A well thought out colouring book can have children occupied for hours and that’s just what parents and carers want on a rainy day in the summer holidays, right?
While as parents we may find flicking through a colouring book provides a dose of nostalgia, the humble colouring book now needs to battle it out against all singing, all dancing screens with many digital colouring games banishing the challenge of keeping inside the lines.
While adult colouring has proved a runaway success, creating an escape route from the daily humdrum, these books offered the same results for our little testers, instilling a moment of calm as they put pencil to paper, even if it did only last 10 minutes or so.
But what makes a good colouring book? Well that depends on the “colouree”. We recommend trying to choose a book that piques their interest – if you have an animal enthusiast or history buff then harness that, as they’ll enjoy bringing a passion to life.
If you have a milestone on the horizon like going to school or a first holiday, there are books that are designed for these occasions too.
Many also include little stories, facts and additional activities, which we found kept the kids engaged for longer and also gave some direction when boredom peered.
Of course illustrations, design and usability are very important when putting colouring books to the test, but longevity and the desire to come back to the pages garnered the most points for us. We have also noted any special or clever features.
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‘The Animal Numbers Colouring Book’
This 28-page colouring book is both playful and educational and a great introduction to not just numbers but animals too. Made by British children’s graphic brand The Jam Tart, this book is precisely what the title suggests and is perfect for pre-schoolers or those just starting school. We love how creative this book is, some formations are more expected like “seven snakes”, but we enjoyed some niche critters too like “nineteen newts” which were good discussion points. The illustrations have been so cleverly slotted together – we’d get our little tester to point out defining features like eyes and tongues, it’s a fantastic way to get them asking about animals, too.
‘Millie Marotta’s Brilliant Beasts’
Millie Marotta is the number one bestselling colouring book illustrator, and after a few minutes of filling the pages of Brilliant Beasts with colour it’s easy to see why. This book celebrates her best illustrations to bring together the most impressive and intriguing animals from all of her books. Our 11-year-old tester loved filling in the intricate patterns and found it a relaxing activity. Featuring 100 illustrations, this is just the ticket for a bit of mindfulness for the young (the adults enjoyed it too). It really is a colouring adventure.
‘Crayola Colour Wonder Peppa Pig’
Mess-free colouring sounds too good to be true, but seriously – this is genius. No more colouring on tables and floors, the “colour wonder” range from Crayola is a magical way of colouring in as the special markers only show up on the pages. Perfect for budding artists on their first foray into painting, you’ll get five markers and 18 pages of Peppa Pig fun. It’s a great book to pack on your travels too as no surfaces are put at risk.
‘London Colouring Book’
Usborne is responsible for filling kids’ bookcases with wonderful reads and it produces some brilliant colouring-in books too. This one is full of snippets of information on England’s bustling capital. From colouring in different uniforms likely to be seen on the streets of London to adding colour to landmarks such as The Globe Theatre and Tower Bridge, this is the perfect reading and colouring combo if you’re visiting the Big Smoke with a child. We’d recommend this for kids aged six and above.
‘The Jungle Activity and Colouring Book’
If you’re familiar with the words “what shall I draw?” this will soon become your best friend. The book has 10 different activities supplicated across 50 pages for your little artist to complete. Once they’re done, simply tear off using the handy perforated edges – they’ll love to see their masterpiece on the fridge door. The built-in cardboard back with handle makes this a great option for long journeys, particularly if inspiration is wearing thin.
‘I’m Going to School Colouring Book’
This book was the perfect summer reading and colouring activity for our four-year-old tester who starts school this September. The book explores a whole school day and what comes with it, leaving blank bits for you to colour in. It’s a great way to introduce the notion of school and what to expect in a fun and creative way.
‘Muck is Yuck’
Read all about Middleton Muck and friends in this new colour-in picture book by Kate Edmonds. Although you should prepare for a whole lot of poo chat (name a kid who isn’t somewhat obsessed with faeces talk) in this A5 book, the story is actually rather charming with its rhyming couplets and fun illustrations. Little ones have plenty of colouring opportunities on every page.
‘The Usborne Book of Drawing, Doodling and Colouring’
This is the perfect book for a rainy Sunday afternoon. We tested this on a mix of ages and sexes (four, 11 and 13) and they all enjoyed doodling away, but we’d say it’s best suited to those aged six and over. From designing your own stamps to adding scales to existing crocodile illustrations, there’s a plethora of drawing and colouring opportunities spread across a bumper 128 pages.
‘Paddington Colour On!’
Not like a conventional colouring-in book, this offers three metres of colouring scenes and activities. Great to share with siblings as you can roll out the length of the table, some activities are trickier than others but there’s something for everyone. We enlisted a four and 11-year-old to test this tome and both were kept occupied. Once you’re done you can roll the paper back into the box with the nifty black turn handles.
The verdict: Kids’ colouring-in books
The Animal Numbers Colouring Book by Jam Tart had to scoop the winning slot for its simplicity which had our four-year-old tester counting, colouring and chuckling. The cool design means it’s also a book you’re proud to have on your bookshelf. For older kids we simply loved Millie Marotta’s Brilliant Beasts – it’s sure to instil a sense of calm in your energetic offspring.
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