Can You Colour Outside the Lines?

by Catherine Pratt

Think in a new way, colour outside the linesThinking in his own way, colouring outside the lines

My nephew is 3 ½ years old and just loves to colour. I don’t think he’s old enough yet to have the motor coordination to be able to colour inside the lines so his pictures are usually a wild array of colours and very messy by anyone’s standards. But, it doesn’t matter. He loves his pictures and he’s very proud of them. They get placed with great care on the walls of his bedroom and in his play room.

I’ve noticed that whenever an adult colours with him, they very carefully colour inside the lines. Some even try to teach my nephew the importance of those lines. “Watch, Christopher. Colour inside the lines. See, inside the lines.”

The other thing that was interesting about watching my nephew colour was that he didn’t have any “rules” for what colour he used. Usually, we just automatically choose whatever colour we would see in “nature”. Red for apples, yellow for the sun, etc. But, when you’re 3 ½ you don’t have that ingrained in you yet. You just pick any colour and go for it.

I decided one day to try it his way. After all, why do we always try to be so careful with our drawings? It's just a colouring book after all, supposedly a place for playing. No one is going to grade us or judge us on how we did.

I hesitantly picked up a blue marker and slowly made a stroke run through the pre-printed lines of a pig in a farm yard. Hmm. Not bad. Made another stroke, and another, then suddenly I was spreading colour beyond those lines at a furious pace. This was fun. Really fun. It was also much faster. But, it was like I had just managed to break free of one of society’s rules of conduct. I was colouring outside the lines. My pig was now very blue as well as extending beyond his given lines. It was a very freeing feeling. Yes, my picture was much messier looking than it could be if I had followed the “proper” way of doing things but did it matter? My nephew seemed to think it looked just fine.

But the overall valuable lesson was that it caused me to ask “why do we just automatically do some things without thinking?”. We just assume it’s the way to do it. Is it really the best way or do we do it just because that’s they way it’s “supposed” to be done? It’s the amazing gift of being around children. They’re seeing things in a new way so we sometimes also get the opportunity to see the world through their eyes. Eyes that have not been restricted yet by unspoken rules of society.

I challenge you to try colouring outside the lines next time you’re drawing with your favorite little one. Even if you don’t have a child who’s at a colouring age, find a colouring book and try it out. Just the joy of doing something as simple as colouring can be a great lesson. It’s something we wouldn’t normally think of doing. It’s a way to re-visit your childhood for a brief moment and see life back when it was simpler. Back when we didn’t automatically know what we were supposed to do.

Give it a try and then let me know what you think in the form below.

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