I know that many library children’s rooms make coloring sheets available for kids. While I am a huge fan of coloring, I am not a huge fan of coloring sheets. I think that coloring your own picture fosters more creativity than coloring within the lines of some Disney princess or seasonal holiday scene. And I think sometimes coloring sheets are a waste of ink and white paper. (I know there are some important developmental processes at work while learning to color in the lines. I’m sure they’re getting enough practice elsewhere.)
My solution? The coloring table. I am fortunate to have an endless supply of leftover blueprints from my dad, who saves me all of the to-be-recycled blueprints from his construction jobs. The paper is large, making it easy to cover the table. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a supply of blueprint paper, newsprint would make a nice alternative, or any recycled paper would probably work fine.
I tape the paper down to the table with masking tape, which is easily colored over. (I’ve also used painter’s tape but it doesn’t stick as well.) On the table is an assortment of crayons, markers, and colored pencils. Sometimes I start them off with a word or picture, i.e. “Happy New Year!” or a large sun in the middle of the table. I have one table in the children’s room and one in the area near the teen fiction/graphic novels. The children’s room table is much more heavily colored on than the teen one, but the teen table gets a fair amount of use too.
I wouldn’t call this a program, or even a craft, but it’s certainly an activity that kids know they can do in the children’s room, just like the puzzles and board games. It’s a routine part of many regular patrons’ visits. Having a table covered in paper also makes the table ready for any spontaneous (or planned) crafts without any extra effort – a definite bonus.
It’s usually a pleasant surprise to see what the kids/teens have drawn or written on the table. I’ve had lots of letter/number practice, portraiture, YOLOs, twitter handles with “follow me!” pleas, math homework, poetry, plenty of neighborhood pride, and even a statement or two about me. I’ve been doing this for almost a year, and so far there have been only two instances where there was something inappropriate on the table. One was easily transformed into a less offensive word (F*** is oddly really easy to change into BOOK) and the other I covered over.