Supercharged Coloring (for when you’re stuck without a coloring book)

  by Chris Horst

Kids loved coloring books long before adults caught the fever. Coloring is therapeutic for dads and kids. And, it’s a great tool in the dadcraft toolbox, because it’s calming, cheap, and portable. A simple color-by-number can help any dad up their coloring coolness.

If you’re stuck without a coloring book, or if you just want to make coloring more interactive, try creating your own color-by-number picture with your kid. This is a strategy possible with little forewarning. It’s particularly useful, I’ve found, when I’m looking for a way to entertain younger kids quietly—at church, a wedding, a nicer meal, and the like. All you need is a scrap of paper and a pen.

Step 1: Create the skeleton.

Some of my fellow dads get anxious about their own art abilities. I get it. But, you need not be Monet to create a template drawing for your kids to enjoy. Heck, sometimes I just use block letters. But no matter your penchant for sketching, the first step is to draw a picture for your kid to color. Draw a simple tree, something you enjoyed that day, a subject your child has requested, or a message to a family member. Scaffold the complexity of the drawing to your child’s coloring ability.

If I have more time, two of my go-to books for ideas are It’s Fun to Draw Monsters and 20 Ways to Draw a Cat and 44 Other Awesome Animals.

Step 2: Create the key.

This is where you can have some fun with your kids. Invite them into the adventure by picking the colors they want to use. If you are stuck without crayons, use patterns instead. Number your picture accordingly. Feel free to repeat the same number multiple times.

Step 3: The kid colors.

Hand your child the drawing and let him do the magical work of making this skeleton come to life. After providing the basic instructions, try to give him space to make mistakes, but also help him understand how the key works.

Step 4: Impress the missus, grandparents, et al.

Handcrafted goods are precious commodities in our digital age. These final products make great grandparent gifts, wife gifts, Instagram posts, and premium office bulletin board fodder. Put it in an envelope or tack it to a wall. Celebrate your burgeoning artist by displaying her masterpiece.


Postscript: Why not put a few of these pictures together into a book? And, be sure to check out how Xianyi Wu manages to parent in small spaces.