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10 best colouring books for kids that beat boredom on long journeys

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

No matter what your child’s interests, football, dinosaurs our unicorns, we have the best tomes around ( The Independent/iStock )

No matter how high-tech the world gets, you can’t beat an old-fashioned colouring book when it comes to keeping children entertained indoors.

Whether you’re whiling away an hour at home on a rainy afternoon or passing time on a long journey, a colouring book is a must-have for occupying youngsters.

There’s just something soothing about cracking open a colouring book and a packet of felt-tip pens or coloured pencils. In terms of beating boredom, few things are quite as therapeutic.

And while any colouring book is entertaining in and of itself, the secret to choosing one that enthrals your child and isn’t quickly tossed aside is to focus on their temperament, as well as their individual interests.

A rambunctious, energetic pre-schooler will need a more engaging colouring book than, say, a toddler who is just beginning to enjoy colouring in.

And while cute characters and animals are fun to colour for five minutes, choosing a colouring book that appeals to your child’s particular interests will mean it should hold their interest for much longer.

Finally, factor in where your children are likely to use the colouring book. We tested lots of travel-friendly tomes that are practical for packing if space is limited, like on a car journey or flight. If, by contrast, you’re after a gift for a budding artist, one of the colouring posters is likely to be a bigger hit.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent. 

Usborne first colouring book football: £3.99, Usborne

Our five-year-old tester was delighted to discover that this colouring book is full of soccer-mad girls as well as boys – which makes a change! There’s lots to learn about the game in this, from the names of each player’s position to all the different skills a footballer needs to master. The backgrounds are in colour so there’s much less to shade than in some books, but that didn’t seem to bother our tester – if anything, it meant this book seemed less overwhelming.

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The Jam Tart the animal colours colouring book: £6, Kidly

There are 28 pages featuring 20 stylised animals to colour in this book. It’s ideal for learning colours and animal names beyond the basics – we particularly like the indigo iguana. Our five-year-old tester loved writing her name on the “this book belongs to” page. This offering from The Jam Tart is distinctly different from other colouring books, so we think it would make a lovely gift for a budding artist.

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Crayola unicreatures colouring book: £3, Hobbycraft

Llamas are the new unicorns and everyone loves sloths, so this 32-page colouring book is bound to be a hit with on-trend youngsters. It’s great value for money and the pictures are entertaining without being too complex, so it’s ideal for younger children who are just getting into colouring books.

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Usborne Minis unicorns colouring book with rub-down transfers: £2.99, Usborne

This little colouring book is the perfect size for popping in a party bag – or even in your pocket. It’s small enough to be practical for travel use, and the transfers add an extra level of entertainment – there are transfers of unicorns, rainbows and flowers, as well as plants and animals to colour in.

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Giant colouring picture by Makii: £4, London Transport Museum

This giant colouring picture is an innovative twist on a classic colouring book, and every one sold supports London Transport Museum’s charitable work. It’s the size of a map and comes with an adventure booklet about visiting the London Transport Museum, plus four postcards which you can colour in and then send to a friend.

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Omy magic colouring poster: £12.95, Royal Opera House

You can colour this poster in and then frame it and hang it on the wall. Our tester loves the idea of having her own handiwork hanging in her room, so it’s also ideal if you’re looking for an unusual gift for an arty youngster. It also folds away neatly if you want to take it with you on holiday or use it when you’re travelling.

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Rex London the jungle colouring and activity book: £6.95, Rex London

This is a jungle activity and colouring book in one with a carrying handle, so it’s perfect for travel use. There are ten different activities in this 50-page book as well as drawing challenges. Our tester’s favourite feature is the perforated edges, which mean you can easily tear off a picture and give it to a friend or stick it on the fridge.

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The official Harry Potter colouring book: £5.99, The Book People

Fans of everyone’s favourite wizard will love this official Potter-themed colouring book. The pages feature line drawings that have been used in the making of the Harry Potter films, so it’s better suited to older children who have mastered colouring within the lines. It features much-loved characters including Harry, Dobby and Voldemort.

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The Natural History Museum dinosaur colouring book: £4.99, The Natural History Museum

This 32-page colouring book is packed with fascinating dinosaur facts as well as puzzles and quizzes, so there’s plenty here to keep dino-fans entertained beyond just colouring in. Our five-year-old tester particularly loved the page that teaches you how to draw a diploodocus.

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My Little World colouring book: £4.99, My Little World

This travel-friendly cut-out, colour and play set is the perfect colouring book for use on long journeys. The set comes in six different varieties including airport, fairy village and space station foxtrot, and features cute characters and illustrations that children can use to create their own play scenes and stories. A modern twist on a traditional colouring book, it’s one of the items our five-year-old tester kept coming back to again and again. 

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The verdict: Kids' colouring books

Our five-year-old tester thinks the Usborne first colouring book football is hands-down the best colouring book of all those we tested. It’s the one she returned to play with the most, and the first thing she packed for her holiday. If you’re buying a colouring book as a gift, the giant colouring picture by Makii is ideal, and excellent value for money with a charitable twist.

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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