Break Out the Crayons – Your Brain Needs to Color!

crayonsColoring is great for kids

You probably remember coloring as a child. This entailed filling in the black and white illustrations in the book with any colors you wanted. There are many practical benefits of teaching children about colors:

  • They learn to recognize patterns and objects in the world around them. Recognizing pattern is a key survival skill and coloring helps develop and fine-tune that skill.
  • Keeping the color “inside the lines” improves hand-eye coordination and prepares the child for more complex movements, like keyboarding, sports and building things.
  • The child needs to focus on the task at hand and finish the page, building self-management skills that will later make it easier to work math problems or write a school paper.
  • They get to express themselves artistically, which can help improve self-confidence and stimulates multiple parts of the brain.
  • They get to make decisions on their own, a life skill that children may not get many other opportunities to practice.

If you have a child in your life, check out the free coloring page templates on the kid’s activities blog.

Now let’s talk about coloring for adults

You may already own a coloring book. You’ve almost certainly noticed these “adult” coloring books in the store or online. In fact, the New York Times recently recognized a growing trend for coloring books to appear on their best seller list. Coloring has been used as therapy for adults for decades and has been shown effective in reducing stress, treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and helping people on the autism spectrum express their feelings and relate to the outside world. More recently, neuroscience has demonstrated that the act of coloring creates more connections between multiple areas of the brain, increasing cognitive function and warding off dementia. When you’re engaged in coloring, you are able to put your cerebral cortex on auto-pilot. Your brain waves change from beta waves, which are highly focused on a decision and/or task, to alpha waves, which are associated with feelings of relaxation. Some people are actually able to achieve theta waves, which are associated with meditation and mindfulness, while coloring.

Because your brain is much better at assimilating information in visual form than any other, coloring books can also be a great way to learn processes or complex connections between diverse concepts or events. By coloring in the sketch on the page, your brain is forced to notice the structure of the image and make decisions about which colors to use for each component. These decisions allow you to make neural connections between different items on the page without even noticing those connections on a conscious level.

There is also the effect that different colors have on cognitive function to consider. Interacting with different colors tends to stimulate different modes of thinking and feeling that can be intentionally used to support the learning process.

How to start using coloring in your adult learning program

You don’t have to use an entire coloring book to start experimenting with color in your learning practice. Individual sheets can be used as group or individual reflection activities. The room tends to get very quiet while people are intent on coloring, which can make it a great time for participants to step back from the content, giving the brain time to assimilate new information with existing information and encode it for future use.

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