10 Coloring Books and Pages That Keep Kids Busy for Hours

published Sep 6, 2021
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True life, I’m 33 years old and I love to color — so much so that I think I may have single-handedly manifested the adult coloring book trend. I have my own giant pack of coloring pencils, a plethora of beautiful art-focused coloring books, and a few hours at night, when the kids are down, to work or relax. So, if I’m blessed with the latter, you better believe I’m helping myself to some Hulu or binging a podcast, all with a coloring book on my lap. 

During the day, though, it’s not like I hide my creative energy and coloring supplies; I just let my toddlers take control, swapping in chunkier black-and-white outlines of farm animals, bugs, or boats and character-heavy coloring books. It’s still fun, of course, just a little more Disney and Nick Jr.-curated than Alli Koch-illustrated. That’s why I’m always so happy to find options that can keep my kids occupied and my artistic curiosities satiated. And that’s not just the mommy-and-me prettiful-page-turners, either.   

1 / 10
Melissa & Doug

When my son got his first Water WOW! from Melissa & Doug, he was probably 18 months. He’s 4.5 years old now and we’ve probably amassed close to 10 of these magical coloring pads in that time. The paint-with-water feature makes these coloring books perfect for the toddler set. All they need to do is use the chunky water pen to color in each scene. With every brushstroke (staying in the lines is no concern here, because baby hands will color with total abandon), they’ll see vibrant color appear and an adorable safari scene come to life. Once the page dries, the watercolors go away and the black-and-white outlines of wildlife are ready to fill in again and again.

I actually brought three of my son’s books to the hospital with me when I was in labor with my daughter. Coloring in the midst of contractions and when my adrenaline was pumping way too much for me to sleep, post-birth, was incredibly therapeutic!

2 / 10

For anyone who has ever just gotten into a coloring page and then had their kid say “Mom, can I do that one, you can have this one instead?”— this one’s for you. With 26 pages for you and 26 pages for your little one, you can create artful magic side by side. Kids and parents have the same pages to color in (illustrations of elephants, raccoons, seahorses, etc.), but the parent versions are a bit more detailed (a raccoon photo on the parents side says “Wild and Free,” the raccoon photo on the kids side just says “Raccoon”) than the kid versions. Totally makes sense when you think about the huge difference in our attention spans!

Each page is perforated, so you can remove and display your twinning creations together on the wall or refrigerator.

3 / 10
was $6.99

On some very rainy days at our house, we’ll read a book and then sit down to color, sprawl out to color and then cozy up with a book—and this can go on for hours, truly .… So, we’ve found a way to bring the two peaceful pastimes together. Featuring a new introduction by Eric Carle and blank pages at the end of the book for open-ended doodles, this classic story has gone black-and-white and it’s up to your little bookworms to bring back the color (however they envision it).

It’s also such a cute gift idea for all your pregnant friends. I have a new niece coming in December, and I absolutely cannot wait to have my kids color this in for their Auntie + cousin-to-be!

4 / 10
Meri Meri

Not all coloring books were created equal: In fact, some aren’t even coloring books at all, they’re posters! Silver foil holographic illustrations of robots and a space scene stretch out over eco-friendly paper for an out-of-this-world coloring experience. The drawings themselves are so whimsical and kid-friendly, but the iridescence is what gives the posters hang-up-worthy praise, in our opinion.

Parents’ party tip: If you’ll be hosting a themed birthday party (with unicorns, jungle animals, mermaids, Halloween haunts, etc.) for your kiddo, you can hand these fun triangular tubes out as favors for your tiny attendees. Just add a box of crayons, and you’re done!

5 / 10
The Tot

Studies have shown that the act of “coloring in” is incredibly stress-relieving, but not just for grownups, for kids, too! Speaking as someone who has been in the eye of many a toddler-tantrum twister, I have had some luck giving my 4-year-old some crayons and a coloring book when a meltdown was minutes from touching down. That’s exactly what this coloring pack was made to do — provide an alternative to relaxation breathing (not every preschooler or kindergartner has mastered that yet). The Gratitude Mail encourages your little one to reflect on what they’re thankful for, while the ABC’s of Mindfulness coloring book gives them something to calm their nerves.

Parents’ back-to-school tip: To really put those gratitude intentions to practice, have your kids make “first day back” cards for their teachers! The “Thank you for being an important part of my story” message is right on point, and a great way to ease everyone back into a new school year. You could even slip in a Starbucks gift card for your teacher, if you so choose!

6 / 10

Now that the indoor-dining situation is back on the table, you never know when you’ll need a distraction for your littles — preferably one that doesn’t involve a screen. These ready-to-color rolls reveal three different scenes: a garden, a solar system, and a herd of exotic animals. And each comes with its own set of four crayons, so not to fret if you’ve left the Crayola box behind.

Parents’ sibling-pleasing snip tip: Just to nip any potential fights (over what can be colored) in the bud, keep a small pair of sewing scissors (in a case, of course) in your bag to cut the rolls and share coloring segments among siblings.

7 / 10

These coloring packs are just the things to keep in your playroom craft bins (as a giftable product, the pack comes wrapped in clear cellophane, so you can keep all the materials together) — for when creativity strikes! The coloring book is fun on its own, highlighting hand-drawn illustrations of mermaids, narwhals, smiley fish, and turtles, but our favorite part is the enclosed sachet of crayon sticks. High-quality wax turns out a strong and durable crayon (every parent’s dream) that lays down bright and smooth colors. And when the crayon starts to wear down, all your amateur impressionists need to do is pull the string to peel away the paper for more crayon-coloring fun.

8 / 10
Fat Brain Toys

Jigsaw puzzles are fun for the whole family, to begin with, but this one comes together to create a charming black-and-white farm scene. All the black parts are soft velvet and all the white parts are cardboard that can be colored in with the included markers. Like all Fat Brain Toys, this playful puzzle helps develop fine motor skills, spatial reasoning, problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity. If your sons or daughters do the coloring themselves, they might even learn which pieces go together faster than they would with a traditional puzzle (that they didn’t craft themselves).

Since the colors of the markers are limited, it makes coloring a blue and yellow cow or red and green goat the thing to do!

9 / 10
Chronicle Books

My kids only have one impression of Darth Vader: a doting, albeit frazzled (#allofus) father, and that has everything to do with Jeffery Brown’s New York Times bestselling “Darth Vader and Son™” series — of which, we have several titles. The book is rife with a ton of beloved character references — like little Leia, Luke, Han, and Vader taking a trip to a petting zoo and Chewbacca, little Lando, young Padmé, R2-D2, and a mini AT-AT going mini golfing through the Death Star.

It’s all in fun, of course, but there may even be a lesson to learn here about family dynamics: even sworn enemies can find some common ground in a coloring book .… In other words, creating traditions and committing to something as a family is tremendously unifying!

10 / 10
Rad & Happy

In 2021, you can also think outside of the box book to find interesting coloring opportunities for your family. Every so often, we feature custom coloring pages right here on Cubby, but if you want to sign up for something more regular — a Color Happy Subscription is guaranteed to bring the 😊. Each month, you'll get new custom designs (delivered straight to your Account Page, activated when you subscribe) to get you and the crew excited for the upcoming holidays and to keep everyone’s creative juices flowing. Print another one when you mess one up, color them on your iPad, print multiples so the kids don't fight over who gets which one, use them for a birthday party, grab your yoga pants, throw your hair up, and just unwind with colors and fun patterns.