5 Benefits of Color-By-Number for Children on the Autism Spectrum

Young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder can struggle with following instructions, fine motor skills, creativity, color and number recognition, and task completion. Fortunately all of these skills can be improved with one simple and fun activity: coloring by number!

Skills Improved or Gained Using Color-By-Number Activities

1. Following Instructions

Following instructions is an important skill for all children, but often children with ASD can get overwhelmed with understanding instructions. Because color-by-number is very specific and simple, it is a great starting point activity to work towards more complex instructions.

2. Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills is often another area where children on the spectrum lag behind their same-age peers. Coloring by number allows them to work on fine motor skills in a fun way!

3. Encouraging Creativity

If children with autism struggle with artistic creativity, they likely won’t enjoy coloring. But since color-by-number is easy to follow, they can practice their creativity in a guided activity, eventually leading to coloring and drawing independently.

4. Color and Number Recognition

Color and number recognition are important preschool and kindergarten readiness skills. Color-by-number experiences offer children additional exposure outside of traditional methods.

5. Task Completion

Because there are simple numbered steps for starting and finishing a color-by-number picture, this helps a child with autism reach the end goal and feel a sense of accomplishment.

Tips for Using Color By Number Activities

  • Start with simple pictures that use few numbers and colors and gradually increase the picture’s complexity and the number of colors.
  • Take turns with your child to help them stay engaged, “You color all the number 1’s red, and I’ll color all the number 2’s blue!”
  • If your child has fine motor challenges, consider using large or triangular-shaped crayons instead of smaller, easily breakable versions.

Our Experience

My nearly six-year-old son is on the autism spectrum. Before using color-by-number activities, when given a picture and crayons, he’d use one color and scribble all over the page. He was even more frustrated when given a blank page and crayons and an instruction to draw a picture. Since we’ve incorporated color-by-number activities both in therapy and at home, all the skills above have improved. He’s now happily completing pictures and always so excited to share them. I am confident it won’t be long before he is coloring pages on his own and creating his own drawings.

If you haven’t incorporated color-by-number activities in your child’s day, I urge you to give it a try. Start with simple pictures with just a few colors and gradually increase over time!

They said he wouldn’t, but he did. They said he couldn’t, but he can. They said he won’t, but he will. – National Autism Association

Published by

Amy Nielsen

Amy Nielsen is a former children's librarian of nearly twenty years. She now spends most of her time obsessively pounding on a keyboard. She is the author of It Takes a Village: How to Build a Support System for Your Exceptional Needs Family, Goldilocks and the Three Bears: Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder. Her upcoming YA Worth it debuts in May of 2024. She is also a freelance writer for The Autism Helper. When she's not writing, she and her family are most likely crusing the waters of Tampa Bay.