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11 best kids’ colouring books that will inspire their creativity

From 3D masterpieces to colouring subscriptions, they’ll return to illustrations again and again

Sarah Dawson
Tuesday 05 July 2022 17:16 BST
Whether they’re a nature lover or dinosaur obsessed there’s a book to suit
Whether they’re a nature lover or dinosaur obsessed there’s a book to suit (The Independent)

Colouring books are the ultimate failsafe, screen-free entertainment for kids of all ages. Whether you’re looking for something to keep children busy during the long school summer holiday, an easy activity to pull out on a rainy day or simply a way to occupy the kids while you’re trying to cook dinner, a colouring book will never let you down.

The books offer so many amazing benefits to children, helping boost everything from fine motor skills and concentration to creativity and patience – not to mention the pride they feel when showing off their finished masterpieces.

When choosing one though, it’s worth considering a few things first. Whatever you buy needs to be age-appropriate – simple designs may not hold an older child’s attention for long – and the theme engaging.

Paper quality and design are also important if you want a colouring book that will last longer than one play session, and stand up to the test of some ferocious scribbling by younger children.

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How we tested

Our three, six and nine-year-old testers channelled their inner Picasso to put a huge range of colouring books to the test. We looked at value for money, the illustrations (they had to have proper kid-appeal) and whether they came with any extras like stickers or fun facts. Essentially, the ones that made the cut are the colouring books our little testers returned to again and again.

These are the best kids’ colouring books for 2022:

  • Best overall – The Jam Tart the animal alphabet: £6,
  • Best for younger children – Orchard Toys farmyard sticker colouring book: £3,
  • Best for creativity – Rock & Pebble the teddy bear colouring book: £18,
  • Best for older chilren – Usborne colour your own dinosaurs: £4.99,
  • Best colouring subscription – Kids’ Colouring Adventure Box: £22,
  • Best for on the go – Wonderous Animals colouring book: £3.95,
  • Best for interactive play – Hobbycraft colour-in cardboard ice cream van: £18,
  • Best bumper colouring book – Prestel the art colouring book: £9.24,
  • Best budget buy – Hobbycraft mermaid colouring book: £2,
  • Best for nature lovers – The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Nature Sticker and Colouring Book: £5.99,
  • Best for siblings – Olli Ella playpa ocean paper roll: £15,

The Jam Tart the animal alphabet

The Jam Tart the animal alphabet, published by Dotty About Design .jpg

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

Featuring an A-Z with a difference, this gorgeously quirky colouring book from The Jam Tart got the thumbs up from all our testers. Each A4 page features a stylised animal letter to colour in, as well as an explanation for each underneath (great for encouraging our six-year-old’s reading). It gets bonus points for including patterned end papers for even more colouring opportunity, too.

What we particularly loved was how different this was to other colouring books we tested. The illustrations are fun and contemporary, and our testers loved guessing the animal hidden in each letter (favourites included “K is for Kangaroo”, complete with a little Joey, and “U is for Urchin”) before reading the words. There’s also enough intricacy to keep older children engaged, while the bold, graphic designs were a hit with our pre-schooler.

Overall, we think it’s the perfect “learning through play” activity. Designed and printed in the UK, the quality is top-notch, and we can’t get enough of the modern yet charming, graphic-led style. Undoubtedly the coolest colouring book you can add to your collection.

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Orchard Toys farmyard sticker colouring book

Orchard Toys farmyard sticker colouring book .jpg

Best: For younger children

Rating: 9.5/10

With large, easy-to-colour farm animals on each page, as well as matching stickers to add to each picture, this great-value offering from Orchard Toys was hands-down the favourite as far as our three-year-old tester was concerned. While they are a way off mastering colouring inside the lines, our youngest tester really enjoyed colouring in the 23 instantly recognisable characters with an enthusiastic crayon scribble.

It’s a fantastic choice for pre-schoolers and reception age children, with the addition of dotted-line words to trace – great for helping with those pen control skills and letter recognition. There are also two pages of matching stickers to add to each design, which our three year old got stuck into with gusto. We were very happy (and relieved) to discover the stickers are reusable, so we were able to easily peel them off for our tester to use again. Tantrum averted!

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Rock & Pebble the teddy bear colouring book

Rock & Pebble the teddy bear colouring book .jpg

Best: For creativity

Rating: 9/10

Our testers’ imaginations went into overdrive with this cute and creative colouring book. Open the book out and you’ll find 30 blank, teddy-bear shaped pages ready to be brought to life. With no printed illustrations to colour in, it’s up to your little artist to create their own teddy design and we loved watching each of our testers come up with wonderfully original results.

Using crayons, felt tip pens, glue, glitter (eek!) and stickers, our testers really enjoyed getting stuck in – we were initially unsure as to whether the lack of direction might put them off, but simply the shape of the paper was enough to fuel their imaginations. Our youngest tester thought the teddy bear was “so cute” and happily doodled over the pages, while the older two took their teddy bear design quite seriously and enjoyed challenging each other to colour different types of bears – more pirate bear and sleepy bear than polar bear and brown bear. If you’re looking for a great birthday gift for a primary school age child, we think this is just the ticket.

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Usborne colour your own dinosaurs

Usborne colour your own dinosaurs .jpg

Best: For older children

Rating: 9/10

Featuring 23 different dinosaurs, packed with detail to keep your little artists busy, this is the ultimate choice for a dino-obsessed child. Our six year old definitely fits the brief and was suitably impressed with the realistic illustrations and accompanying statistics – they are a big fan of a dinosaur fact.

Handily, each illustration has the phonetic spelling alongside the dinosaur’s name (much appreciated when we were asked “What’s this dinosaur called?”). You’ll find all the old favourites here from Triceratops to T-Rex, as well as the giant sea monster Albertonectes. There’s a lot to colour in on each page, and it kept our testers busy for a long time. In fact, it held our six year old’s attention for much longer than any of the other books. A brilliant option for older kids who want to get stuck into a project.

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Kids’ Colouring Adventure Box

Kids’ Colouring Adventure Box.jpg

Best: Colouring subscription

Rating: 9.5/10

If your child whizzes through colouring books at the speed of light, a colouring subscription may be the answer. This bumper offering from Kids’ Colouring Adventure is such a clever idea and is executed exceptionally well. Sign up for a 3-month or a 6-month subscription (prices vary depending on which on you choose) and every month you’ll receive a themed box absolutely jam packed with things to colour and make.

Inside our “castles” box there was so much to get stuck into; a colouring book, greetings cards, stickers, bookmarks, cut out characters including little plastic stands and a cut out and colour crown, among others. There was also a pack of great-quality colouring pencils, an eraser, glue and washi tape, so our testers had everything they needed to get started. The kids and grown-ups alike thought this was an amazing package and we loved how there was plenty for all of our testers to colour together, without any fighting over who has what.

It may be more expensive than the others in our round-up, but this offers next-level colouring options and really will be worth its weight in gold over the school holidays. We also love the idea of leaving one of the subscription boxes at the grandparents, so they will always have something to keep the kids entertained if needed.

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Wonderous Animals colouring book

Wonderous Animals colouring book .jpg

Best: For on the go

Rating: 9/10

Coming in at a handy A5 size, this colouring book is perfect for keeping in your bag, along with a pack of crayons, to keep little kids happy when eating out, travelling, or when visiting friends. It’s already saved us on more than one occasion and for that we’re very grateful.

Featuring 23 animals – from the giraffe and humpback whale to the more unusual sun bear and cassowary – this portable colouring book manages to appeal to all ages, thanks to the bold line drawings with just the right amount of detail to keep older kids busy. Our nine-year-old tester was as much of a fan as our three year old, and while their results might have been slightly different, they both loved colouring in the pictures and asking plenty of questions about the animals they hadn’t heard of before.

We love that the brand only uses FSC-certified and recycled paper, plastic-free packaging and donates 25 per cent of profits to wildlife charities too. And though it is currently out of stock, the brand assures us it is coming back soon.

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Hobbycraft colour-in cardboard ice cream van

Hobbycraft colour-in cardboard ice cream van .jpg

Best: For interactive play

Rating: 8.5/10

Not exactly a colouring book, more a giant cardboard ice cream van colouring project, we felt this deserved a place in our round-up thanks to the hours of creative play it’s provided so far. Made up of four pieces of cardboard with various flaps and slots, the van does take a little assembly. It’s a quick job, but we found it a bit fiddly to put together on our own, especially when our three-year-old tester was trying to get inside before it was finished. An extra pair of hands would have made the job much easier.

Once set up, this was an instant crowd-pleaser, and all of our testers couldn’t wait to play with it. There was plenty of room for each of the children to play inside – one at a time – and we particularly loved the serving hatch with ice cream cone holder, and opening door. The van has plenty of detail to colour in and it could easily occupy a group of siblings for an afternoon, just decorating it.

The best part though is that, after all of the colouring, you’ve got an excellent – surprisingly sturdy – ice cream van to play with. Our testers loved creating their own paper ice cream cones, topped off with pom pom ice cream, as well as colouring and cutting out their own money. You will need a bit of space for this as it’s 112cm x 78cm when assembled, but it’s just the thing for keeping kids of all ages busy during the school holidays when you have jobs to do.

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Prestel the art colouring book

Prestel the art colouring book .jpg

Best: Bumper colouring book

Rating: 8.5/10

This mega 127-page offering is a colouring book and art history book wrapped up in one bumper package. Designed to take a child “on a journey through the world of art”, from the Lascaux cave drawings right up to Miró’s Surrealism, it’s an interactive book that encourages children to create their own interpretations of famous artwork, as well as add their own finishing touches.

Throughout the book there are suggestions on what to draw and colour, alongside iconic artworks for inspiration (for example, create a drawing of a group of friends in tiny dots, in the style of Georges Seurat). Aimed at older children – they will want to be able to read independently unless you are happy to sit with them and explain every page – our nine-year-old tester was thoroughly absorbed in this from the start. It’s educational, unusual, fun and absolutely huge – this will keep our tester going through the whole of the school summer holiday.

As well as this comprehensive tour of art history, Prestel also has smaller colouring books following the same interactive style, focussing on individual artists like Klee and Monet, which also got the thumbs up from our older testers.

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Hobbycraft mermaid colouring book

Hobbycraft mermaid colouring book .jpg

Best: Budget buy

Rating: 8.5/10

If you’re after a cheap and cheerful colouring book to occupy the kids on a long car journey or flight, we really rate this mermaid-themed book from Hobbycraft. Featuring 32 underwater designs of, you guessed it, mermaids – as well as all manner of sea life – each design has lots to colour in and provided enough of a challenge to keep our nine-year-old tester hooked. In fact, all our testers really loved this book (who wouldn’t be won over by a group of smiley jellyfish, hey?) and it was certainly one they asked for regularly. All this, plus a set of 30 sparkly gem stickers – just the trick for decorating the mermaids’ hair and tails – made it excellent value for money.

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The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s nature sticker and colouring book

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Nature Sticker and Colouring Book, published by Puffin .jpg

Best: For nature lovers

Rating: 9/10

Fans of Eric Carle’s infamous children’s story The Very Hungry Caterpillar will love this beautiful sticker and colouring book. The colouring opportunities may be somewhat limited compared to other books we tested, but we felt there was a great balance of pictures to colour in and stickers to stick in place.

The book is bursting with nature facts and was a great aid to talk to our three-year-old tester about the seasons and life cycles. It really was our youngest tester whose imagination was captured by this colouring book, and they loved scribbling in the rainbow as well as filling every page up with the right stickers. The stickers are large, making them perfect for little hands to peel off and fix in place, which always helps! The language used inside the book is aimed at children, and our six-year-old tester loved that they could read all the facts out loud to us by themselves.

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Olli Ella playpa ocean paper roll

Olli Ella playpa ocean paper roll .jpg

Best: For siblings

Rating: 9.5/10

When you’ve got lots of kids to entertain, a single colouring book just won’t cut it. This ingenious paper roll from Playpa is the perfect way to avoid any squabbles and cries of “it’s my turn!”. Whether rolled out across the kitchen table, or on the floor, there’s room for everyone to get involved – and our testers were hooked from the moment we took it out of the box. There’s eight metres of fun ocean scenes to colour in, featuring everything from whales and squids to submarines and buried treasure.

All of our testers happily piled onto the floor to colour, doodle and decorate their own little stretch of paper and we found the paper roll held their interest for much longer than any traditional colouring book has. We loved watching them add their own toys to the aquatic scenes – our Playmobile scuba divers have never been so busy – and make up stories inspired by their creative endeavours. It’s pricier than many others in our round-up, but for keeping everyone happy, inspiring some fantastic imaginative play and for its versatility, we think the Playpa paper roll is absolutely worth it.

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The verdict: Kids’ colouring books

We couldn’t help but fall for the fun and quirky designs featured in The Jam Tart’s animal alphabet colouring book. It delivers on quality, kid-appeal and value for money, and was a hit with all of our testers. We are also big fans of the Playpa paper roll, which offers a unique solution to getting all the kids crafting alongside each other, with no (well, almost no) squabbling.

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