Coloring Over Words Pre-Reading Activity

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A Word Coloring Pre-Reading Activity

I love getting out large pieces of paper, writing words and pictures on them, and have my toddlers and preschoolers color over them. This is a great pre-reading activity that helps children to memorize words (which is a much bigger part of learning to read than most people think). Best of all, it’s so easy to set up and do!

I have done different versions of this activity with every one of my children, and it has been a HUGE part of what has helped them to all start reading at very young ages.

Materials Needed

  • Paper – You can use rolls of paper, large sheets, smaller sheets, or even just plain computer paper. You can also do this activity using a spiral notebook or composition notebook so that you can save all of your drawings to read later.
  • Markers – I love buying markers like these in bulk when it’s back to school season. You can also use crayons or colored pencils, but markers require less effort for little hands and produce a very satisfying line.
  • Stickers – I love getting the big Melissa and Doug sticker set like this and this. You get a lot of stickers for $5/book, and the kids love them.
  • *Write-On Wipe Off Books – I have tried many different write-on wipe-off books, and the ones by Priddy Books are by far the best. (Don’t forget some Expo markers.) Little ones don’t need to be ready to write their letters to enjoy coloring in these books. My toddlers and preschoolers love coloring over the letters, pictures, and words and this is another great way to get children familiar with their ABCs andto learn more vocabulary.


    1. Write a smattering of short and familiar words on the paper. I like to use words that reflect their interests, but start each child with many of the same basic words like: hi, clap, wave, cat, dog, sun, bus, car, etc. (You can always type “teaching three letter words” into Google to get more ideas for words to use and resources like this as well.)
    2. Draw little pictures next to some of the words. When a word is new, I like to draw a little picture next to it. Many times I’ll even choose words based on how easy the picture would be to draw! But then after they are familiar with the word, I don’t draw the picture every time so that they can memorize the word without the visual aid.
    3. Keep writing while they color. My little ones love coloring side by side with me. I don’t typically prepare these ahead of time (unless I’m holding a baby and trying to video record at the same time), but rather we do it together. Sometimes we’ll work on the same sheet and other times they’ll color one while I prepare another.
    4. Write down names of family members. Even though names are typically longer and have more complicated spelling patterns, these are among some of the first words my little ones are able to read. In addition to the names of family members, you could also include their ages, relation (brother, sister, cousin, etc.), favorite color, girl/boy, etc.
    5. Write down letters, numbers, shapes, and colors. Children who have a strong understanding of these basic concepts will have a very strong foundation in the basics needed to succeed in preschool and kindergarten. Some of my children like seeing the whole alphabet written out, others just like a smattering of letters and the same goes with the other categories as well.
    6. Use stickers for a treat. Every so often, I like to mix things up with stickers. After putting the sticker on the paper, I will label it.
    7. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I am a big believer in following a child’s lead, and so I like to do this activity whenever my child shows an interest. This might mean we’ll do it every day or only a couple of times a month. Right now, Julian(2) LOVES coloring and so we do this activity often. I use the same words over and over again until he has mastered them or loses interest, and then I’ll cycle in new words.

Here’s a video of Julian coloring some words that I have prepared.

In Conclusion

This activity seems so simple and so easy it’s like, why even write a blog about it? But I’m telling you, it is PROFOUND in helping children learning how to read.

Not only that, but it is a fun and special bonding time between you and your child where you’re working together, sitting side by side, having little conversations, learning about his or her specific interests, practicing the fine motor skills necessary to hold a writing utensil, and having fun!

We get so busy as parents, that doing an activity like this allows for a moment in a hectic day where you can teach, bond, and build memories together, and what could be better than that?

Coloring Station

Coloring Station

Coloring Stickers

Coloring Stickers

Coloring Write-On Wipe-Off Books

Coloring Write-On Wipe-Off Books

Yes, This is Really a Post About Coloring

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Yes, This is Really a Post About Coloring Embracing Motherhood

Why would I write a post about coloring? Because it’s really that important. Coloring keeps kids engaged in a creative activity, it helps them learn how to properly hold a writing utensil, and it is a gateway to learning about so much more. Especially during the summer, I like to make coloring part of our daily routine.

Have a Designated Place for Coloring

It’s so great for kids to be able to do an activity, especially something as basic as coloring, without needing your help. Even though my oldest is in public school, we have a designated “Homeschool Table” full of baskets of coloring books, coloring sheets, blank books, blank paper, activity books, and all kinds of markers, crayons, pencils, and more that the kids can get to on their own whenever they feel like it. This is part of how I create an environment that encourages independent learning.

Homeschool Table and Computer Station

Homeschool Table and Computer Station

Invest in Some Good Markers

Crayons are cheap and fun, but nothing colors quite like a marker. With our younger ones, I’ve always struggled with them not putting the caps back on the markers or little ones getting ahold of them and coloring things other than the paper (like the table, the wall, the bathroom door, and of course their bodies). But I feel like this is a fine price to pay for the joy that markers bring. If you’re worried about your children coloring on things (other than the paper), you can get some washable markers and they will easily wash off from anything.

If you’re worried about them losing the caps, just buy a bunch of cheap markers like these and create a “marker system”. I do this by having two boxes of markers and one marker stash. For my marker boxes, I just cut the flaps off from my Amazon boxes and put labels on them. One box is labeled “Good Markers” and this is where I put new markers. Another box is labeled “Old Markers” and I put all extra caps, any markers that have lost their caps, and any markers that are starting to not write so well. Then I keep a stash of new markers in the package tucked away that I can use them when I color with the kids and supervise their use. Lately, however, I’ve been keeping my good markers out in a nice office supply organizer with a handle that makes for easy transport since the big kids have been so good about putting the caps back on.

Good Markers, Junky Markers, and a Marker Basket

Good Markers, Junky Markers, and a Marker Basket

I have a few Sharpie markers and Ruby has recently really loved coloring with them, so I bought her a 24 pack of colored Sharpie markers and some thick paper to color on. At first, I was really afraid of what would happen to my house and home when I unleashed permanent markers, but she and Elliot have been very careful with them. (I keep them well away from our 2 year old, Ophelia!) Ruby is obsessed with coloring now and wants to color all of the time!

Ruby Coloring with Sharpie Markers

Ruby Coloring with Sharpie Markers

Coloring Books

Coloring books are great, and even though I don’t ever recall buying any, we have a ton! (I think we get a lot as gifts!) I try to rotate them so they stay exciting and fresh. I have a bookshelf where I keep all of the coloring books accessible, but not within easy reach, and a fresh stash of coloring books that the kids are most interested in in baskets (actually, my baskets are being used elsewhere these days, so I’m just using repurposed Amazon boxes) on our homeschool table. (These are the baskets that I usually use, but these are cheaper and look pretty good too.)

Coloring Book Box

Coloring Book Box

Here’s a blog I wrote about how we use some of our favorite coloring books written by my own dear mother and sold through my parent’s product website Amazing Michigan, the Michigan product line from their fundraising company Great Lakes Promotions. (If your school needs a fundraiser, look them up, they’re amazing!)

amazing michigan coloring book

Amazing Michigan Coloring Book

Watch Me Draw

I’ve never ever considered myself an artist of any sort, but I am pretty good at looking pictures and drawings and copying them. What I do is look at the way the lines are formed in one small section at a time and do my best to get the same angles and curves on my drawing.

A Drawing of Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony

A Drawing of Pinkie Pie

The kids love, love, LOVE watching me draw things. They will typically ask me to draw something that they really like like monsters or My Little Ponies, and so I will look it up on Google images and do my best to copy it. As I draw, they watch me with baited breath making suggestions as I go along.

Drawing Outlines

Then there’s the few things that I enjoy drawing freehand like rainbows, flowers, t-rexes, brontasauruses, stick figures with word bubbles, and other really simple things. I like to draw these with a dark Sharpie marker and the kids enjoy coloring them in.

Ruby Coloring in My Outline Drawing of a Dinosaur

Ruby Coloring in My Outline Drawing

Kids Free Draw

It’s amazing to see Ruby’s progression with drawing. Only a year ago, she was scribbling pictures, and now she’s carefully free drawing intricate pictures.

Ruby's Drawings

Ruby’s Drawings

Elliot, who is four years old, has never really liked free drawing at all. Only recently has he been inspired by Ruby’s love of drawing to draw his own pictures. It’s really cute because he only likes to draw monsters and so he’ll kind of carefully scribble an exterior and then add a bunch of arms, or a beating heart, or lots of teeth and blood, and he’ll be so proud.

Elliot free drawing with sharpie markers

Elliot Free Drawing

Ophelia, who is two, loves drawing careful lines with multiple colors. But she will draw on everything in the house and throw all of the markers and caps on the floor when she’s done, so I have to supervise her!

Ophelia's Coloring Pages

Ophelia’s Coloring Pages


Elliot’s absolute favorite thing in the whole world is to sit on my lap and do Google image searches for printouts. While I type in whatever they want to color, like “monsters” and then add the words “coloring pages”, the kids will point to the images they like. (Sometimes I have to say “free coloring pages” if a lot of paid subscription pictures come up.) Then I open up the image, right click on it and select “copy”, open a word document, right click, and select paste, make the image fit the page, and print. Lately, I’ve been printing our pictures on card stock since they are using Sharpie markers these days.

Elliot Loves His Monster Printouts

Elliot Loves His Monster Printouts

Things My Kids Like to Color

My kids are into different things at different times, and it’s always fun when a certain topic, genre, or set of characters sort of permeates their minds. I like to use their interests to find coloring pages, books to read, movies to watch over and over, imagination games to play, and more. Here are some of the obsessions my kids have had.

  • Land Before Time (Did you know they made NINE movies in this series? We have purchased many many dinosaur toys that have been a part of numerous imagination games.)
  • Dora (All three of our older kids still love watching Dora over and over. I think it’s a great show.)
  • Superheroes (Superhero Squad to be exact.)
  • Spiderman (We like watching the 1967 or 1980 versions on Netflix.)
  • My Little Pony (Ruby loves the Friendship is Magic series. I always buy little ponies at garage sales and thrift stores and the kids spend hours playing imagination games with them.)
  • Princesses (Ruby loves finding princesses with really pretty dresses.)
  • Monsters (Elliot has been obsessed with monsters for as long as I can remember. I use them to make his Favorite Things books and ABC books. Look for more on these in a future post.)
  • Mario Brothers (My husband plays these video games with the kids, and they love the characters and the story.)
  • Sharks (Do all boys like sharks or what?)
  • Octopuses (or octopi)
  • Minecraft (Elliot absolutely loves playing this game.)
  • Angry Birds (Another Elliot favorite.)

Great Resources for Printouts

Usually, I just do Google image searches to make printouts, but these are the sites that pop up over and over again that have been great portals for finding more coloring sheets.

  • The Color – You can color these online or you can print out the pages and color them. We love the interesting pictures and simple drawings.
  • Hello Kids – These drawings have more intricate details and require more precision to color, but they are very interesting.
  • AZ Coloring Pages – This page has all of the favorites like My Little Pony, Batman, Hello Kitty, holidays, animals, and more.
  • Coloring Book – This seems like the most comprehensive collection of character coloring pages. I love how they are organized by pictures of the characters.

Coloring Tips and Tricks

  • Don’t Force Coloring in the Lines: At Ruby’s first kindergarten conference, the teacher told us that one of her goals was to work on coloring in the lines, and while I knew that this was the next natural progression for her, I didn’t pressure her to do it. She is the type of personality that always does her best, and I didn’t want to discourage her from coloring just because she couldn’t stay within the lines. Now, when she sees Elliot “scribbling” and tries to chide him for it, I remind her that he’s doing his best and scribbling is just what he is working on for now. 🙂
  • Color the Edges First: When I’m coloring, I really think about all of the little things that I do that help me to color neatly. One of the things I do is color the edges carefully at first before delving into the middle. (Sometimes I even like to do my edging with marker and color the inside with crayon.)
  • Use a Variety of Colors: While it’s perfectly fine for children to scribble a picture using only one color, I like to encourage them to use a variety of colors and talk to them about the color names in the process (magenta, midnight blue, aquamarine, lavender, etc.).
  • Be Creative: Sometimes it’s fun to color a picture with the exact colors that it should be, but more often than not, it’s more fun to be creative and use whatever colors we please. I tell my children to color what they see in their minds.
  • Add More Details: I also like to encourage my children to add more details to pictures. Especially when we’re coloring our printouts, I encourage them to add a background. (What’s the setting? Where is this taking place?)
  • Color What They’re Into: Whatever children are into, you can find a coloring page for their interest. Just type whatever they are into from sharks and princesses, to viruses and biology. If you add the words “coloring page” afterwards, you will find something.
  • Bins For Coloring Pages: I have a place to put printouts that the kids can easily grab when they want to color, a place for finished coloring pages, and a place for pictures that they are still working on. When the “Finished” bin is full, I take the best ones and decorate our “Homeschool Room” with them.
a bin with Coloring Pages Ready to Grab

Coloring Pages Ready to Grab

Finished Pictures on the Wall

Finished Pictures on the Wall

In Conclusion

While coloring seems like a basic and insignificant childhood activity, it is actually a very important developmental milestone. By encouraging children to color and giving them plenty of opportunities to do so in a way that is fun and exciting to them, children will thrive in this area. In doing so, it will help them to express their creativity, get prepared for writing, and stay busy doing something productive. By giving value to coloring and the things children color, we give meaning to this precious activity, and children will see it as something important instead of just something we use to keep them busy for a little while.

Michigan Coloring Books are Fun for Children of All Ages

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Michigan Coloring Books are Fun for Children of All Ages

My three children (ages 1, 4, and 5) love doing projects together, and coloring is one of their favorite things to do. These Michigan coloring books are the perfect way for them to be able to work on a shared project in a way that keeps everyone entertained.

Learning From Each Other

Ruby (5) loves to spend hours and hours doing quiet activities like coloring and reading. Elliot (4) would rather be moving, dancing, or playing video games, but he loves to watch his sister work. These two are as different as night and day, but they love the heck out of each other, and it is a true delight to watch them play together.

children coloring michigan coloring books

Elliot is Entranced by Ruby Coloring her Michigan Coloring Book

Working at Their Own Levels

After watching Ruby color for a bit, Elliot decides that he wants to give it a try. You can see that he is a total lefty! While Ruby enjoys coloring with detail and staying in the lines, Elliot likes to scribble with big lines using single colors. This is very developmentally appropriate for his age. Ruby was the same way when she was 4. Even though her kindergarten teacher made it a goal for her to “color in the lines” at the beginning of the year, I never pushed her to do it. I knew that she would do it when she had the dexterity and desire. I also knew that if she never learned how to color in the lines, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.

children coloring Michigan coloring books together

Ruby, Elliot, and Ophelia Color the Michigan Coloring Books Together

You can see how Ophelia (21 months) loves watching her big brother and sister at work. I tried sitting her down in her own chair with her own coloring book, but she decided that she wanted to get up on the table and see what was going on for herself. She’s got her crayon in hand and “helps” Elliot color his picture by adding random marks on his page. She knows that her big sister will not appreciate her page being colored on, so she avoids it! Smart girl!

Great Michigan Coloring Books

I like using these Michigan coloring books because they have simple pictures that are easy to color and they also teach interesting and important information about Michigan. It makes it fun for me as an adult to color with them because I can learn something too!

child carefully coloring a Michigan coloring book

Ruby Coloring her Michigan Coloring Book

child coloring a Michigan coloring book

Elliot Coloring his Michigan Coloring Book

The book we are coloring in these pictures is the Maki Coloring Book from a local Michigan author, Diane Napierkowski (also my mother!), and local Michigan Fundraising Company, Great Lakes Promotions. There’s some great information in here about the Mackinac Bridge, and the kids love finding Maki the Mouse on every page. These would make a great teacher gift! Teachers and schools might also enjoy checking out their wholesale prices to get a copy for students in certain grade levels or for the whole school. Coloring is a great transition activity and with these books you can learn about Michigan at the same time.

They also have an Amazing Michigan Coloring Book that has 80 pages of high quality illustrations with state facts, notable Michiganders, and locator maps that would appeal to all ages.

In Conclusion

Coloring is a great way to do an activity with children of multiple ages that doesn’t cost a lot of money or take a lot of time to prepare. All you need are some crayons, some interesting coloring books, and an imagination.