Blog: The Educated Reporter

Mess-free art: a non-school trend story.

I introduced Milo to coloring, thinking it would be a great activity for him to do independently while I cooked or cleaned or otherwise paid him no mind. Of course it didn’t work out that way, because while he (literally) loves crayons to bits—and don’t get me started with his unhealthy obsession with BATH CRAYONS—he sees coloring as a team sport. “Draw blue bawoon!” “Draw M!” “Draw green car!” I draw something, he bids bye-bye and scribbles over it, and it all starts over again.

In search of a new trick, I went looking for coloring books. Ha. Three CVS’s, two Targets, two bookstores and three yuppie toy stores—but no plain old coloring books. What’s taken their place is an entire genre of art products whose prime directive is to leave no trace. A Magic Light Brush that only leaves color on special Color Wonder paper. Paper that allows for a glittery result without actual glitter. “No need for messy glue,” the ads trumpet. Is glue so awful? The idea of fingerpaints that are clear until they touch the paper almost makes me cry.

One other genre of art supplies is mucking up the crafts aisle these days: those requiring batteries. The desperate vibe these products give off reminds me of the constant promotions from the big pizza chains: Now we will put cheese in our crust! Now we will segment the cheesy crust into bits you can pull apart, because cheesy crust on its own was not exciting enough!

If you are one of those education reporters who covers families and kids as well, PLEASE OH PLEASE write a trend story about this supposed advance in coloring technology. And not in a way that makes it sound like a good thing.

As for us, at a sad, empty suburban Toys R Us just before the snow fell, my husband eventually spotted the holy grail: a 400-page Mickey Mouse coloring book. No learning activities, no invisible ink. I bought a pack of washable crayons to go with it—I may be a Luddite, but I am not crazy.