What will you do on 2nd August? Change a few nappies? Get stuck in traffic? Struggle to get everyone out of the door on time? Chances are that you might be doing at least a few activities that could cause you some anxiety or stress.

But did you know that 2nd August also happens to have the perfect antidote to stress, in that it is National Colouring Book Day? You didn’t? Then read on, to find out how you can use this age-old, creative technique to not only entertain the children in your care but reduce your own stress levels at the same time.

National Colouring Book Day was started in America in the 1970s when a company, Dover Publications, launched the first colouring book for adults. Until then, colouring in had been the preserve of children, and mostly very young children at that. But since then, colouring for adults has really taken off, and more recently, as adults struggle to find non-screen-based activities for children to keep them occupied, the humble colouring book has seen a resurgence in its popularity.

Nowadays, you can get colouring books on virtually every topic under the sun, from simple patterns to complex, meditative mandalas; animals to the human body; and characters from every TV show or popular film have found their way onto the pages of a colouring book somewhere!


Children have always loved colouring in pictures, and for them, it’s a way to learn and practice many important skills including:

  1. Development of fine motor skills
    In order to colour, children need to hold pencils/pens or crayons in their little fingers, so practicing colouring helps the development of their muscles in their hands and fingers and helps them to get a good grip.
  2. Colour and shape recognition
    By using different colours, children can learn to name and distinguish them, especially if helped by an adult, who says the name and repeats it. By blending or colouring over things, children can also learn about the subtleties of colour and the affect they can have on their own work.
  3. Hand and eye coordination
    Hand and eye coordination is extremely important in life when doing many practical tasks – pouring, catching and writing to name but a few. When you look at a very young child’s colouring, you notice how they appear to scribble over the image and find it difficult to stay within the lines, but by practicing, children gradually become more adept at this skill as their hand and eye coordination improves.
  4. Concentration
    Colouring things requires a good deal of concentration and children can extend their concentration spans by practicing and focusing on tasks, so colouring is great for developing this skill. You can even break the task down if needed, by say, focusing only on one part of the picture or on one colour to start with.
  5. Sense of pride and self-esteem
    There is a huge sense of achievement and pride attained from finishing something well and feeling you have done your best. It’s even better if your work is admired by others too, so remember to praise the children for completing their work and watch them smile.
  6. Creativity
    Everyone experiences the world in different ways and so allowing children their own version of ‘reality’ can help with their creativity rather than stifle it. As they become more confident, they may also experiment with their creativity more using special effects or even ‘pushing the boundaries’, and colour over the lines again.
  7. Self-expression
    Who says you can’t colour the grass blue and the trees purple? This is linked to creativity too, as colouring can be a great way to allow children to express themselves and their mood. Art therapists understand that using different colours can reflect children’s own experiences or their mood, so be aware of this and be careful not to criticise a choice of colour even if it does not fit with conventional reality. It could just be the child expressing themselves in that moment. And where would Art be generally if we always had to stick with one version of ‘reality’?
  8. Spatial awareness and boundary recognition
    Learning spatial awareness is important in everyday life. Colouring can help with this on a micro level by making the child aware of 2D boundaries and of different shapes and areas.
  9. Handwriting skills
    Developing fine motor skills is essential for the development of legible handwriting. Colouring helps develop these muscles so that mastering letters later on can be more easily achieved.
  10. Reduced stress and anxiety
    Recent studies have shown that colouring can help reduce stress and anxiety in adults due to the focused and creative nature of the activity1,2. Researchers found that colouring for as little as 10 minutes a day, can have positive mental health outcomes, which suggests that colouring is no longer just for children: you can add some stress-relief to your staff’s day as well, by encouraging them to get involved and colour something in too.


One of the great benefits of colouring is that you really don’t need a lot of expensive equipment. There are colouring books you can buy on a variety of different topics, and the internet is full of free, downloadable resources too.

Why not make your own patterns to colour by using a large marker pen to trace or draw the outline of an object or a pattern and then photocopy them for the children to colour in?

Think big! Colouring does not have to be just a two-dimensional activity. You could colour something in and then wrap it around a cardboard tube to make a spaceship; or download some maths nets from the internet to create a giant, colourful dice; or cut out some paper patterns to make animals, pencil pot covers or murals. And with a bit of research, you can turn your finished designs into mugs, T-shirts or tea towels so use your imagination and let us know how creative you can be!

We’ve created some free downloadable pages for you to use in your setting too. Click here to access them.


  1. www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10400419.2017.1376505
  2. files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ688443.pdf


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