Why adult colouring books are stupid (and why you shouldn’t use them)

Colour Pencils

For some people, their first childhood wasn’t enough.

Thus, those dear people are trying to relive it (just without the baby food and the diapers), and in recent years, colouring books have become the latest childhood hobby to be appropriated by adults.

Two words: I can’t believe how stupid this is. (Yes, that’s seven words, but hey, if I want to relive my childhood, the best way to start is by miscounting.)

Colouring books have been touted by the American Art Therapy Association as being able to aid the patient colourer to “explore feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety and increase self-esteem.” So, of course, we can infer that colouring books are magical. Without them, we’d be lost in the outer darkness.

Because, you know, colouring relieves stress. And to be honest, it’s relieving mine right now. I can’t remember the last time I got to be this sardonic. And since I’m feeling combative, I’m going to knock down every one of those arguments.

Colouring books help you explore feelings

Let me get this straight. Could people not explore their own feelings before colouring books came along? Or are colouring books catalysts that speed up the process? If I understand “exploring feelings” to be a form of introspection, well, I’m quite sure that I read somewhere that silence aids that process too. Maybe someone would do a study to see which is better. Or maybe they’ll just stick with colouring, because colouring books are rather easier to sell, and far easier to Instagram.

Colouring books help you reconcile emotional conflicts

Oh-kay. So, according to Wikipedia, “emotional conflict is the presence of different and opposing emotions relating to a situation that has recently taken place or is in the process of being unfolded.” Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I thought that the two solutions to that one were (a) time and (b) talking to someone else about it. I don’t remember when “just take some time off” became “just take your kid’s colouring book”.

Colouring books help you foster self-awareness

Okay, this one, I’m quite sure, is introspection. So my question here is, is it the colouring that fosters self awareness, or is it just the fact that they can think without being interrupted that is fostering self awareness? Correlation is not causation, and just because you become “more self-aware” during colouring doesn’t mean that colouring was the cause. Anyway, silence, too, is touted to aid with introspection, and again, it’s a little cheaper and requires a few less limbs to do.

Colouring books help you manage behaviour and addictions

You know, replacing one addiction with the next might not be the greatest idea. Saying that spending time on one activity (colouring) causes reductions in other activities (the addictions), too, is sort of a no-brainer. And I’m quite sure people have been getting over addictions long before (and will long after) colour pencils came along.

Colouring books help you develop social skills

I’m kind of in a fog about how colouring develops social skills. I mean, were they testing adults or kids here? Also, there’s a fine difference between social life and uh, social media life. Pictures of colouring books might be great Snapchat stuff, but I’m quite sure people will think you’re weird if you parade your colouring book drawings around. I mean, seriously, the only social skill I can think of that I can possibly learn from colouring is maybe not to cross the line.

Colouring books help you improve reality orientation

Forgive me for saying this (or condemn me, that’s good too), but again, I thought that the best way to figure out what’s real was to test it empirically. Isn’t that how people anchor themselves in reality? You know, by seeing whether their beliefs check out with the real world? Again, the only situation where I might find a grip on reality while colouring might be a revelation that vermilion and cinereous don’t look good together. Or that the Eiffel Tower isn’t actually purple.

Colouring books help you reduce anxiety

Well, I’m quite sure colouring can increase anxiety. You kind of get that feeling after having to colour this:


Anyway, I figured out after that colouring makes you annoyed, especially when you colour across lines. And it certainly doesn’t reduce anxiety, because we had to hand those up to our biology teacher to mark. Totally relieving.

Colouring books help you increase self-esteem

I’m sorry, but are there any failures in life out there that get their self-worth from a colouring page? I mean, I can see how colouring would increase one’s self-esteem, but I can’t see how it would do a better of a job of raising self-esteem than an industrious day of some meaningful work. We know colouring raises self-esteem, yes. We see children proudly displaying their colouring pages all the time. However, I’m saying that if colouring is your main engine to gain self esteem, you’ve got a problem, because the only people I know whose proudest achievements are colouring pages are under the age of five.

Oh, and just because I’m annoyed, here’s a piece of advice from another proponent of colouring (and art therapy too):

“You can tell a lot about the way a person is feeling by the images that they draw, the colors that they use, etc.  A child who draws skulls and other disturbing objects might be crying out for help, in the only way that he/she knows how.”

By that definition, people like Guillermo del Toro and Stephen King are deeply disturbed and suicidal and should be taken to the nearest psychiatric ward. Why those two haven’t been pounced on by art therapists, but every three-year-old drawing a skull has, certainly beats me.

But I have probably taken too much of your time, so let me let you get back to your colouring book club or your colouring book burning club, whichever one suits your taste a little more.

Or, if you’re a kid, your colouring book eating club.

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