Grown-Up Reads

Tips & Advice

How to Have a Relaxing Coloring Book Playdate with Your Child

by Jennifer Ridgway

Photo credit: Andersen Ross, Blend Images/Getty Images

Coloring has become a popular hobby for adults and it can be the perfect activity to do alongside your child … if you’re well prepared. Plans for a coloring book session may vary slightly depending on your child’s age, but here are four basic things you can do ahead of time to set yourself up for success — and fun!

1. Where, oh where?

Deciding where to color depends on your living space, but the main thing to consider is how much room you’ll need. How many people will be coloring and how big are the books? You’ll also want to make sure your coloring surface is flat and doesn’t have too many cracks (watch out for tables with leaves and tiled floors).

In our house, my twins have a kid-sized art table that is near our dinner table. My coloring has migrated: I’ve tried sitting on the floor next to their table (not ideal for the back, admittedly!), at their table with them, and at the “adult” dinner table. My daughter has a giant coloring book, and sometimes we lay on the floor while we color, each working on one page of the spread. Now that my kids are over three years old and no longer in highchairs, the next step will be to introduce coloring at the dinner table together.


2. What is your tool of choice?

The age(s) of your child(ren) will influence what they are able to color with. Most young kids color with crayons. You can start them out with toddler crayons and thicker crayons that are easier for them to hold and then move to skinnier crayons as their motor skills improve. In addition to the standard box of 64, there are also glitter crayons, metallic crayons, rainbow crayons, and multicolor crayons.

All coloring fans have a preference of which tools to use and what effect they like best. What you are coloring may also make a difference: Very intricate designs need a finer point and something that allows you more control. I prefer colored pencils for adult coloring books; they allow a fine point for detail as well as the ability to shade depending on the amount of pressure I use. Some prefer markers, and there’s a breadth of choices there (e.g. Sharpies, watercolor markers, regular markers). Others use colored pens; I use glitter pens whenever I want to add a metallic pop to a coloring book page.

3. Do you care for a spot of tea?

Before everyone sits down to color, think about whether you and your child will want something to drink — you don’t want to interrupt your creative flow to run to the kitchen.

I always keep a cup of water or milk on hand for my kids; I don’t typically drink anything while I’m coloring, but I’ll occasionally have a cup of tea or a grown-up option, like a beer. I’d also recommend putting all beverages in closed containers to avoid spills. Speaking from experience, drips and spills can quickly ruin the experience, regardless of age!

4. What to color?

This is the hardest part, in my opinion. The main question is: Do you want to collaborate with your child, or work on your own project? Also think about the amount of time you have, and whether or not you are comfortable with leaving your page unfinished. Do you want to take on something with a lot of detail or larger spaces?

If you prefer to work separately but want to keep a sense of collaboration, one fun idea is to have a theme for your coloring session by choosing a kid’s book and an adult book with similar subject matter. There are a bunch of options, but here are some of my favorite pairings:

If you want to collaborate on something together but find coloring books to be too crowded, coloring posters are a great option for joint coloring, either on the floor or a large table. This NYC-themed one is a lot of fun.

There are also many online resources for free coloring pages you can print out at home. Brightly offers a bunch of free printables. Crayola also has a lot of different options for both kids and adults. A simple Google search will provide many more options; I recommend choosing very specific search terms to help narrow your results (for example: preschooler animal coloring pages, adult garden coloring pages).


Do you love coloring too? Which coloring books are your favorites for kids and/or adults?