How to encourage your kid to draw

How to encourage your kid to draw

even if you don’t know how yourself!

In Seattle, we are looking at another remote school year. Many parents I know are looking for fun, educational activities for their kids that are not on screens. Art is perfect because it is simply creative play that just so happens to touch on quite a bit of learning.

So, how do you encourage your child to draw? The short answer? You draw with them! It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. Just keep it simple and fun. Read on for some tips from an art teacher …..

Direct drawing is the method that shows step by step how to draw something using simple shapes. There are lots of books and videos using direct drawing and it’s worth a search to find something that really sparks your child’s interest. (On that point, let them draw what they want!)

Instead of trying to guess what they are drawing, say something like, “Wow, you are putting in a lot of detail! Can you tell me about your drawing?” It’s discouraging when someone tries to guess what you are drawing, and guesses wrong. Creative process shut down. Art teachers all make that mistake exactly once and then never again try to guess what a student is drawing.

Half Skeletons by Tyler age 5

When my son showed me this drawing, I was thinking of surrealism and Salvador Dali’s melting clocks, but I’m glad I didn’t say that because my association has nothing to do with the artist’s intent. He was drawing half skeletons of a person, dog, and cat. Of course! Creepy, but cool.

If kiddo wants to draw something specific, put a picture in front of them. It’s really hard (even for artists!) to pull from memory what a warthog looks like. But if you look at a picture of a warthog, you can start to see the shapes and proportions. Looking at a picture is not cheating, it’s a visual reference.

Here Tyler is looking at a globe to draw the continents. I didn’t suggest that he use a globe – we’ve just been using visual references since he started drawing, so it has naturally become a part of his process.

Map of earth by Tyler age 5

When I’m drawing with children, I will sometimes intentionally make a “mistake” so that they can see how I work through it. I will say, “Oh, gosh, I made that circle too big. I accidentally drew Mercury bigger than Mars! What should I do?” And together, we brainstorm solutions to the problem. If I can’t erase it, I can make all the other circles bigger in comparison. I can paint over it. I can glue a small piece of paper over my circle and try again. I can turn it into a collage. What else can I try? My son loves to help me work through challenges in my artworks.

Solar System by Tyler age 5, acrylic on foam core

This is the hardest one: Do not say “I can’t draw.” Anyone who can hold a pencil can draw. You can say, “I would like to get better at drawing. The way to get better is to practice. I like making art with you. It’s fun!”

Pluto Will Not be Forgotten by Tyler age 5

In art education, we often say process over product. What this means is that the goal is not a beautiful product. The goal is to find that feeling of awe and wonder when you create.

Let go of perfection – it doesn’t matter what anyone’s artwork looks like. If you have fun, that’s what your child will remember.