The truth is coloring books can be more than time wasters
They can help with small muscle coordination. Your child learns how to hold a writing utensil. (You are showing your child how to properly hold the crayon, aren't you?)
These are skills that will prove useful in school and in life.
(Read Making the Case for Coloring, from a children's art teacher. On the other hand, she has nothing nice to say about point-and-click coloring, i.e. online coloring pages. Also, read about some coloring alternatives.)
The current state of children's coloring
To some extent, coloring has come a long way.
If you're willing to pay a premium, you can find a beautiful coloring book with elaborate, detailed drawings. Of course, if your child is still scribbling, the pictures are going to end up looking pretty much like all of your child's pictures!
If high class coloring interests you, I find these folks take coloring books rather seriously.
Does your child have a specialized interest? You can usually find coloring books and pages that speak to these. For instance, typing insect coloring book into one popular search engine brings back thousands of results...
Coloring from imagination
My mom hated coloring. She didn't like to see me struggling to stay inside the lines. I'd like you to think outside the coloring book box too.
Here's a great way to give your child a coloring activity while encouraging creativity and reading as well.
Think about... a pictureless picture book.
Elsewhere on this site, I've published ebook versions of children's books I've written. These books are text only, meaning the pages are left blank so your child can illustrate the story.
It's an exercise in imagination and decision-making - "What will I draw to depict this part of the story?" And something else too...
My ebooks are behavior books. A form of bibliotherapy, they're meant to help your child overcome a problem behavior!
How's that for productive coloring? And cheaper than a nice coloring book! And guess what?...
You too could write your own pictureless coloring book.
It so happens that I have another page on this site which provides instructions on how to write a children's book for your own child to illustrate!
It's not something you'll be able to do in half an hour, but it's something to think about when you want to give a gift to your child that will have lifelong meaning.
All of these options offer the joy of coloring, without the creativity stifling of "stay between the lines." Also, I suspect, they will leave your child with a much greater sense of accomplishment than filling in the blanks of a mass-produced picture.
Don't you think my mom would be very happy with this page?
Best Children's Books - Find, Read or Write home page.