Coloring is a beloved pastime that starts when you’re a toddler, develops through adolescence, and may even be maintained in adulthood. It’s an outlet for creativity, offering a chance to develop important skills in youngsters and keep older kids entertained without the use of screens.
The right coloring book for a child fosters exploration into art and expression, but the wrong one can discourage such a venture. Our buying guide takes a look at all the options when it comes to coloring books for kids — including our top pick, the Little Bee Books My First Big Book of Coloring — and narrows down how to find one for the child in your life.
Considerations when choosing coloring books for kids
Quality matters when it comes to paper: a lesser material may be flimsy and tear easily or allow colors to bleed through or smudge. Look for thick, durable paper that allows not just crayons, but colored pencils, markers, and even watercolors to be used effectively. Quality paper also helps maintain the book’s durability over frequent usage.
Note the size of the coloring area and what kind of precision or detail is required. Younger children may require larger areas, while older, more careful kids may prefer something detailed and challenging. Match up the skill and interest level of your child to the coloring areas.
Similarly, the level of detail and intricacy in a drawing may entice some kids and turn off others. Designs with thicker, broader strokes are likely better suited for the youngest of kids.
The theme of the coloring book — whether it comes from a favorite piece of pop culture like a movie, or features beloved depictions of science and nature — is essential to attracting kids to the coloring book. There are a wide range of options available, so take time to find one that matches their interests. Disney princesses and dinosaurs are certainly among the more popular choices.
Most coloring book pages are the standard 8.5 x 11 inches. Others may be more compact to make for easy storage or travel, while oversized books are also made for those who want to spread out and create big, bold pictures.
Number of pages
For enthusiastic youngsters, there are options available with plenty of pages, though larger books aren’t necessarily a better bet. Look at the binding and determine how easy it is to hold open pages when coloring. What’s more, avoid those options that sacrifice page quality in the name of page quantity. Some larger books may feature perforated pages to allow you to remove them and color on a flat surface. These can also be hung or framed upon completion.
While coloring books allow kids a creative endeavor, some offer educational tools as well. Some books may tie in basic elements such as counting or identifying shapes and animals. For older kids, some books may tell stories with text involved. Similarly, games and puzzles may be incorporated into coloring books.
Coloring books are relatively inexpensive, ranging between $5 for smaller options geared for younger kids up to around $15 for more detailed, lengthy books.
Q. What are some ways coloring is beneficial to children?
A. Coloring can help teach a range of skills including focus, hand-eye coordination, and completing tasks from beginning to end. Coloring can develop fine motor skills that aid in writing and typing as well. Other positive benefits include creative expression and relaxation.
Q. When can a child start coloring?
A. For toddlers under 18 months, most coloring really just involves scribbling, but it’s a good start. Around three years old, children may begin effectively grasping and coloring, though it may take a year or two for color recognition.
Coloring books for kids we recommend
Best of the best: Little Bee Books' My First Big Book of Coloring
Our take: Comprehensive coloring book with fun themes, big images, and lots of coloring possibilities.
What we like: Almost 200 pages; artwork is silly and exaggerated to capture youngsters’ attention. Lines are thick and easy to color within. Variety of content.
What we dislike: No perforation; may be hard to hold open pages.
Best bang for your buck: Crayola Epic Book of Awesome Coloring Book
Our take: This large coloring book from a trusted brand contains elaborate, exciting scenes allowing for lots of creativity.
What we like: Great value for almost 300 pages of coloring. Includes glitter and stickers. Perforated pages can be removed and displayed.
What we dislike: Only intended for use with crayons.
Choice 3: Pusheen Coloring Book
Our take: Creative coloring book starring the popular tabby Pusheen in a variety of settings and activities.
What we like: Features 94 pages of content ranging from the simple to the more complex. Contains seasonal and holiday themes. Good value.
What we dislike: Some bleed-through may occur.
Anthony Marcusa is a writer for BestReviews, a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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8 book recommendations for kids of all ages
‘When Pencil Met Eraser’
Written by Karen Kilpatrick and Luis O. Ramos Jr.
Illustrated by German Blanco
This hilariously illustrated book is about a pencil who “likes to work alone” and an eraser who has all sorts of ideas for improvement for pencil’s drawings. At first, pencil is annoyed by eraser’s changes, but by the end of the book, he recognizes that the white space, blending effects and mistake correction that eraser offers makes his drawings better. Chosen by Parents magazine as one of the best kids’ book of the year.
By Ximo Abadia
Along with “Small in the City” (below), this story won a place in the New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Book of the Year. It’s the simple tale of a farmer, Paul, hard at work planting and tending his crops, when a drought comes along and threatens to destroy everything he’s worked so hard to nurture. The boldly colored illustrations are charming and full of whimsy, with little “easter egg” surprises here and there that will delight children in their discovery.
‘Room on Our Rock’
Written by Kate and Jol Temple
Illustrated by Terri Rose Baynton
Named winner of the 2020 Charlotte Huck Award, this clever book is actually two in one — it can be read forward and backward. In the “forward” story, an adult and child seal must find another rock to live on when theirs is overtaken by water, but the seals on the rock they approach don’t want to make room. Read the pages backward, though, and the same collection of phrases and sentences tell another story: We see your plight and welcome you to our rock, where we have plenty of room. A great look at differing attitudes toward refugees and a learning moment for empathy and sharing.
‘Small in the City’
By Sydney Smith
This delicately wrought tale about a child’s search for a missing “friend” through the snowy city is a masterpiece of art and storytelling. But just who is the narrator? The city is seen in evocative glimpses and atmospheric impressions, and the story’s narrative takes a surprising and poignant turn that will leave you rereading the whole thing with tears in your eyes.
‘Citlali and the Day of the Dead — Citlali y el Dia de Muertos’
Written by Berta De Llano
Illustrated by Jamie Rivera Contreras
If you are a member of a bilingual Spanish-speaking family or simply want to learn Spanish vocabulary, the Keepsake Stories Collection offers several engaging stories in dual-language format. Many of the titles retell traditional Latin American folktales, but “Citlali and the Day of the Dead” is an original story that follows Citlali as she and her community prepare for Dia de los Muertos.
‘Mosi Musa: A True Tale About a Baby Monkey Raised by His Grandma’
By Georgeanne Irvine
The fourth book in the San Diego Zoo’s Hope and Inspiration Collection, “Mosi Musa” is the true story of a baby vervet monkey whose start in life was a complicated birth and a mother who showed no interest in caring for him. Although his human caretakers need to bottle feed him, Mosi’s Grandma Thelma steps in to cuddle, groom and protect him. Together, Mosi and Grandma Thelma show how special — and important — grandmas truly are.
‘Trevor Lee and the Big Uh-Oh’
Written by Wiley Blevins
Illustrated by Marta Kissi
This cute, clever and funny children’s book is about a mischievous third-grader doing all he can to avoid reading in front of a large audience on his school’s Parents Night, driven by the insecurity that he is not a great reader. To make matters worse, he is soon assigned an additional passage when another student falls ill. Beneath the quirky “kid’s eye” view of the world lies the message that learning to read is a process that takes persistence.
‘I Can Make This Promise’
By Christine Day
Inspired by the author’s personal family history, this powerful children’s book is about a mixed-race 12-year-old Native American girl searching for the truth behind her family’s complicated legacy and a connection to the culture from which she has been raised apart.