Let me tell you a little story about the private kindergarten I went to. You were quiet. You recited your letters. You wrote in cursive. And you always colored inside the lines. I remember once getting into big trouble because not only did my colors go outside the lines, but I also had the gall to tell the teacher that coloring inside the lines didn’t actually matter since we were cutting the picture out anyway. Boy, did I get an earful about how in this school we color INSIDE the lines. Jokes on the teacher, though, because a few years later she was fired for being too tough on the kids.
Anyway, I just wanted to give you a little background to help explain why this kind of thing makes my blood just boil:
I mean, seriously, what am I even looking at? As a mom of a preschooler and a grade school student I have no idea if this sort of thing is standard in schools or not but I sorely hope that it’s nothing my kids will encounter in their classrooms!
First off, I already have a bias against strict ‘color inside the lines’ type thinking thanks to my own rough kindergarten experiences. But turns out I’m not wrong about coloring outside the lines being a-ok.
Here’s what one expert had to say over at Parenting.com:
While coloring is an excellent way for young children to develop finger and wrist dexterity and good hand-eye coordination, staying inside the lines offers no advantages, says Sandra Fisher, assistant professor of early-childhood education at Kutztown University, in Kutztown, PA. “It’s actually developmentally inappropriate to urge children this age to color in the lines, since they don’t have fine motor control yet.”
I do like the use three or more colors thing but at the same time I had another bad experience with an art teacher in grade school who, after I made a piece with a carefully chosen palette of various blues and purples, took points off my grade for my not having used “enough colors.” I thought she was just picking on me but maybe in her mind it just wasn’t art if it didn’t use three or more distinct colors.
What about white space… well, speaking as someone who has made more than a little art in my time, white space can be used to wonderful effect.
According to Wikipedia,
White space should not be considered merely ‘blank’ space — it is an important element of design which enables the objects in it to exist at all; the balance between positive (or non-white) and the use of negative spaces is key to aesthetic composition.
Now of course, toddlers and kids probably aren’t using white space purposefully in their early scribbles, but my question is how are they supposed to learn to use it if they never see it? And just why is it so important that our kids cover every last inch of paper with color? White space can indicate texture. White space can be the subject of a picture!
And finally, let’s talk about colors “making sense.” Again, if you’re practicing specific drawing or painting techniques, like drawing from a model, maybe it’s not that weird to focus on colors making sense. But the impression I get from the two signs above is that they are hanging in a kindy classroom, not a college one.
We (parents and teachers alike) are supposed to be letting kids explore their imaginations and creative minds in the art classroom, no? So why are these sign makers stifling that imagination from the very beginning?
I’m an adult, and when I paint I still sometimes color outside the lines. I still use odd palettes featuring multiple shades of just a few colors. Very often what I create is in no way connected to reality. And I’m in good company! Walt Disney was scolded by his teachers at school for drawing faces on flowers. And you know who painted people blue?
To good coloring guides, I say what the heck!? Are we as parents and as teachers supposed to be the art police now on top of everything else? I can absolutely understand rules relating to a specific drawing or painting technique, but if you’re not practicing a specific technique with students why can’t the kids just scribble freely?
After all, coloring is not a necessary life skill. Creative thinking IS.