After last week’s round-up of gift books, here’s a little collection of colouring & activity books that would be perfect for Christmas giving.
I love a good colouring book. One that encourages exploration & creativity, but gives confidence and structure — a starting point for little hands & minds to build on. Paper & crayons are great, but sometimes it’s lovely to have something special to work on, and, as a parent, having a colouring book up your sleeve (metaphorically at least) can save the day on rainy days, snuffly days, or don’t-know-what-to-do-days. Here are a few of our favourites.
1. The Scribble Book by Hervé Tullet. Big, beautiful & fun for even the youngest of artists. This would be my choice for those around 2/3 years+. Tullet is also the author of some fantastically fun interactive (in a low-tech way!) board books like Press Here and The Game of Finger Worms which are also great for younger children.
2. The Colouring Book by Hervé Tulle. What are the right colours for happy people? For sad people? Tullet encourages experimentation in colour, shape & line in another of his beautiful and inventive books. Once you’re finished with The Scribble Book start here.
3. Drawing for the Artistically Undiscovered by Quentin Blake & John Cassidy. I love this book — perfect for an adult or an older child (say around 5/6+). Quentin Blake, illustrator of Roald Dahl’s books & loads of other favourites in this house (for example this and this) takes you through the process of ‘trying to capture the spirit of something’. ‘If this were a piano, and not a book, these drawings would be bits of improvised jazz more than classical scales or movements,’ he writes. Covering umbrellas & other objects, perspective, human anatomy, expressions and emotional rabbits, it’s worth seeking out for Blake’s views on creativity and art alone. Here he is on ‘misteakes’ (sic): ‘We don’t believe in them. You’ll note, in fact, that the erasers have all been painstakingly removed from our pencils. We did this ourselves, by hand, at our eraser-removal plant because you won’t (can’t) make any mistakes in drawing with these particular pencils. This is not to say you won’t get some drawings that succeed more than others.’
4. Play All Day by Taro Gomi. There is an Amazon review of this book of punch-out pieces that I love. The reviewer complains that the book should be renamed ‘A Lot of Boxes and a Few Other Bits’ & gives it two stars. And I can see just where they’re coming from. You do end up with a lot of cardboard boxes, plus finger puppets, cardboard quoits & ‘decorations’ that you’ll be finding round your home for years to come (we’ve had the book for three years & the second photo is just the pieces I could round up from the living room). BUT my kids have had hours and hours of fun making all these strange delights with very little adult input. This makes it a definite hit in these parts (even if I occasionally sneak dusty pieces into the recycling when no-one’s looking!). Quirky, fun & irresistible to small hands. I’d say suitable from 3+ with help, 5+ if you want to be more hands-off.
5. The Usborne Write Your Own Storybook. A notebook full of story starters & writing advice for kids. I think this one probably depends a great deal on your child — it might seem too ‘school-like’ for some. And I know that had I received it as a child, I’d have loved it but never dared to write on its beautifully empty pages. But for T, who loves writing her own stories and has no fear of ruining the perfection of a blank page, it’s perfect. As well as story prompts in genres including fairy tales, family sagas, comic books, sci-fi and flash fiction, it covers story structure, titles, making your writing exciting, and ideas for carrying on writing (‘Read a lot and write book reviews.’) I would say it’s ideal for around 6/7+.
So, your turn. Any recommendations for colouring & activity books? Here are a couple for older children/adults that I’ve got my eye on for this year — Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden and Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom.