True Colors: Inclusivity in Coloring Books

It’s difficult to see the world through the eyes of a toddler.

There is so much to know, so much to learn, so many things to touch and smell and taste: their senses are commonly referred to as “sponges,” and rightly so. By the age of 5 years old, a child has already developed 90% of their brain, along with an understanding of a wide variety of social cues, connections and associations. 

Imagine experiencing life through a toddler’s eyes: with innocence, without any prejudice, trusting all around you and ready to learn. 

Young children don’t always learn what is expressly taught to them, however. They can make inferences based on what is left out, or what is not mentioned - i.e., daddy and mommy always talk about how important his job is, but they never talk about how important my mommy’s work at home is, so her work must be less important. Of course, nothing can be farther from the truth, but society has just recently become aware of how silence can actually send a really loud message. 

That is why it is so important for every child, especially toddlers, to be able to express themselves creatively through art and play, and to feel spoken for and not left out. For far too often, children weren’t provided with coloring books and art materials that truly reflected the diverse faces, cultures, and skin tones we see on a daily basis. 

Excitingly, the Crayola Crayon company has recently come out with The Colors of The World, which has a variety of crayons in a multitude of flesh colors, translated in English, Spanish and French. Formerly, whites and blacks alike had difficulty finding a flesh-toned crayon in the classic sets: the closest color to a white skin tone was the orange-hued Apricot color, and the closest to a black skin tone was a chocolate brown. If you were anywhere in between (i.e. if you were like most of us) you didn’t have a crayon that captured your essence.

However, it’s a conundrum people of color face far more often: Band-Aids that are labeled “flesh tone” in the most ivory shade of white. Hosiery called “nude” that certainly doesn’t look like they do when they are saying the same about themselves. 

The message was silent but painstaking clear: we didn’t really think about people like you when we made our products.

Even today, it is difficult for a young child to walk into a normal store and find a coloring book that has princesses with black features, princes with natural hair, and regal kings with faces similar to what they see at home. Ironically, the pages are colorless but they still make a loud statement about the types of people we see and accommodate.  

Crayola was founded in 1885, and laid claim to many ingenious ideas such as the built-in crayon sharpener and the portable crayon cardboard box. In 2011, they released a line of crayons called “My First Crayola,” which was designed to be easily gripped by young toddlers. In 2015, they released “Color Escapes,” a pack of crayons geared towards adults who wanted to color to release stress. It is only now that we are in 2020 that Crayola has decided to announce The Colors of The World for people of all different skin tones - and we are pretty glad they did. 

Because that sends a pretty loud message to everyone: you’re here, and we see you.

Leave a comment