Children are naturally curious and imaginative. The world around them is new to them, and they are on a quest to understand it. It is easy to see, then, why infantile scribbles soon evolve into stick figures, stick figures into detailed sketches.
Without adequate encouragement and guidance, however, a child's enthusiasm for the arts may in time devolve in frustration. Drawing may begin to seem like a chore, something difficult rather than something fun and pleasurable.
As a parent, then, what can you do to increase your child's interest, skill, and confidence in drawing? Consider the following ten easy suggestions.
How to Teach Your Child to Draw in 10 Easy Steps Infographic:
Start Drawing Early
Research has shown that even infants can recognize shapes used to make up a drawing. In one famous experiment, babies were shown paper faces that had eyes and mouths of various shapes. Across the board, the infants reacted to the emotions depicted in the drawing.
This innate ability to recognize the symbolic meaning of shapes can be built upon in the act of drawing. As soon as a young child is able to sit upright and grasp a crayon, he can be allowed to “draw,” scribbling on paper.
Introducing your child to the act of drawing early in life holds an additional benefit. Practice makes perfect, and starting early not only affords him more time to practice his drawing skills but all uses of the hand. This early exposure to using the hand to grasp and manipulate objects can also jump start the development of fine motor skills. This may translate to better coordination and even better grades later in life.
Teach the Shapes
Even while he is still an infant, you can begin teaching your child the names of various shapes. Flashcards, hand drawings, or three dimensional objects may be used. Later, when the child begins to draw, he will likely delight in being able to draw a figure and identify it with a specific given name.
Along with the shapes, you may also desire to teach the “six universal lines” of drawing. These include “round and round,” “up and down,” “back and forth,” “zigzag,” “wiggle,” and “dot.” When combined with the shapes, these six drawing forms will allow you and your child to draw anything you might desire.
As with motor skills, learning the names of shapes even before beginning public education will give your child an academic boost, possibly resulting in better grades and a heightened enjoyment of school.
As your child grows and matures, you can introduce him to different artistic mediums one by one. Likely, a crayon was the first art tool your child was allowed to use. As his coordination improves (and as he is less likely to make messes, such as drawing on the carpet), you may offer your child sidewalk chalk, fat markers, and thick, short pencils with which to draw. In time, you can introduce him to watercolor paints and colored pencils. Older children may enjoy learning to use acrylic and oil paints, charcoal, pastels, and more. Adding variety to the art supplies will help keep your child interested in learning and experimenting.
Another aspect of encouraging creativity is not setting strict rules regarding drawing. For example, don’t insist that your child color his picture of the family dog brown when he wants to color it purple. Drawings don’t have to be true to life. Rather, they are expressive and symbolic. Children’s worlds are necessarily dominated by adult decisions, but drawing is one area where children can safely exert a measure of freedom. Allowing this freedom can facilitate decision making skills later in life.
Draw with Your Child
When parents and children spend time drawing together, drawing becomes an activity that strengthens family ties. This quality time can also enhance open communication between parent and child.
Parents who do not enjoy drawing or feel they have little skill in it may find this task especially difficult. Parents, however, can put forth the effort to learn about art and drawing technique. Anyone can learn to draw by using step-by-step guides such as those here on the Easy Drawing Guides website.
Another way to learn about art is to visit an art museum or exhibit with your child. Talk about what you see – the shapes and mediums, the use of color and light. Many museums have hands-on children’s programs as well. In the weeks that follow, talk about the museum art when you draw together. Practice techniques you wish to adopt. Does your child’s drawing remind you of something you saw there? Tell him so, as this may improve his confidence.
Some say that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” This is exceptionally true of your child’s drawings. Often, children will draw what they cannot explain in words. You may discover deep aspects of your child’s emotions by allowing him to explain his drawings to you.
Asking questions may also allow you to mold your child’s drawing skills. If he expresses dissatisfaction with an aspect of his drawing, you can discuss together how he might achieve the desired effect.
Easy Drawing Guides has hundreds of step by step drawing tutorials. Take a look at the All Guides page to find ideas and inspirations.
Help Your Child “See” Objects
Your child may desire to draw a detailed rendition of an animal or landscape, but doing so may seem overwhelming. Help him to break the task into manageable parts by pointing out the shapes or line types that make up the object. You can even make a game of it. While on a walk, see who can spot the most triangles, circles, or squares amid nearby objects. Or, look at a specific object, such as a teddy bear, and see who can identify the most shapes within the form.
Later, transfer this idea of shapes to paper. Set an object in front of your child and have him outline a drawing of the object using only shapes. Then, using the shapes as a framework, he can fill in the details to complete the picture.
As your child grows older, he may desire to improve his drawings using additional skills. You can aid your child in this by researching and teaching specific drawing techniques.
For example, you may teach your child how to shade objects with a dull pencil. Or, you may teach him hatching and crosshatching to shade, texture, and give depth to sketches. Finally, you might teach him how to draw cubes, cylinders, and other three dimensional objects by adding on to shapes he already knows.
If your child is avid about improving his skill, you might enroll him in an art class. Most public schools offer art classes during selected grades, and classes are also available through local tutors, 4-H clubs, and summer programs.
Many children experience a shift in their drawing interests around the ages of 9 or 10. At this time, children may become preoccupied with realism in their drawings. This may result in disappointment and frustration if they are not helped to develop the skills necessary to achieve such realism.
As mentioned above, art classes may be of assistance. If this is not a viable option, introducing your child to new art forms may help keep him from becoming disillusioned. When your child sees that famous painters don’t always employ realism – think Frida Kahlo, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, or Henri Matisse – he may realize the value of his own art sans realism as well.
Most importantly, don’t discredit his attempts at realism. Drawing realistic animals, plants, people, and other objects requires repeated practice, and his drawing skills will improve in time.
Be Positive, Not Critical
No matter how silly, scribbled, or downright unpleasant your child’s drawing may be, you can find something to compliment. Perhaps you can mention the use of bright colors, an unexpected detail, or a unique concept.
Never make fun of your child. He may become discouraged and give up on drawing if you laugh at his mistakes or share them with others. Even if an older child asks for a critique, be gentle in delivering it. Again, begin with a positive aspect before offering suggestions.
Respect your children’s artwork as their intellectual property. Displaying exceptional drawings around the home will remind your child of his accomplishments and abilities.
When your child is excited about a drawing he’s completed, be excited with him. This interchange will encourage him to tackle greater challenges in the future. His self esteem will aid him not only in drawing more difficult subjects, but in succeeding at school and facing difficult circumstances in life as well.
One way to measure progress is by keeping a file of past drawings to compare to current drawings. For example, imagine your five-year-old attempts to draw a tiger. The result is a few orange shapes with black lines and a smiley face. At age seven, he draws a tiger again, this time adding the contours of the snout, toes of the feet, and claws. Again at age nine, he draws a tiger. This time, the sketch includes detail of the fur and much more realism. Comparing these drawings can help your child recognize improvement and isolate specific skills learned. It also affords you a memorable window into years past.
Why Wait? Pick up Paper and Pen Now!
As can be seen from the ten steps listed above, drawing is a skill that affords lifelong benefits. Anyone can learn to draw, whether young or old. Whether you draw to help your children, to communicate, to improve your focus, to combat depression, or for the sheer fun of it, be sure to pick up a pencil and start drawing today.
Can't draw? Check out the following creative ideas.
By 5-Minute Crafts
To learn more, see the following resources that have been helpful when creating this article.
- "5 Benefits of Drawing," Step to Health.
- Bartel, Marvin. "How to Teach Drawing to Children".
- Berger, Kathleen Stassen. The Developing Person Through the Lifespan. Macmillan, 2011.
- "Drawing Tips for Kids," We Draw Animals.
- "Drawing Tips for Kids - With Step By Step Tutorial to Draw Mickey Mouse Plus a Few Offers," Confessions of a Mommyaholic.
- "How to Teach a Child to Draw," About Home.
- "How to Teach Kids How to Draw," WikiHow.
- "Learn to Draw - Teach Your Child to Draw," Learn 4 Good.
- "Pencil Drawing Techniques for Beginners," Udemy Blog.
- "What Should You Teach a Young Child to Draw Ages 3 to 7?" Artabet.