What is the one activity of childhood that is, in all likelihood,
universally accepted as an effective way to withdraw from the
pandemonium of daily life?
What will occupy the mind and restore serenity in less time than one can measure?
is the diversion that has been adopted by the world of adults and has
sold over 12 million units of functional escape from reality as the
numbers continue to grow?
Finally, what is the tool that is affordable, simple to find, and not, in any serious way, harmful?
and coloring books! Since the 2010’s the production of adult-friendly
coloring books has blossomed into an impressive trend. At times, adult
coloring books occupied 8 of the top selling spots on Amazon’s
This may have started with the revered
psychoanalyst Carl Jung. Originally a disciple of Sigmund Freud, Jung
distanced himself from the founder of modern psychotherapy as his
attention was drawn to spiritual and universal themes that departed from
Freud’s focus on sexuality. Jung was especially drawn to the mandala.
mandala is a geometric form that, for Jung, represented the center of
the psyche. It has been revered as an important symbol of Christianity
and as a meditation tool for yoga. Reverence for the mandala is found in
Hinduism and Buddhism as well. For Jung it represented the core from
which all thought and action originated and returned. The mandala, for
Jung, represented the point of both birth and death when considered
A mandala is a commonly-used form in coloring books
for children and adults. It can trigger relaxation and may contribute to
a meditative state as the colorist is repeatedly drawn to the center.
is thought that the McLoughlin Brothers, of New York, were the
originators of the modern coloring book. They sold their business to
Milton Bradley in the 1920’s and a staple of childhood distraction was
It is thought that the use of coloring books for children
spurs creativity. For adults. It is claimed, the act of coloring is a
mitigating factor in assisting adults to shed stress.
pros and cons attached to this activity. Some claim that coloring
promotes creativity and others believe it inhibits
imagination. Regardless of which side has the more valid argument, the
fact remains that the belief in the usefulness of coloring is unarguably
on the uptick.
Johanna Basford, who calls herself the “inky
evangelist” was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen
Elizabeth in June of 2016. Ms. Basford’s well-known book,Secret Garden:
An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book has sold over 1.5 million copies
and is a favorite of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge. She was
cited for services to art and entrepreneurship. Ms. Basford is 33 years
In 2015 12 million adult coloring books were sold. There are any
number of blogs and websites that sell and advise on the purchase of
the best colored pencils to use for these books.The days of the
popularity of the Crayola big box of 48 colors are long gone.
are differences between coloring books for children and those for
adults. Adult books contain intricate patterns and challenge fine motor
skills. It is claimed that they are designed to calm down the amygdala,
slow down heart rate and respiration and enhance focus and
concentration. There are those who believe that coloring books provide
needed boundaries in an unpredictable world and restore a sense of
It is claimed that adult coloring books work side by side
with the mindfulness movement. There are professionals in the field of
mental health who believe the coloring activity can assist in relieving
many mental health issues such as self-harm, substance abuse, anxiety
and anger management. It is further claimed that this form of enterprise
is helpful in overcoming obsessive compulsive disorder and can enable
individuals who are on the autism spectrum to communicate more
Another theory that has been put forward
concerning the interest in these books is that there is what has been
called a “Peter Pan” market that has seen a rise in adults ordering
children’s books for themselves.
The desire to return to the
reportedly simpler times of childhood has also been seen in the
proliferation of summer camps for adults. Examples of this are “Camp
Grounded” and “Camp No Counselors”.
In Brooklyn, weekly preschool
classes for adults are found at Preschool Mastermind. Michelle Joni
Lapidos who is an organizer there claims that children who did not have
enough play at the appropriate stage of development become “serial
killers and stuff”.
Unsurprisingly, numbers of developmental
professionals refute these claims. Among this group it is believed that
those regressing into a childhood-based fantasy world are doing so to
avoid the confrontations and intricacies encountered in the world of
It is hard to analyze what, exactly, constitutes
play. Some contend that as soon as an activity becomes competitive, it
ceases to become play. One workable definition is that there are three
components to play: It is voluntary, it is flexible, and it is fun.
are those who can see an important evolutionary component to play. Play
time is regarded as an opportunity for the imagination to expand
without the consequences of “real” life.
Professor Peter Gray of
Boston College has pointed out that as parental control over play has
increased the mental health of children and adolescents has
decreased. The time when a youngster could go out the door in the
morning and return at sunset to play and wander at will no longer seems
feasible in contemporary society.
Adult coloring books have
allowed Walmart to make a profit of over $100,000,000 in 2016. It seems
clear, that with this profit margin, as well as the claims that these
books enhance mental health that adult coloring books are here to
stay. It’s time to order those special colored pencils!
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