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10 best colouring books for kids

School holidays wearing thin? Keep little ones busy with some creative distractions

With the school holidays fast approaching, parents across the land will be in pursuit of boredom-busting activities for long car journeys, longer waits at airports and rainy days in caravans.

Even the sunniest holiday, meanwhile, needs a little calm downtime, and a colouring book is the perfect low-tech and low-budget option.

We’ve brought together a selection of the best, including options that are perfect for toddlers and some that will suit older children. In any case, a child of less than about three can only charitably be described as colouring in, as opposed to scribbling, and most of these will work for anyone with a felt tip or crayon, but we’ve tried to indicate an age range that would get the most out each book.

You Choose Colouring Book: £5.99, Amazon

This fun-packed book for children of about three to five is essentially a black-and-white version of Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart’s bestseller You Choose.

As in the original, young readers are invited to imagine being made out of jelly, travelling through time or living in the sea – only this time they can choose and add the colours too.

Comes complete with 60 stickers with which to embellish the pages once coloured.

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The Colouring Book of Cards and Envelopes: A Year of Celebrations: £9.99, Nosy Crow

Creative kids who like making homemade cards for their relatives will adore this ingenious book, which includes 24 cards and matching envelopes featuring ornate illustrations to be coloured in.

There are designs for Christmas, Easter, birthdays, mother’s and father’s day, as well as thank you and congratulations, plus instructions for how to fold your card and envelope once completed.

Each card reads: “coloured for you by…” on the back, allowing the proud artist to make their mark, and there is a sticker for sealing each envelope. Some of the designs are quite intricate, so probably one for those about six and up.

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Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad: £8.99, Waterstones

This is a delightful book that invites children to explore their emotions as they colour in Yasmeen Ismail’s charming illustrations and draw their own additions to the scenes.

On the spread for “suprised”, Cat and Dog have baked a surprise cake for Donkey, while on “embarrassed”, Dog has wet his pants and needs some bright new clothes to make him feel better.

A wonderful tome that serves as a great way to initiate conversations about feelings with young children, as well as being good fun. Perfect for children of roughly five to nine.

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Usborne Art Colouring and Sticker Book: £12.99, Usborne

This gorgeous colouring book, which would work on different levels for children from about five right up to teenagers, is produced in connection with the National Gallery.

It features colour images of some of its best loved paintings, including Monet’s Irises, alongside partially black and white versions for you to colour yourself.

There are blank frames in which to doodle, and over 100 stickers.

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Draw Bridge: £10.99, £7.34, Blackwells

An inventive book that would work equally well for adults or children of around six and up, this “draw-your-own” adventure from illustrator Sarah Walsh features a scene on every spread.

To connect up the divided parts of the picture – two sides of a river, a rocky valley or series of islands, for example – readers must draw and colour in some kind of bridge.

The publishers describe it as a kind of “analogue video game”; it is certainly addictive, but also very absorbing and likely to get the creative juices flowing. 

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Usborne First Colouring Book: Zoo: £3.99, Usborne

A slim volume with seven spreads of crowd-pleasing animal illustrations for very young artists (as soon as they can hold a crayon, up to about three) to scribble across, plus two pages of stickers to add extra features once the crayon work is done.

Monkeys, lions, penguins and giraffes are all there in force, and the pictures once coloured would make for good counting practice (“how many monkeys can you see?” etc) too.

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Harry Potter Celebratory Edition Colouring Book: £7.00, Amazon

Sure to be a hit with fans of the juggernaut book and film series, this A4 tome includes scenes from the film, character portraits and graphic images such as the Gryffindor crest to be coloured.

Some of the pictures are very detailed, and would require quite sophisticated pen control to colour all the finer elements neatly, although only a muggle would complain about a little outside-the-lines artistry.

Take note that much of this book is a compilation of images from previous Potter colouring books, and so avid collectors might have already seen some of the contents. Would work best for those who have read the books, so probably seven or eight upwards.

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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: £5.69, Wordery

A lovely, traditional colouring book based on John Tenniel’s original drawings for Alice, which have been given sometimes elaborate decorative borders and paired with quotes from Lewis Carroll’s text.

Some of the pictures are quite complex, and a child who could read the extracts – so around aged five and up – would get the most out of this one.

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Dinosaur Colouring Book: £4.99, Amazon

This educational book from the Natural History Museum has 15 scenes to colour in, as well as fun facts about everybody’s favourite terrible lizards and some step-by-step guides on how to draw your own.

Since nobody knows what colour most dinosaurs were, why not get out the glitter pens? Children of around five and up will be best placed to do their own drawings; younger kids will still enjoy colouring in T-rex and co.

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Crayola Colour Wonder Paw Patrol: £7.20, Amazon

These ingenious if overpackaged sets are ideal for long car journeys and other situations where the little darlings are liable to colour on the furnishings.

The specially designed pens that come with the book reveal colour in the scenes but don’t mark anything else. Refill Colour Wonder pages can be bought once the books – which come featuring a range of Disney and TV characters – are complete.     

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Verdict: Kids colouring books

For younger children, You Choose is perfect both for colouring and for inspiring some great storytelling and role play. Creative older kids will love making the cards and envelopes of Nosy Crow’s Year of Celebrations book

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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