Coloring Inside the Lines.

Updated on May 21, 2014
M.C. asks from Louisville, KY
19 answers

My dd is 4, and makes absolutely no attempt at coloring inside the lines. Sometimes she will differentiate different parts of the picture and color them accordingly, but usually she just randomly colors patches. Sometimes she will color everything the same color, sometimes she will do patches of different colors that really don't go along with the picture at all. She also makes no attempt to stay inside the lines of the main picture, and just colors wherever.

Now, I'm really not very concerned about this, and I have always allowed her to color however she wants to... But I'm wondering if maybe I should intervene a bit in her coloring and encourage her to be more careful when coloring. She had decent fine motor skills, and can print several letters, so I'm not too worried about that. I'm just thinking maybe school projects will need her coloring more carefully or something, maybe give her a color sheet once in a while and encourage her to color it more carefully while leaving her to her own devices most of the time... Or am I just overthinking this? Lol.

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So What Happened?

Thanks. It seems that everyone's thinking is pretty much in line with how I have viewed it- that I should let her do her own thing with her "art" and let her color however she wants. She has several coloring books, but I always have a ream or two of plain printer paper for her to draw On That she really seems to prefer.... As well as a sheaf of construction paper, scissors, glue-sticks, etc. that she usually just gets to do whatever she wants with. She loves to do "art projects" and will entertain herself for hours with it. I was just wondering if, when she DOES use a color book, she should be trying to stay in the lines. :) (and it seems everyone is advising that I keep on doing what I have been, and leave her to it.)

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I believe personality plays a role. My girls are three years apart, yet my youngest has always been far more diligent with coloring and handwriting. Both are very bright, but my youngest is much more analytical and logical. I feel that my oldest doesn't make those things a priority and it shows in the final product. I don't think twice about it.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Erie on

None of my kids ever colored in coloring books at all. They never chose coloring books as an activity when they were that age. So, my advice is to leave her be :)

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Portland on

I'm a professional artist, I give art workshops, and I always encourage kids to draw, paint or color what feels right. There are so many styles of art that are valid in various ways, and a 4yo has many years to explore and discover what, if any, works for them. And I agree with Mamazita; coloring inside the lines is not what I'd call art for most kids, it's just an exercise in conformity. Some kids will really love being "neat," and that's great for them. It's just not for everybody.

Rather than "correct" a child's technique, I find it is helpful to draw or color alongside. Most children are encouraged just by adult participation and enthusiasm.

13 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I vote over thinking. She will develop drawing and coloring skills at her own pace. It's no skin off her nose, if its never her cup of tea.

When she gets in K, she may have some competition and some peer pressure in school that will make her think more about how she colors.
I colored most things rainbow at that age and almost never stayed in the lines for yrs afterward. My sister told me it was wrong for years, lol. I'm much more creative than she is. By 2nd grade, I figured out perspective and the kids didn't like that either, why is there grass over the cow's head? He's on a hill.

Can i come critique your abilities?

You are her cheerleader, not her art critic!

7 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I worked in first grade for three years and I can assure you we never did anything close to a traditional coloring page. Sure, the art projects often included following directions, spatial awareness, and encouraging the use of fine motor skills (cutting, gluing, drawing, painting, etc.) but coloring inside the lines? Never. No point. Not only would that be boring for many kids, but it has minimal educational value and absolutely no creative value.
ETA: we DID do math/science activities where the kids filled in bubbles and squares on charts and pictographs, but those were pretty easy and straightforward, even for the kids with less developed skills, so try not to worry about it!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

She will be fine. All children develop at different levels.

I have been in 1st grade over 13 yrs subbing. We often see some children who will free draw or color and it look like the work of a 5th grader plus and others free draw and color and it look like the work of a toddler.

We urge our students to do their "best" work. We know some are not as great with the fine motor skills as others. However, we are great at seeing who is doing sloppy work to finish first in order to get free time on the computers, etc and they are promptly sent back to redo and who are actually doing their best even if they are not perfectly within lines.

They all even out usually around 3rd grade.

Good luck mom!!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Ditto Peg M.

I also want to add this: I learned a LOT about art and drawing when I was with my ex-husband, an artist. Just through watching how he drew.

I didn't/don't worry about being precise at this age, coloring in lines, etc. with my preschoolers or my son. One thing to remember is that if we give a child too much instruction when they are doing something they find pleasurable, they can lose the 'fun' of it. When my son sat and painted when he was little, I sat and painted too. Nothing fancy, more just a few steps ahead of what he was doing, if you follow. I try to make art look approachable for young people, keep it simple. If they have a talent for it when they get older, do encourage more formal training, but for now, art should just be FUN.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Just let her color. You are putting way too much thought into this.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

There are no rules for coloring. Let her do it the way she wants to.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

We very rarely gave our daughter a coloring book, we prefer, blank paper. She had activity books that may have had a few inside, but they were not her favorite.

I can hardly recall the school ever handing out coloring pages.. usually there was an instruction to draw something and the children drew their version. Or they were to use certain color ion certain areas..
1 = red, 2= blue.. that type of thing.

This is not a required skill.. So I would not be concerned.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Life is TOO SHORT to color in the lines! 😜

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

good for her!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I think you can steer her in the right direction - but there is nothing wrong with what she is doing. BTW - I am so not artsy! I still color outside the darn lines!



answers from Washington DC on

I would call my DD more of an abstract artist vs a detailed realist. She's in K now and does fine when she needs detail (like find the second biggest fish and put spots on it) but most of the time it's not entirely in the lines. Now that she's a bit older, she's starting to be more careful. I think your DD will be fine, and it will be more important that she knows what color red is than if the red stays on the firefighter's hat.

The other thing with my DD is that I realized she was drawing everything, including the story in her head. So if the cat blob was playing with the string blob, the string got everywhere and DD drew the action. At one point I was taking intermediary pictures before she obliterated them that way, but it took me a while to understand. Maybe your DD does something like that, too.

I would just praise her when she colors something well and ignore the rest. I do remind DD to slow down and not draw action when it's a birthday or thank you card, though. That's about the only time I care.



answers from Colorado Springs on

Those lines are interesting but the colors are more interesting! Your daughter is still developing her motor skills and, in time, she'll have no trouble staying within a given area if she needs to do that. Don't worry too much about it unless a teacher is worried.

I suggest you give her more than coloring sheets - buy one of those BIG pads of blank drawing paper and let her do whatever she wants with the paper! If she focuses on the colors, that's fine. If she starts drawing her own pictures, that's fine too. Be aware that she may have to explain her pictures to you for you to know what they're about.



answers from Denver on

It wasn't until kindergarten that I noticed my son's teacher actually teach them to color inside the lines if they were working on a project. She demonstrated it to them and used different colors for different parts of the picture. My son's projects actually look really nice, he takes his time and works carefully...his teacher's ultimate goal here...teaching the kids to produce quality work. They DO have journals, where they can color and draw whatever and however they want in or out of the lines.



answers from Amarillo on

It's a motor skill. Some kids do it sooner than others. I was a slower one. I recall the day I did color inside the lines and was very proud of what I had done. So don't go beating yourself up over this. Just find more coloring books for her to practice in and it will happen.

Your daughter will make beautiful pictures for you to post on the frig.

the other S.



answers from Oklahoma City on

Some first graders still don't color in the lines all the time. She's still learning to manipulate her fingers and when she's busy she will revert to using her wrist and arm to move her hand instead of the wrist and arm being still and her hand moving the fingers.



answers from Las Vegas on

Neither of my kids colored in the lines. They both have very sloppy hand writing. They are both very smart. The oldest is a crafter and does very well and can draw pretty good. She doesn't care to draw.

The 8 year old hasn't shown any sign of artistic value except last night while working on her Hera project. I showed her a picture of a lotus for the top of the lotus staff and she sketched it out pretty good.

I used to get comments about the older one's hand writing and her abilities and now my little one gets notes on her paper, "Keep it neat". The only thing that matters to me is that people can read what they write. 1/7, 4/9, 2/3

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