity book is ideal for children between six and ten years of age.
Totally Awesome Mazes and Puzzles: Over 200 Brain-bending Challenges
by William Potter and Becky Wilson
Another activity book for those in the six to nine age range, Totally Awesome Mazes and Puzzles is a book filled with fun brain teasers. Rather than mindlessly coloring in pictures of their favorite cartoon characters, this book challenges children to think critically and creatively to solve puzzles and mazes.
For kids who enjoy comic books, this blank comic book is just the thing to spark their own creativity. Even if your child is not particularly into actual comic books, this can be a lot of fun for children who enjoy drawing their own stories. This book features page after page of comic book templates for your child to draw out stories about animals, superheroes, or themselves with their friends.
The Nighttime Adventures of Calvin and Ollie
by Krista Brock
My recently published children’s book, The Nighttime Adventures of Calvin and Ollie, is another coloring book alternative. Children are tasked with being the illustrators of this picture book about a young boy going on an adventure with his stuffed owl. Each page of the story has an unfinished illustration with no characters, so that each reader can draw out the characters as they imagine them.
Lastly, there’s a good old blank sketchbook your child can fill with anything his or her heart desires. Children can scrawl out doodles of animals, people, ice cream, and more. They can write and illustrate their own fairy tale. If your child needs a little inspiration, you can find plenty of drawing prompts and step by step drawing instructions online to help get their imagination stirring.