Traditionally coloring books, although a common part of childhood, actually have little benefit for children. This is because they do not give children a chance to create or to make decisions – beyond choosing colors. There can also be a sense of pressure to ‘color in the lines’ even if this is not reinforced by adults.

There are some novel coloring books available though that not only support children's creativity  but may even encourage it. The best of these are the Anti-Coloring Book series by Susan Striker. These books act as a springboard to a child's imagination with creative drawing / coloring projects like "Design a postage stamp for the first letter mailed from Mars" or "What is the photographer taking a picture of?" The author states "Every project  is designed to stimulate the imagination and spark creativity, to generate fantasy and expand a child's frame of reference."

This approach mixes the best aspects of coloring books, direction for children who may not feel like deciding what to draw and interesting pictures to catch their attention with the creative essentials of decision-making, imagination and design that are normally found when using blank pieces of paper. Of course the Anti-Coloring Books should not replace creating art on blank paper which is so beneficial for children but they are certainly a more creative option than traditional coloring books and a worthwhile addition to a child's art activities.

The recommended age for the Anti-Coloring Books is 6 years and up but I think a 5-year-old child might also enjoy many of the projects in these books (an adult or older sibling will need to read the short project instructions aloud).

Parents have found the projects in these books help them learn about what their child thinks and feels as well as giving their children an enjoyable art activity. Teachers also have high praise for these coloring books, although keep in mind that among the many projects in the book not all will be suitable for the youngest children (5 to 7 years of age).

There are six books in the series which are available at Amazon for $11 to $12 each (cheaper than the recommended retail price).