The baby is 2 years 3 months old. She is utterly interested in drawing. She has now been put in a playschool where I was told that she will be given homework regarding colouring pictures.

I have noticed that the colouring books meant for small children contain giant drawings. Most of them have big square, cirle, and other shapes etc. Other do have some animals but they are also very big.

My opinion is that if someone asks me to colour a big rectangle, I won't be interested because:

  1. It is very big so it will take a long time to colour it.

  2. It is does not represent anything so it is not interesting.

Now considering the above logic, I have brought the colouring books meant for bigger children for my toddler. These books have smaller pictures of animals, birds, and people.

I show the parts of body of animals, birds, and people to the child and then ask her to colour the specific part.

She seems to enjoy this. She enjoys colouring horns, eyes, feet, hands, ears. The problem starts when I ask her to colour the torso. She loses interest. I can guess that the reason is that the torso is big whether it is of an animal or a human. It is big.

I have tried the following to encourage her:

  1. I have given her oil pastels instead of wax crayons because of the smoothness and bright shades they have. She loves them.

  2. I tell her that I will colour x part of the body, and then ask her which part would you colour? She responds happily to this too.

But these steps do not work when colouring the torso. Also, according to the second point listed above, I colour half of the sketch and she colours the other half.

Right now, she hasn't been given any homework but when she does get the homework I am not sure if the second step I follow will be considered cheating(?) I am also not sure if this is proper way to encourage her!

Also, her school books have big rectangles to colour. I don't know how to force her to colour that giant rectangle, and animals which have giant torsos, when I myself think that colouring that giant rectangle/area is wastage of time. I never do it myself even though I am very much interested in Arts!

How to encourage a 2 year old toddler to complete colouring a sketch?

  • 10
    I think it's pretty amazing if your 2yo can stay in lines enough to even attempt to color any picture. And homework for a 2yo?? What country is this in? Is this common?
    – JPhi1618
    Oct 8, 2015 at 14:47
  • 2
    @JPhi1618 india. Education system here is not considered to be be very great. BTW, my toddler is very much interested in getting read story books. She has a great attention span. I have hidden her story books. I am bored by those books but she isn't. Oct 8, 2015 at 15:25
  • 3
    @TheIndependentAquarius Buy new books, immediately!
    – Raphael
    Oct 8, 2015 at 15:46
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    @Raphael I can't. The country is india. Here reading books to a 2 year old is a foreign concept. Very few books are available for a 2 year old kid. She has already 30 books which I have read to her n number of times where n > 15. Amazon.in has imported books which are very expensive here. Oct 8, 2015 at 15:51
  • 6
    @TheIndependentAquarius Oh dear. :( I'm tempted to say, give me your address and I'll send you some (picture or English ones); would that even be feasible? That said, 1) n = 15 is not much. It's not uncommon for a child to request their favorite book dozens of times. Vary the reading to entertain yourself. Change your voice. Make them laugh. 2) At that age, books become boring quickly. A 3yo will want very different books than a 2yo or 4yo. Look forward to reading your favorite books, eventually.
    – Raphael
    Oct 8, 2015 at 15:59

5 Answers 5


I think that a toddler is way too young for mandatory homework, so the first thing is not to worry about getting it done or doing it "right". It turns something that should be a pleasure into a chore, and will guarantee that she won't want anything to do with art in later years.

So I think you should treat this "homework" as a fun optional extra. Doing it together as you have been doing is a great idea. Don't worry about "cheating". The objective is to get her to practise skills, not to get 10/10 in the test. And if she gets tired of it half way through, let it go. Don't sweat it.

  • 2
    Well said... I pretty much like to let toddlers be toddlers. Let them figure out later that life is sometimes a drag
    – Hambone
    Oct 8, 2015 at 20:09

It sounds like your child is possibly above average in this particular area.

Give her opportunity to explore drawing from blank pages to tracing leaves in autumn... but don't require results, there is no grade or value in evaluation at this age. Especially since she might loath drawing by the age of 4 and be into climbing.

So to answer your question, the best way to encourage them to complete a colouring sketch: don't, let them find their own encouragement.

And if the "teacher" is using a rubric-based curriculum for some crazy reason, show them your daughter's "preferred artwork" efforts as exemplary results of the desired achievement.

  • 1
    You said: "It sounds like your child is possibly above average in this particular area." Why did you say this? Is the child of 2 years of age not expected to colour much? I am not much experienced with children, hence asking. Oct 8, 2015 at 7:13
  • 8
    If I told my 2yo to color a picture of a car, this is what I would get... letmecolor.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/… (random picture found online)
    – JPhi1618
    Oct 8, 2015 at 14:50
  • 1
    Pretty sure that is how my 4yo would color the car, the scribbles would just be larger. Oct 8, 2015 at 19:47
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    Above average because she is showing keen interest in drawing versus just applying colour to a page in happenchance of filling a large drawn object on that same page.
    – Lance
    Oct 8, 2015 at 22:14

If the issue is one of interest, make the torso interesting, and at the same time encourage her to modify the drawings.

"I wonder. If this dinosaur had a shirt, what kind of shirt would it be?"

Maybe add stripes, or circles, squares, and rectangles to the "shirt".

  • If you really wonder that, maybe you should draw the kind of dinosaur shirt you are wondering about. Be sure to fill in all of it. Don't lie to children. Don't tell kids who are naturally thrilled to do art, that they ought to do it a certain way.
    – Dronz
    Oct 8, 2015 at 18:01
  • @Dronz I'm not sure what you're saying. If I interact with a child in this way I'm not lying, nor am I telling them that they have to do things in a certain way. You seem to have a strong opinion about the subject, though, so perhaps you can provide an alternative answer to this question?
    – Adam Davis
    Oct 8, 2015 at 18:04
  • Please pardon my opaque tone. That was the voice of me pretending to be the child, reacting to what you wrote if said in an overly-suggestive way, which was my own reaction to it, based on my own experiences with overly-aggressive adults. If you express what you wrote genuinely and without pressure, then yes I expect the child will also sense your genuine invitation and perhaps respond to it with positive interest. Apologies.
    – Dronz
    Oct 8, 2015 at 18:13
  • @Dronz I see your point now, but would expect a good parent or teacher to approach all interactions with children genuinely and without pressure. I suppose that's the subject of an entirely different question, though.
    – Adam Davis
    Oct 8, 2015 at 18:17
  • 3
    I'd hope so too. My reaction started with the question, though. The questioner seems overly focused on achieving the preschool's coloring goals for a 2-year-old, and left me wanting to express how that seemed unhelpful to the child.
    – Dronz
    Oct 8, 2015 at 18:22

What I would do is give her abundant colors and papers with and without outlines to draw on, and let (and encourage, and support) her to do the things she naturally wants to do. Allow genius to follow its own path. Forcing and requiring things, and even giving too strong an approval message, gets a child to react to your interference. Genius blossoms when it grows freely and naturally in rich and varied soil provided abundantly and unconditionally by you. Protect her from outside demands from foolish preschool teachers.


To piggyback on @Adam_Davis ' answer: You can have your daughter employ a strategy called "divide and conquer".

The problem, "Large volume of empty space to color", can be separated into numerous smaller areas. Giving torso'ed character t-shirts and other clothing items is a good way to do this. Another could be to simply draw within drawings.

Once the space is divided enjoyably, it should be far easier to color the remainder of the picture.

One thing to keep in mind, in no application I know of will there be a need to do a total 100% fill. Intentful use of whitespace is a hallmark of professional design, and your daughter would do well to practice it now.

  • If my parent had tried to get me to practice the hallmarks of professional design at 2-3 years old, I would not have reacted positively to them or their ideas of what I ought to be into. Even if I did learn to do the tricks they wanted, it wouldn't leave a positive impression.
    – Dronz
    Oct 8, 2015 at 18:04
  • You can teach children without them knowing that's whats happening. Something as simple as "Do you think that part would look better if we left it white?" could do the trick. Or maybe "Let's color outside the lines, on purpose, to see if we can make this picture better." Oct 8, 2015 at 21:59
  • That's true. I remember adults trying adding things or helping when I drew things. Sometimes it was interesting and welcome. On the other hand, it can sometimes also impose an adult context where something is considered better or worse, which interferes with the child's own exploration, and can insert a value judgement. It can shift the context from "This is fun - play, explore, whee, invent, discover" to "oh wow look what dad can do that's so much better than I can. I can't do that. Mine stinks. You draw stuff, dad. You're so much better than me." Or whatever.
    – Dronz
    Oct 8, 2015 at 22:22

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