A friend recently asked for some tips to help her kiddo who is just not that into drawing.
Y’all know that I’m ALL FOR open-ended art processes, but sometimes drawing can be a bit too open-ended for little ones.
A piece of blank paper can be a mighty confronting thing. Couple that with “What do you want to draw?’ and the process can be intimidating and overwhelming for a mini artist.
Here are my tips to encourage a child reluctant to draw.
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Model positive talk around drawing
Carve out some time where you can experiment with some of the ideas listed below, side by side.
As you draw together, be sure to use positive talk as you model out loud your own thought processes.
Actual exchange that happened between my 5-year-old and I on the weekend:
“Awesome unicorn, mum!”
“Thanks, love. I actually wasn’t sure how it would turn out as I don’t feel very confident about drawing horses. But I just had a go anyway.”
Notice that I didn’t declare “I’m not good at drawing!”
In all honesty, I really don’t feel like I’m any good at drawing but I would never say that in front of my kids.
It’s not about being good at it. It’s about having a go.
Similarly we have a ban on the word “perfect” in our house.
That takes a lot of the pressure off when we are creating, as we aren’t aiming for perfection.
Back and forth game
Take the pressure off and re-frame drawing as “mark making.”
Invite your child to sit down alongside you to build a masterpiece together.
“I’m going to put a mark here. Your turn.”
Pass the paper back and forth.
The key is to emphasise the wonder and chance to experiment.
Your art may turn into something life-like. Or it may be an excellent abstract piece of art.
Either way, the teacher in me gets super excited at all the language possibilities here.
You can describe the lines and shapes that are appearing. You can ask your little artist to describe what is happening in the drawing.
Inspect a picture book
Picture books are always my Go-To for inspiration.
Another way to encourage your reluctant kid to draw, is to pull out some picture books and inspect the illustration.
Choose books with dense, detailed illustrations.
Yellow Kayak by Nina Laden and Melissa Castrillon is a book that springs to my mind.
Ask your child to examine the kinds of lines the illustrator has used. Are they straight? Curved? Zig zags?
Invite your kid to experiment with placing similar lines of a page and see what happens.
On the topic of picture books, I highly recommend the book The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds for a child reluctant to draw.
It is based on the premise of starting with a dot and seeing what happens….
Play Mr Squiggle
Only Aussies may get this cultural reference.
When I was a kid, an afternoon TV show that we used to regularly watch was Mr Squiggle.
He was a puppet with a pencil for a nose. As you do.
Mr Squiggle would be given pieces of card with random squiggles and shapes on the page.
He would then turn those lines and squiggles into a picture.
It was seriously riveting TV and the fun was in the anticipation of the reveal.
This is our favourite game to play when we are eating out and waiting for our coffee to arrive.
It’s playful, low pressure, imaginative and demonstrates the power of making something from nothing.
Family journal time
Carving time to create as a family can be hard. But it is oh-so-worth-it.
Buy each family member a notebook and set aside time to draw together.
We pull out our art journals and draw together at the dining table maybe every 4 weeks.
“But I don’t know what to drrrrraaaaawwww!”
Oh if I had a dollar for every time…..
I highly recommend Journal Sparks by Emily Neuburger for gorgeous prompts to guide your journal sessions.
Or Hirameki by Peng Hu is awesome.
Introduce a dice
What is it about kids and a dice?
I’m working on this theory that you add a dice to anything and it ups the fun factor by about 3000%.
Introduce a dice and see whether it encourages kids drawing.
Assign a shape or line or prompt to each number.
Roll the dice and draw the shape/ line/ prompt that corresponds to the number rolled.
Take it outside
You know those journals you bought after I suggested it above? 😉
Pack them in the bag and take them with you to the park or on a walk.
Be inspired by the forms of nature, try a little still life and draw what you see.
Accessible materials that are fun
Drawing doesn’t have to be about pencils and crayons.
Ever seen how much a kiddo LOVES a whiteboard and the chance to use a whiteboard marker?
How about some chalk on the fence or driveway?
Or introduce a clipboard.
Invite your artist to experiment with different materials. And make those materials accessible so that your little artist has power in the process.
Ban the eraser
I try my best to ban erasers in the classroom. Same applies at home.
Mistakes are to be celebrated.
What did we learn from that mistake? How can we turn that mistake into something else?
Banning erasers also promotes creative risk-taking. Should I put this mark here? What will we happen if it doesn’t work out the way I want? Oh well- let’s find out shall we?
You can lead a horse to water but….
Similarly, you can lead a child to the pencil and paper but you can’t make them draw.
You can provide the materials. You can invite them to make marks.
But some kids just aren’t that into it.
Drawing is seen as an important pre-writing skill but there are other ways to build the little hand muscles needed to write.
Play dough. Lego. Threading. Using scissors.
Need more fine motor ideas? Click here!
Kids who aren’t into drawing are often building up their skills in other areas. So don’t fret.
Your little person could be like my little guy.
It was hard to entice him into drawing but he got there in the end.
It’s still probably not his creative activity of choice, but he is no longer averse to it.
Kiddy drawings are one of my favourite things. Tag me on social media @ohcreativeday if you try any of these ideas.