My first child made this choice for me…no matter how hard I tried he never coloured in colouring books. Activity books weren’t his thing. He couldn’t and still doesn’t colour inside lines. He can however go berserk on a plain base of anything – white or coloured.
Some of the common bases we have used are –
Chart – We have worked with chart since my son was a year and a half old. Its sturdy enough for him to work with and the large surface allows him to move around and explore. We have loved colouring, painting, spraying on chart.
Art Paper / Drawing books – For techniques like sponge painting, brush etc that use broad strokes and fills more space quickly, books work well for continuity especially since kids finish papers fast as well. My son would run through the pages so quickly but also wanted to keep going.
Origami Paper – these small papers are great for cutting to use in collages, for doing smaller sketch pen or felt tip art. It also forces them to explore working with smaller spaces.
Coloured art sheets – these are great to offer a base colour. We have done colour mixing and cut shapes collages with these.
Other material – we have used cardboard boxes, empty cereal boxes
I prefer blank base material to colouring books and activity sheets simply because like the rest of our education (in India) colouring books are too structured for the kind of open ended art we enjoy doing. They reiterate our learned biases about what and how we should colour rather then allowing the child to express art the way they feel like it.
The less structure and more freedom your child has to explore art at their pace the more art adventures they will have and the more tales you will hear.