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Relax & Colour

pencil crayons

Colouring books have been a favourite childhood activity for generations. Books often feature children’s favourite characters from television, movies, or books, as well as animals and other cute subjects. NAN’s Nanny Angels often use colouring books while working with children who are coping with a parent’s cancer. It is often during these quiet moments that a child will open up and feel safe to ask questions they are afraid to ask anyone else. Happily, Nanny Angels are specially trained to answer the difficult questions children have about their parent’s illness.

More recently, there has also been a huge trend towards colouring books for adults. The craze began in 2013 when Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford was asked by a British publishing house to create a colouring book for children based off her designs. Instead, she proposed a colouring book for adults, and Secret Garden soon became an international bestseller, followed by Enchanted Forest and Lost Ocean.

For children, colouring books are a great way to occupy their time. They also provide a number of developmental benefits, from fine motor skills to eye tracking and focusing. “When a child colours in set spaces… she must coordinate a complex set of skills,” wrote homeschool teacher Marilisa Sachteleben. However, some are less enthusiastic about children’s colouring books.

New York-based art therapist Nadia Jenefsky explained in an interview with Quartz that children are so creative that colouring books often hamper them, forcing them to conform to pre-set designs rather than stretching their innate creativity. “I don’t buy colouring books for my kids,” Jean Van’t Hul writes on her website, The Artful Parent. “I’d rather have them draw their own art than color in someone else’s.”

Whether you agree or disagree on the benefits of colouring books for children, the recent trend in adult colouring books has turned colouring into an activity that parents and children can both enjoy. Sitting down and colouring with your child is something that doesn’t take a lot of energy – perfect for a parent undergoing draining and extensive cancer treatments – and can be taken with you wherever you go. Besides being an excellent low-energy activity to do with your child, there are additional benefits for colouring for parents who are going through the immense stress of cancer treatments.

Though the American Art Therapy Association has cautioned that there is a difference between art therapy and art that is therapeutic, adult colouring books can be very relaxing for adults, and the organization has supported their use for pleasure and self-care. “People with a lot of anxiety respond really well to colouring books,” art therapist Jenefsky explained, “There are some choices involved – in terms of choosing what colours you’re gong to use and how you’re blending your colours – but there’s also a lot of structure.”

From the beautiful and delicate designs of Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom to the cheeky Color Me Swoon, with its images of Hollywood stars, the adult colouring book trend has produced a huge variety of colouring books. As an activity to do with your children when you don’t have much energy left or simply as a way to relax and unwind after treatment, adult colouring books are perfect for parents undergoing cancer treatments.


Text: Jensine Jones
Sources: CBC Quartz The Artful Parent hubpages

A Few of My Favourite Things

A cancer diagnosis has many effects that impact both patients and their families. Stress, side-effects of medical treatments, and running to and from various appointments often leaves parents struggling to match their children’s energy levels. Part of the service Nanny Angels provide when they visit families is therefore allowing children to interact with an adult who has the energy to keep up with them. With this in mind NAN asked Connie Jones, a child development facilitator who works primarily with preschoolers, for her favourite activities to do with kids that are fun and educational. These toys and activities are perfect for either a parent who doesn’t have the energy to run around after their kids or for a Nanny Angel wanting to engage children in educational and fun play.

Below, Connie offers her advice on how to pick games for preschoolers and shares some of her favourites.

book pile

When choosing games for preschoolers, it is important to choose games that are age appropriate. All parties, adult and child alike, lose interest quickly when the game is too difficult or complicated for the players. Look for games which have simple, straightforward rules and game play. If the set up takes a long time, or there are too many things to remember, far too much energy goes into figuring out how to play the game. Adaptability to different ages and levels of play is also very important, especially when going to a home with multiple children of different ages. A great game can be modified easily to accommodate different skill levels and interests. Finally, factor in what interests the child. This is a big consideration if you have a reluctant or very new game player. Children are much more likely to be engaged and enthusiastic if it is related to something that interests them.

I have pulled out some example games from my toy cupboard. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does represent games that I play with children over and over again, 10 months of the year.

Zingo (ages 4-8) is a child’s bingo type game utilizing picture tiles. This game offers opportunity for image and vocabulary recognition, matching, memory, concentration, and turn-taking. It is a game that moves fast enough that even the youngest player can usually stay engaged while waiting for their own turn.


Zimbbos (ages 3+) is a wooden elephant and circus animal stacking game. This game promotes balancing skills, dexterity, and hand-eye coordination. The elephants can be stacked in numerical order which offers opportunity for counting and number recognition. For younger players, colour recognition can be utilized. Children can be creative and imaginative in their solutions to making the elephant tower. Positional concepts can be discussed as to who is on the bottom, who is on the top, who is beside and so on. Be prepared, however, for the inevitable crashing tower.

Pigzup (ages 4 and up) is another stacking game that children really enjoy. Cards are used to match numbers and then the race is on to stack the pigs. There are 8 adorable pigs with little felt ears and curly tails. They are not as easy to stack as one might think. There is an option to play with a die that adds more challenge to the game. This game is great for fine motor development, dexterity, and number and colour recognition.

pig game

Spot it Jr.! (ages 4 and up) is a card game in a tin. There are a numerous variations of Spot It!, some much more difficult than others. I have been using the animals edition. Each player flips over a card and tries to spot the animal common to both cards. It is more difficult than you think! This is a fast paced game that helps to develop attention, visual perception, speech-language, and fine motor skills (flipping cards can be challenging!) It is also a very portable game, easily slipped into a bag or purse.

spot it jr

Lego, Duplo, or other age-appropriate building pieces (ages 3-4). Building blocks with a couple of little people or animals can provide hours of imaginative entertainment. Pushing the plastic pieces together and apart helps develop hand and finger strength. A couple of figures provides opportunity for imaginative dialogue and play situations.


Art supplies could be a very long list; however, an easy and portable solution is paper with a variety of different mark making implements. Offer crayons, chalk, pencil crayons, pastels, etc. If desired, include glue and a selection of objects for collage. I have found that when I sit and work on my own art, children are drawn to the activity. Once the piece is completed, you might ask the child to tell you about their picture.

Memory games can be found in many shapes and sizes. I have discovered a couple of good quality ones at local thrift shops. I have found that children are really good at them, much better than me! In most memory games one can use as many or as few pairs as one likes to make the game fun and successful for the child.


Puzzles choices are best made considering what is appropriate for a child’s age and skill level. Try to find puzzles that are flat and in good condition. It is frustrating and time consuming to cope with cupped and deformed puzzle pieces. Puzzles offer the opportunity to develop problem solving skills, memory, fine motor skills, pattern recognition, and patience.


Dolls and puppets offer opportunities for imaginative play and dialogue. When working with children in the health care setting, I found that they were often able to tell my puppet much more than they were willing to tell me. I also found that explaining procedures and expectations to the doll or puppet while the child looked on gave the child time to observe and digest information, giving them the opportunity to process the information and watch the procedure prior to them being part of the scenario.

Books, books, books. There are so many wonderful children’s books, it is impossible to choose favourites. I was looking for a book one day for a baby shower, having been asked to bring my “favourite” children’s book as a gift. The clerk asked what my favourite book was and I informed her that I hadn’t found it yet. She directed me to Sparky!, the story of a little girl who mail orders a sloth for a pet. Sparky isn’t very good at fetch, hide and seek, or the other games the girl tries to play with him, but he is irresistible. I brought Sparky! to the shower and have since given it to a couple more little humans.

seed book 2
Reading books to a child offers a special time to cuddle and share a story. This can be done in so many ways. The words can be read, the pictures can be looked at and commented on, children can ‘read’ to the adult. Questions can be asked. What do you think will happen next? Do you remember what happened first? You can also check in about a child’s understanding of the vocabulary.

feelings book 2
Books can be chosen for their topics focusing on feelings, friends, kindness, and so on. It is wonderful if the book is appealing to both the adult as well as the child. That being said, I do find that I am always being surprised by books, and sometimes the ones that are not so appealing at first become new favourites. When children are not particularly interested in books, one can add interest or a ‘hook’ that might grab attention. For example, if reading a story about magic pebbles, one might offer the child a special, polished magic pebble of their own. I like to have little popsicle puppets or actual little scenes that add a play element to the book. After handling and playing with the manipulative, the child is often motivated to tell the story on their own.

If I had to pick one item to share with children above all others, I think it would have to be books!

Connie Jones is a former nurse who currently works as a child development facilitator on an early intervention team. She works with families who have three to four-year-olds with developmental delays, working both in children’s homes and in a preschool setting. You can find her online on her crafting blog.

Text: Connie Jones and Jensine Jones           Photos: Connie Jones
Books pictured: If You Plant A Seed by Kadir Nelson, Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow, The Colour Monster: A Pop-Up Book of Feelings by Anna Llenas.