Earlier this year, I was sleep deprived and exhausted and decided one random trip to Walmart that I was going to paint a lion for my son’s nursery. I got my canvas and starter set of acrylics, and some sponge brushes (I don’t know the real name). I used my son’s pajamas as a guide for painting the king of the jungle and actually felt pretty good about the result.The importance of play for adults.

Not only that, but it was the most relaxing experience.

Thankfully, there’s a new coloring craze in our midst that promises the same kind of relaxation that I found in painting. Adult Coloring Books like these are all the rage this Christmas, and because we discuss all things books here, I wanted to make sure you, my reader, were aware of the benefits of coloring as an adult. 

Give the Gift of Play With Coloring Books for Adults


Coloring is a favorite pastime of many, but most of us think that kind of play must be confined to our childhoods. We’re too busy, too important, and spread far too thin to have time for something as pointless as coloring, right? This sentiment reminds me of an essay Freud wrote called “Creative Writers and Daydreaming,” where he discusses this very idea: 

As people grow up, then, they cease to play, and they seem to give up the yield of pleasure which they gained from playing.” 

There is a kind of deep pleasure or joy that comes from any light-hearted activity. This happens when we share a meal with a friend and “play” at conversation. C.S. Lewis says friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another, “What! You too?”

In the book His Needs, Her Needs: How to Build an Affair-Proof Marriage, the man’s second most important need is recreational companionship. That’s pseudo-psychobabble for someone to play with.

Starting with Freud in this essay over a century ago, we are continually reminded of how important play is.  

Surprisingly, Freud’s essay predates Peter Pan who decides to stay in Neverland. Wendy and her brothers, on the other hand, choose to return to London and grow up. It’s funny how this is presented as a decision with two opposing outcomes. All of us seemingly have the same choice: we can remain a child concerned with childish things, or we can forsake our childish desires and grow up. Peter Pan perfectly portrays this dichotomy.  

But there is something really strange about this once you become a parent. Everything I am learning about education talks about the importance of play in my son’s cognitive development. When I say everything, I mean everything. According to John Medina, author of Brain Rules for Baby, children who play are more creative, better at language, better at problem solving, less stressed, better at memory, and more socially skilled.

Not only that, but when I read about teaching my son before he reaches school age, almost everything mentions “making it fun.” 

So it makes sense that the very word “school” comes from the Greek word skholē, meaning leisure. Leisure! You mean school is suppose to be relaxing? Learning is suppose to be fun? I can’t wait to tell my students that one. 

And I think intuitively, adults know we are missing something.

As we get older, fun changes. We look for new names for it, like “exercise,” or “meditation.” The most central idea of Walter Isaacson’s biography of Albert Einstein is the prevalence of Einstein’s “thought experiments.” Thought experiments? Oh, you mean he played with ideas? Fascinating. It’s all making sense. One of the most brilliant men in history understood the importance of play.

And that is Freud’s point. If we don’t find a way to play as adults, then we are going to end up with all kinds of neuroses, that’s old psychoanalyst speak for “stress.”

Play is a good thing, a really good thing, and we need to stop drawing that silly line in the sand that says play is for children and not adults. 

I mention all this because you are going to start hearing more and more about this new adult fad of coloring. You’ll start to read articles about how this activity relieves stress, promotes relaxation, and is just like meditating.

All of that will stroke your adult ego and give you the permission you need to indulge in these coloring books, but what I hope I’ve helped you realize is that at the end of the day, play is really important.

So whatever you think is fun and whatever relaxes you, whether it’s reading, painting, coloring, playing hide and seek with your children, enjoy it because it’s helping dust off the parts of your brain covered in cobwebs.  

Consider jumping on the band wagon or giving the gift of play to someone else this Christmas. 

My favorite coloring book

Give the gift of play with coloring books for adults.

My favorite colored pens

Sweet colored pencils with a sharpener





Now tell me, what do you do to “play” in your life?


17 Responses

  1. I discovered coloring this year, while spending some quality time with children. After that, bought an adult coloring book, some markers and started to play with colors. I love it!

  2. I’m surprised to learn how popular coloring books for adults are. My love bought one this summer and has been working gradually through it. But the bookstore in town has found them to be the biggest seller of the season.

  3. Gave in to the craze and got myself a book just yesterday. Yes, I was propmted to buy because of its popularity and the fact that it was titled “Colouring for Adults”. I may have been a little self conscious otherwise. Therefore, I do like and appreciate what you are trying to get across through the post.

    You are never too old to enjoy and have fun!

    I “play” by singing nursery rhymes for my 2 year old boy and dancing with my two left feet 🙂 My husband likes to read some of his fav childhood comics from time to time.

    1. That’s beautiful! I hope you enjoy coloring your soul 🙂 I have to imagine a two year old will keep you pretty young at heart for the near future!

  4. While I’ve only gotten into colouring on my iPad which isn’t quite getting into the whole thing, working at a book shop I have seen so many people jump on them and they’ve told me they’re good for oldies, stroke patients, people with autism and varying disabilities, so they really are such a valuable thing right now! I got one for my Grandma and my boyfriend got one for his mum and they’re loving it and it makes me so happy to see them colouring and talking about it!

    Kyah / http://www.weekendtempo.com

  5. I play beach volleyball for play, but I am totally getting in on this coloring book trend 🙂

    1. Haha, you know it! What’s a little extra grit to polish your teeth up anyway?

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