Coloring the world

This is what the outside world looks like. The sky in this picture is blue! But other than that, the landscape is largely colorless. It’s also bitingly cold.

So inside, we’ve returned to a forgotten pastime around here: coloring. I haven’t colored in years, though I did enjoy design books even before coloring became popular for adults. Since going outside isn’t that appealing when the temperature hovers near zero, and since we accumulated some new art supplies for Christmas, the girls and I enjoyed a few days recently of coloring together. Here are some of the results from Younger Daughter:

Here are Older Daughter’s, both unfinished:

Here are mine:

From ‘Beautiful Creatures,’ a grayscale coloring book.

While coloring, we listened to Randy Alcorn’s Safely Home, which I remembered from several years back (I reviewed it here). It’s come to mind several times lately, and though the audio version turned out to be slightly abridged and was missing some of the parts I wanted to return to, it was an inspiring, thought-provoking time with the two girls as we sat around the table in the sun for several hours, listening and coloring.

This year, we’ve been studying some American novels using study guides that focus on certain skills of literary analysis. The books are good and the skills are worthwhile, but it’s important to preserve reading for pleasure in the background. I always encourage the girls to be reading something non-schoolish. My inner unschooler secretly wonders if the pleasure reading is ultimately more formative and significant than the studied reading.

The designs and markers and stories and conversation and space to think created some rich moments in an otherwise colorless world. Though we won’t often have the kind of time we’ve had on this break from school, I hope we remember to grab some opportunities to do this again.

This isn’t the first time I’ve reflected on the virtues of coloring together. Here is a post from 2008, retrieved and copied from my old blog, “Findings,” and shared in a Poetry Friday round-up. I’ve left the comments, all of which I still value:


In our house, it isn’t just the little kids who color. The grown-up ones do, too.


These are from Prism Designs. I decided a long time ago that if I’m going to color with my kids, I’m going to choose things that are fun to color.

These coloring times always have hidden treasures. In the midst of this quiet activity together, certain kinds of conversation materialize. I couldn’t find a poem that fit, so I wrote one. (A rash move for a non-poet.)


My daughters sit on either side of me.
We’re coloring together, hunched around
a table less than four feet off the ground
and scattered thick with possibility.

The markers are an alphabet of hues,
all spilling out across the tabletop.
The concentration gathers in a knot,
but visiting together shakes it loose.

We talk of the untangling of the lines
that lie so cleverly along the pages —
Patterns perceived according to our ages
emerge from white space into bright design.

This hour with my children spreading colors
restores a symmetry to countless others.

My 4-year-old wanted to try one from my “grown-up” coloring book:

So did my 7-year-old:

Pretty good, huh? Poetry Friday is at Read Imagine Talk today.  Have a great weekend.

16 Responses to “Poetry Friday: Kaleidoscope”

  1. Lisa Says:

    That is a great poem! I like these designs. Colouring can be very meditative. :)

  2. TadMack Says:

    How cool!!! I want a grown-up coloring book now! (I still color out of the one I made copies of when I was teaching fifth graders. In my defense, it has find-a-words in it, too. Which I also do…) And I love the idea of those hours restoring symmetry… well done, poet. You get “Awesome Mom” points.

  3. Really nice! Good for you–the coloring and the poetry. Thanks for sharing. And to your kids–beautiful!

  4. Jeane Says:

    Those are really cool! I want a grown-up coloring book. Where do you get them? I like the one your four-year-old did. :)

  5. Thanks so much for your sweet birthday wishes!

    This is great! I love the idea of an art table “scattered thick with possibility” and the “patterns perceived according to our ages.” It’s always neat how doing something together connects us in so many ways.

    I had coloring books and my own set of crayons for years as an adult. Coloring was so relaxing!

    I just got my Poetry Friday entry up — I had wanted to do it last night but was too drowsy and out of it after my youngest went to bed. I am so thankful you introduced me to this — I’ve enjoyed reacquainting myself with poetry.

  6. Kelly Fineman Says:

    Great poem. I love the table, “scattered thick with possibility”.

  7. That is a wonderful poem! You have captured the sweetness and wonder of spending quiet, concentrated, creative time with your children. I often wish my boys would be eager to color like this. Train tracks do it for us.

    We have a book circulating around our school that is coloring designs of mandelas. Sometimes a class will work together on them as a meditation. It is very effect. Here are free printable pages of mendalas on the web.

  8. Janet Says:

    Thank you all, for the kind comments and encouragement.

    Cloudscome, thanks for the link, too.

    Jeane, you can also find these kinds of coloring books at craft stores like Michael’s or A.C. Moore. B&N has some neat ones too, in the children’s section — Egyptian designs, Celtic designs, etc.

  9. Sherry Says:

    I want to do that with my little girls after reading about your group coloring experiences.

  10. Mary Lee Says:

    You are no longer allowed to call yourself a “non-poet!”

    Some of my favorite memories of childhood are cutting paper dolls and coloring with my mom. You captured exactly what it did for us:

    “This hour with my children spreading colors
    restores a symmetry to countless others.”

  11. Janet Says:

    Thanks. :-)

    Maybe there’s no such thing as a non-poet. Maybe all of us are, and need to be, poets at least part-time.

  12. DoverPublications.com also has lots of neat coloring books. I sometimes color with my kids, too. :-) Great poem!

  13. JW Says:

    Lovely. Really lovely. Of course I just love the symmetry and beautiful play of colors!

  14. Janet Says:

    Thanks — and thanks for the new coloring books! :-)

Comments are closed.

5 thoughts on “Coloring the world

  1. I’ve always felt that coloring was such a relaxing pasttime, even before it became so popular lately. My son and d-i-l gave me a couple of coloring books and some colored pencils, but the adult ones are so detailed with so many little spaces. It takes several sessions to fill in one page. One thing I liked about kids’ coloring books was the simple designs and wide open spaces. (I guess that’s two things. :) ) Still, one that they gave me was a Jane Austen-themed one, and it’s pretty nice, so I work in it a bit. Otherwise I use my grandson’s. :-)

    1. I agree that some of the current books are so intricately detailed they’re discouraging. My younger daughter has a few of them. But Jane Austen… now that sounds interesting!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *