Category Archives: Visual Art at Home

Coloring & Drawing Books for Kids

I know… all kids really need are some leftover scraps of paper and a pencil to “create,” but sometimes it’s fun to engage them with books that spark their imagination a bit. Here are some of my favorites coloring and drawing books–perfect for gift giving.


1. The Giant Play and Learn Book by Pascale Estellon. This colorful book has hours of playful activities that focus on letters, numbers, reading, writing, shapes, colors, sorting, counting, sequencing, matching, patterning, and grouping. There are also 250 stickers included. Some of the sticker pages encourage kids to decorate a dinner plate, create vegetable people, and match garden tools. Ages 3 and up.


2. Lots of things to find and color by Stella Bagott. This Usborne Activities book features mainly black and white drawings with instructions on each page to find something specific and color it in. For instance, on one page a child has to find the finished face in each row of monsters and color it in, and then, she can finish drawing the incomplete faces in the row. Some tasks are easier, like “color in all the spooky eyes” or “find all the striped fish and color them in.” There are maze, pattern, and matching activities as well. Perfect for a cartoon lover! Ages 4 and up.


3. Guido’s Great Coloring and Drawing Book by Guido van Genechten. I’m a big fan of Guido van Genechten’s books, so this book was extra special to delve into. The humorous drawing activities give kids opportunities to finish pictures, count, imagine, color, design, and study expressions. Some examples include, “add about 827 dots,” “make the tiniest drawing you have ever made,” “give this moose huge horns,” “draw the shark that is chasing this little fish,” “make this spiral as big as you can,” “we’re on Mars… draw the martians,” and much more. Ages 5 and up.


4. Let’s Make Some Great Art by Marion Deuchars. This book has more specific art concepts and introductory information about famous artists, but does so with a casual and entertaining approach. For instance, the section on Matisse’s cutouts has instructions on how to make a Matisse-inspired collage but then also features pages of Mattise cut out type shapes and asks the child to draw figures looking out of the “windows” or to turn the shapes into characters with arms and legs. Other artists presented in the book include Leonardo da Vinci (form, shading, upside-down drawing), Pablo Picasso (Cubism, African masks), Vincent Van Gogh (yellow ocher, color wheel), Magritte (Surrealism, dreams), and many more. There are also projects for younger children like fingerprint paintings, ink blots, collage, drawing with an eraser, and experimenting with lines. Ages 5 and up.


5. The Coloring Book by Hervé Tullet. Filled with big and bold lines, this book is filled with abstract shapes, curves, loops, superheroes, letters, patterns, flags, houses, and much more. Instructions on some pages ask the user to, “find and color in the word hello,” “draw colored circles around the black dots,” “color in what you like to eat,” and “what are the right colors for happy people… and for sad people?” Ages 3 and up.

Captivating coloring

Recently, my three-year old daughter has started enjoying coloring more. She is mildly interested in the coloring sheets that come with the kiddie menus at restaurants and the handful of Miffy pages I’ve printed from web sites (although we love Miffy books!). She doesn’t really care much for Melissa and Doug coloring pages or TV character pages. But for some reason, Taro Gomi doodling and coloring books hold her concentrated attention for 30 minutes plus. Yes, that’s enough time to have a real conversation with someone or cook most of your dinner!

The author of Everyone Poops and other books, Taro Gomi is an award-winning writer and illustrator. His doodle, scribble, coloring, activity, and painting books and postcards will keep 3 to 7 year olds engaged. The clean line drawings are bold, expressive, and humorous with ample space to color and also space for embellishing (some of the pictures ask kids to add worms or apples to certain scenes for instance). If you love white space, these books are for you, uh, I mean your child. Some of the Taro Gomi books focus more on learning how to draw/doodle while others are geared more towards preschoolers who just want to color, draw simple lines, or practice counting. There is usually a nice balanced assortment of different age appropriate pages in each volume.

Here are some sample Taro Gomi color pages to download on Chronicle Books’ site.

Here are a few of our favorites to buy:

Doodles: A Really Giant Coloring and Doodling Book
Doodle 123!: A Really Giant Doodling and Drawing Book
Doodle All Year

Be sure to check Amazon for good prices on Taro Gomi titles and possibly Barnes and Noble or Borders if you have a coupon. Many of these books are pretty thick and heavy, so feel free to remove a few pages for a restaurant outing.

We also like the Melissa and Doug triangular crayons for color, durability, and no paper wrapper to peel away.

Let’s get the blue tape

You know how it goes. Your child gets a great present from the grandparents and all she/he wants to do is play with the bubble wrap and wheel stuffed animals around in the big box the toy came in. Yes, sometimes the cheapest and insignificant items are what holds little ones’ attention the most.

Hence, blue painter’s tape. I’m not sure how our love affair with this tape began, but my daughter has been playing with blue painter’s tape for a couple of years now and it is a big part of her daily play. The beauty of this tape is that it comes off of all surfaces (well maybe not so much hair), is reasonably priced, is reusable, and really does build spatial, construction, and motor skills. There’s something intriguing about blue painter’s tape for kids–I think that they feel like they have some control over it and what they can create with it. Most kids can rip their own tape by the age of 3 or so. We recently bought a 9 pack from Amazon for $31.12 that lasts about a year.

Here are some ways to get creative with blue painter’s tape:

  • pretend bandages on stuffed animals
  • build anything and everything with blue tape, paper, cardboard, paper plates, etc…
  • decorating or dressing up stuffed animals
  • “wrapping” objects (see the mini-pumpkin above) or pretend gifts
  • fixing things–of course this involves “breaking” or ripping something apart first!
  • attaching dolls or other objects to cars, play houses
  • art projects when you don’t want to use glue or just don’t have any glue on hand
  • airplane ride entertainment
  • pretend bridges (attach it between chairs)
  • create “do not enter” sections of a room
  • mini kites
  • fun abstract greeting cards or wall/window art
  • marking off a pretend house on a wooden floor
  • pretend jewelry
  • play food

Add some packing peanuts to the blue tape mix sometime and you’ve got an afternoon of non-battery powered fun.

Two notable gift sites

Yes, I wish I could make the extra effort to buy locally, but I do end up doing much of my shopping online when my three-year old is sleeping (hopefully in her own bed). I came across two great online stores recently. Although I haven’t ordered from them yet, they both have some unique gift items, perfect for the holidays.

Founded in Chicago, The Paper Source has locations throughout the country. They sell beautiful calendars, invitations, note cards, ornaments, gift wrap, and more. There are some great design-y art project ideas here too. A few of my favorite items available online are the 2011 Animals to Love Desk Calendar, the 2011 Paper Source Wall Art Calendar, and the Woodgrain Rubber Stamp (I’m not particularly crafty by nature, but I can think of some pretty cool art projects you could make with this stamp).

Based in San Francisco, the garden store Flora Grubb captures a certain vision of those who are architecturally inclined, in love with storybook whimsy and plain old imagination. If you can’t get out to San Francisco, there are several gift items on their website. In the not so expensive category, I love the Handcrafted Forest Floor Ornaments, the Wall Bubble Aerium, and the Cube Aeriums.

Art Supplies For Your Mini Franz Kline

Are you a fan of Reggio Emilia and Montessori views of art and learning? Do you love their process method and the respect they bring to tools and materials? Are you tired of paying $3 for a small, blah tube of Crayola paint from Target? (And why is black never in stock?)

If you have a budding visual artist at home, waiting with a smile, standing in a smock, and hand ready for a paint brush, visit Dick Blick Art Materials. I used to buy random paints and supplies at Target, local art supply stores, and Michaels, but this online store is enormous, well priced, and organized. You can find high quality materials to more budget, student priced art supplies. They often have free shipping deals and special sales.

Montessori Services is another excellent online store to find additional art materials, more specific to the Montessori method.

Not sure what to purchase? The Language of Art: Reggio-Inspired Studio Practices in Early Childhood Settings is a great book to learn about setting up an informal art studio at home, projects to do, questions to ask your child, and reasons to get excited about this way of seeing the world. Be sure to check your local library for a copy before buying.