Teach Kids How to Draw

Featured image of father and daughter drawing on floor

By nature, children are curious and imaginative. Everything around them is new to them and they are always on a quest to understand the world. As soon as your toddler grabs a pen, they will start scribbling, which later evolves into stick figures, while those turn into detailed sketches. That’s your child’s way of understanding the world around them, and without adequate encouragement and guidance, their interest and enthusiasm may devolve. What you can do as a parent is to increase their interest in arts and to develop this skill and confidence in drawing. To do so, here are a few easy tips on how to teach kids to draw.

Teaching 15 Month to 5-Year-Olds

Treat art as part of the routine

Since you already have planned playtime for every day, you should make art part of that routine. To teach kids how to draw is a process and in the beginning, they need to get accustomed to it. You can tape down a paper, so they can freely draw and spill on it, and you can make a smock out of some old shirts. This will help a small child focus on drawing and motions, without having to adjust the paper or hold it down. Also, you can provide chunky crayons and washable markers because those are easier to grip.

A 15-month-old will begin their drawing by making scribbles and lines. When they turn 2, those scribbles will start to look like something, their motions will become more controlled and repetitive. Also, at that age, your child will begin to grip crayons and markers between the index finger and thumb to gain more control. Additionally, you should offer them a variety of art materials at this age, but you don’t have to solely focus on drawing tools. Let them draw pictures in sand, shape things from clay and so on.

Don’t teach

Every scribble leads to more developed basic motor skills, while creativity, invention, and self-expression start developing as well. At this age, a small child doesn’t need instructions, they only need appreciation. So, sit down with your children when they’re drawing and talk to them about their art. Avoid any impulse to correct and control, and simply let them express themselves through art. You can also make observations, comment on what they’re drawing and comment on the process itself. Avoid correction and simply praise them and make them feel appreciated.

Make drawing part of emotional processing

As soon as your child starts expressing a strong emotion, offer them to draw. If they are throwing a tantrum, suggest making an angry picture. If they are sad, make a sad picture. Drawing can help them control and process their intense emotions, which may be too complex for them to explain. This will encourage them to draw even more because art will become a sanctuary and a safe place for them to express feelings.

Affirm their pre-writing

By the age of 3, your child will begin drawing lines and squiggles that are meant to be words. This is your child’s first step toward writing, and as they grow, their squiggles will become more complex, and letter-like. This all is an exciting sign that your kid understands that words can also be put to paper in order to communicate some meaning. Your part here is to affirm their pre-writing and explain that this is also a part of your task on how to teach kids to draw. They will also ask you if their squiggles mean something, or they will tell you their own meaning of the squiggle. You should let them teach you their meanings and words, and you can even pretend to send their own letter to Santa and show affirmation and confidence in their writing.

Display their art

Part of the proper way to teach kids how to draw is appreciating and saving their art. They are proud of what they’ve made, and if you put it on display, you are showing them that you are interested in their work and that is as important to you as it is to them. You don’t have to put each drawing on display, but you can create a portfolio of their drawings and let them observe their own process and growth.

Image of little girl drawing with markers

Teaching 5 to 8-Year-Olds

Teach them to make observations

As soon as they turn 5, you can start teaching them observational drawing. This means that you need to learn how to teach kids to draw from the appearance of things, rather than from their imagination. To begin this, teach them to imagine their drawings as practice. You can tell them that you are learning a new kind of drawing and that it takes a lot of practice and let them practice as much as they wish to practice. Your job here is to provide a lot of paper and pencils and to gently discourage the use of an eraser. Explain that they can start the drawing as many times as they want, but don’t force this upon them if they are not ready.

Teach them to draw new objects

At this age, children develop schema and ways of drawing things. However, instead of only teaching them to draw things they have already learned how to draw, you should let them pick something that they have never drawn before. This will encourage them to acquire new learning habits, but it will not frustrate them since it doesn’t require them to “unlearn” something they have already mastered.

Let them observe objects and shapes

When it’s time for drawing, explain to your kid that you will be drawing a certain object from one side. Then, trace your finger around the edges of the object you picked so your child can see and follow. After it, let your child trace the edges and to trace the shape in the air. They can do this either with their finger or with a pencil, and then let them transfer that shape on the paper.

Draw without looking down

Have fun while encouraging your child to draw with their eyes on the object and not on the paper. At first, you can practice drawing lines, and have them draw each part of the object separately. This is a great and fun way to teach kids how to draw and you can both easily trace their progress. Also, after they have done the lines, let them draw the entire shape.

Focus on one medium at a time

Since their skills are developing, you should offer them different media in order to properly teach kids how to draw. Show them different materials to work with and let them experiment. At this age, they will be more open to drawing with a pencil, and that will allow them and teach them to focus on contour and shading. You can even combine the media and suggest first drawing with a pencil and then complete the picture with watercolor.

Make a book

Between the ages 5 and 8, your children will enjoy making up their own stories that go with their drawings. To encourage them to draw, you can offer creating a book with a series of drawings to tell a longer story. After the 8-year-olds have put the story to the paper, you can help them bind the drawings into a book and put it on the bookshelf with the rest of the books to show the appreciation for their art and creation.

Image of mother and son drawing on floor

Teaching 9 to 11-Year-Olds

Teach them about the space

Pre-teen children are very aware of the space around them, but putting in on the paper might be difficult. Pre-teens will start to be interested in depicting perspective and other spatial information. They will start drawing horizon lines, the objects they draw will start overlapping and they will start to put more details in their drawing. You can assign spatial sequences to them, such as giving them a task to draw one object from three different angles. Also, you can let them arrange objects in piles themselves and then let them draw. This will teach them to properly transfer space from the real world, on to the paper and gain perspective.

Teach them about proportions

The task of how to teach kids to draw also includes teaching proportions. This is probably the hardest part of drawing to learn, but follow the basic anatomical proportions together and make it fun. Some people may see the head as much bigger than it actually is, or that the eyes are a bit bigger, and you can teach them the basics of anatomical proportions of the face by giving them a mirror. Let them look at their own face proportions and draw themselves. Through time, they will master the proportions and drawing faces will never be the problem again. You can also have fun with this, and let them draw your face, while you are drawing theirs. You can both draw quick sketches and then fill in the details.

The crisis of confidence may occur

Around age 9, your child will express a strong will to make the drawings as realistic as possible. However, their skills might not have evolved that much at this age, and they might get frustrated. This is another hard part of the task of how to teach kids to draw, but you should help them dismiss the thoughts of considering themselves as bad artists. This crisis of confidence is expected, and your job here is to make it clear that drawing skills take practice and patience. Also, tell them that the shown frustration has occurred because they are moving up a level. And if they consider themselves as a bad artist it is because they are seeing things now that couldn’t see before.

What is more, around age 11, they may want to give up on drawing. You should teach them some age-appropriate skills and encourage them to try out new methods that will help them stay motivated. Teach them new forms of drawing, such as abstractions, caricatures, comics or designs, which may rekindle their confidence and move them away from realism.

Have observation challenges

If your child has been observing shapes and is stuck on realism, they are probably ready to unlearn some things, but only if they are not shamed for wrong answers. For example, let them look at a tree or a piece of wood and explain that their task now is to observe the colors. Then, give them the challenge to draw a tree, but without using the color brown. Teach them to mix different colors to get the brown one and paint the tree with a real woody color. This will broaden their creativity and help them focus on something else, and that drawing is all about imagination, confidence and a lot of practice.

Be there for them

Since you’re making drawing part of your routines, you should be there for your child. Maybe they don’t want to draw alone, and you can be there to help them and be part of the learning process. You might even find this relaxing and it certainly is spending some quality time with your child. Each time you draw, you can introduce a new medium, learn a new shape, start learning letter together and have some fun with drawing. How to teach kids to draw can be more than just a responsibility, since both of you can enjoy this time spent together.

As you can see, as a parent you have plenty of tasks in order to teach kids how to draw. However, if you realy devote your time to them and their drawing this task will become enjoyable and you will see progress. However, just remember not to force them and to avoid correcting them. You should only comment, set a positive example and appreciate their art, and they will always be inspired to continue. Otherwise, they may lose their interest, and that would be a shame since drawing develops motor skills, encourages creativity and imagination and it is overall fun.

Author: Mary Lynn Holden
Author: Mary Lynn Holden

Proud mom and stepmom to an adorable bunch of kids aged 7 and up. Deeply appreciates three things in life: the help of older siblings in the house, texts on parenting, and strong coffee. Shares her stories and experiences in order to help others navigate the unpredictable waters of parenting.

Find Out More

Leave a Comment

error: Alert: Content is protected !!