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Should a 4-year-old be able to color within the lines?
Q: My granddaughter will soon be 4-years-old. She is a very sweet child who loves to cuddle and have me rock her and sing to her. My concern is that she still does not know how to colour within the lines at all! When I try to explain and guide her to stay inside the lines, she gets very upset and scotbles all over the page, looks at me and grins. What am I to do?
A: You may not believe this, but there are many educators and child development specialists who put colouring books right up there with loaded guns and a steady dose of French fries as the worst things you can give to a young child! Most children younger than 5 years can’t begin to stay within the lines—and couldn’t care less about whether they do. In their early drawing and colouring they tend to make big strokes lacking in patterns detectable to most of us but meaningful to them. They don’t have the necessary control of the fine muscles in the hand and arm to enable them to put a given bit of colour in a particular place to conform to a specific shape. Yet they love to colour and to paint!

Do you have a computer? If you do and are like me, you waste a lot of paper. Sometimes a sheet will come out of my printer with just one line of type on it. I save all those sheets for my grandchildren to colour and paint on, cutting off that line of print. (They’re sneaky. If I don’t cut that line off, they complain that the paper has been used.) They are getting to the age now when they like to tell me something about their pictures. But a wise teacher taught me years ago not to ask a 4-year-old “What’s that?” Resist that temptation, and keep the paper coming.

And, by the way, rock her and sing to her as long as she wants you to. Too soon, too soon, she won’t let you.