Exciting art supplies line the walls of my favorite art supply stores and it is hard not to get pulled into wanting to try out all of the latest promotions and spend hundreds of dollars. I believe that with a little creativity, we can provide children with as much of an exciting opportunity (if not more!) with basic coloring tools With these materials, more open-ended exploration, critical thinking, problem solving, and artistic behavior can develop. This section will provide an overview of the following art tools:
***Stay tuned for more on painting tools (a never-ending fun coloring tool)!
As with any media, it’s important to allow children the time for exploration and experimentation. After children move through the exploratory stages and enter into more of the schematic stages, a suggestion of differentiating between drawing and coloring can help an artist begin to think more about the direction of their work. I like to think about drawing as the structure (or bones) of the drawing and introduce these materials first. Beginning with a line drawing, pens can help separate the act of drawing from the act of coloring, which one can do to fill in the shapes that one creates. Once the structure is complete, coloring can add the next layer to a drawing.
Please note that drawing tools can also be used to add dimension to a drawing and can be used to fill-in the details. The same can be true for using these “Coloring Tools” for drawing and many children love to work with the tools listed here to play with drawing lines, shapes, and the underlying structures of a picture.
Crayons, the childhood classic! Crayons are made of a wax (varying from beeswax, soy, and paraffin) and colored pigment. All colors of the rainbow and beyond can be found in crayons. It seems new shapes and sizes are introduced every day, which can create a fun element to coloring. When working with young children, it is important to recognize that crayons require more pressure to create more vibrancy. This can be a great opportunity for some young children who are not yet experienced with pressure but nonetheless crayons are a wondrous tool for mark making and a childhood staple.
Colored markers come in the range of washable to permanent varieties. Most adults working with children prefer to use washable, non-toxic products. These markers are another common staple in many households and, like crayons, now come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. With guidance, children can also be trusted to work with permanent markers. Permanent markers allow the opportunity for children to work more on top of or as a layer under watercolor. Permanent markers are also more long-lasting on certain drawing supports like transparencies (see Drawing Tools). If using permanent or dry-erase markers with children, is advised to look for those advertised as low odor or odorless.
The brother/sister to ebony pencils are the long-lived colored pencil. Similar to crayons, colored pencils require using pressure to achieve more variances in value. The variety of color offered can open up a world of possibility for any child.
A bit messier than crayons, oil pastels create brilliant and vibrant colors, gliding on smooth with little pressure. Depending on the quality, oil pastels can blend well and can also be smeared with baby oil or vegetable oil to create a paint-like product. When used first on paper, oil pastels can also resist watercolor painted over top for a unique effect. Oil colors can also be scratched through with forks, toothpicks, and other fun materials for play.
Even messier than oil pastels are irresistible chalk pastels. Some children (and adults) prefer other coloring tools over chalk pastels because of the mess and dust. However, chalk pastels, also referred to as soft pastels, are touchable and workable with the fingers and fascinate many young, inquiring minds. This coloring tool blends extremely well and can be wiped with any cotton product or towel. Like oil pastels, an additive can be used to move the pigment around. Once completed, hairspray or a fixative can be sprayed to the picture to reduce smudging.
***For paper and other supports for coloring, refer to paper and supports in the "Drawing Tools" section.