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Noted: Teaching Your Child How to Draw

Dec 22, 2011

by Chappell Ellison handmade and vintage goods

When children show their first inclinations toward artistic talent, parents can sometimes go overboard — the refrigerator engulfed in drawings of rainbow scribbles and happy sunshines, framed doodles of stick figures hanging over the fireplace. You’d be hard pressed to find a person around these parts who wouldn’t encourage the budding artistic talent of a child, yet you’ll find thousands of opinions on the best methods for honing young creativity.

Jean Van’t Hul, a mother of two young daughters and creator of The Artful Parent, recently wrote an interesting post about her child’s newfound love of drawing. Ever since her daughter, Maia, learned how to draw a bird at school, she’s been drawing the creature the same way, line by line. Hul felt torn: should she give her daughter what she knew would be a well-received how-to drawing book, or should she seek out more natural methods? After opening her blog post up to comments, Hul found varied answers. Some parents felt step-by-step instruction gives confidence to a young artist, while others feel it’s inhibiting and too formulaic.

Though she made a decision, Hul still remains ambivalent, as documented in her follow-up blog post. Perhaps it’s not wholly possible to gauge the effects such drawing tools have on us, but they certainly play a huge part in our upbringing. As a child, I was obsessed with Ed Emberley’s step-by-step drawing books, which are ingrained in my memory. He taught me how to draw witches, cats, trucks and snakes. Yet for all the hours I pored over his books and practiced each step, my drawing style today has no trace of Emberly’s influence. Still, the question is a powerful one: should children be guided, step-by-step through their early artistic development, or should they be given free range to create without instruction?

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4 Featured Comments

  • dorothydomingo

    dorothydomingo said 4 years ago Featured

    I was a drawing major in college, so this is subject that is near and dear to my heart! As a parent, all you can do is provide the necessary materials, support and encouragement and let your daughter do the rest. Just as her handwriting will change as she matures, so will her drawing style and subject matter. You would be amazed how just exposing her to different works will affect her choices and talents. There is not just one right way for her to learn, and must be guided by her interests and abilities.

  • clothscapes

    clothscapes said 4 years ago Featured

    I have used Mona Brookes method with my son, and even though I keep it pretty casual I have noticed that he has gotten much better at drawing what he observes. I don't think books and lessons limit artistic expression. If a child expresses interest in music, you don't just hand them an instrument and expect them to teach themselves. You get them lessons and printed music. And yes some people will be happy to just follow sheet music for the rest of their musical experience, while some will improvise and compose. I feel the same way about drawing and other visual arts. Providing supplies and saying express yourself is limiting for most kids. Formal lessons and how to books provide the tools that some will take to the next level, and some will not.

  • KettleConfections

    KettleConfections said 4 years ago Featured

    I think that learning how to do anything well is a combination of self experimentation and learned skill. I used to draw free form, but it wasn't until I took a drawing class that I learned concepts like perspective, shadows, etc, but it was because I experimented with drawing in the first place that I got so much out of that class. You learn from experts to refine techniques but a good foundation of experimentation helps a lot.

  • VioletdaleJewellery

    VioletdaleJewellery said 4 years ago Featured

    It has never occurred to me to teach my child how to draw. I've always just given her a crayon and sat back to watch what she comes up with.


  • TheIDconnection

    TheIDconnection said 4 years ago

    This is so important for kiddos. I just sent my granddaughter a ton of books some on drawing & art!

  • volkerwandering

    volkerwandering said 4 years ago

    I remember drawing the same thing over and over. It pleased me to be able to place all the lines in the correct spot. Once I got bored with the shapes, I would start tweaking it here and there until the picture was one of my very own! At first I was scared to draw things that were different and had never tried before. I was afraid it would be hideous, someone would see it, and I would get laughed at. One day in school I was attempting to draw a neat style I had seen in a book from the library, called manga. I remember using little notecards so as not to attract attention. Once I finished though, I had a small crowd watching. They all insisted my work was great, and they wanted a "manga card" too! I think this is when I first realized I had some talent!

  • PaisleyPeaFabrics

    PaisleyPeaFabrics said 4 years ago

    I think people fret way too much about these things. I would just ask my daughter if she wanted to see some how-to books. Let the child decide. Either way its no big deal.

  • Spicypisces24

    Spicypisces24 said 4 years ago

    I believe free range is the best way to go. Let them explore their talents themselves, learn themselves, so they can become more sure of their own personal style. Instead of how-to drawing books, show them books of other famous artists as presents. This opens their mind to other styles, rather than telling them how they should be drawing like a how-to book would.

  • noraalice

    noraalice said 4 years ago

    I think imitation can a way of learning and trying out new things. I loved the Ed Emberly books too, creating whole little scenes and stories, drawing things I wouldn't have chosen to draw on my own.

  • LavenderField

    LavenderField said 4 years ago

    I got my mom embroider some of my kids' drawings and then either made them into pillows or have them framed. I love them!

  • SeptemberHouse

    SeptemberHouse said 4 years ago

    Thanks for sharing this. I think a lot of creative parents have these concerns about their kids. I have been known to fret a little wondering what is the best way to guide and encourage my son's love of drawing. I still don't have all the answers but I think just keeping him in paper and pencils and giving him the time and space to do what he loves is a great place to start.

  • dorothydomingo

    dorothydomingo said 4 years ago Featured

    I was a drawing major in college, so this is subject that is near and dear to my heart! As a parent, all you can do is provide the necessary materials, support and encouragement and let your daughter do the rest. Just as her handwriting will change as she matures, so will her drawing style and subject matter. You would be amazed how just exposing her to different works will affect her choices and talents. There is not just one right way for her to learn, and must be guided by her interests and abilities.

  • papernickle

    papernickle said 4 years ago

    I agree with PaisleyPeaFabrics. I also believe How-to books will only make a child think they HAVE to draw a certain way if you, as the parent, reinforce that notion. Many of the most famous artists in history went to schools which taught them how to draw or paint certain ways, then they used the skills they gained as a base to build their own styles, which sometimes turned out to be completely new and prolific art movements. Personally, as a child, I spent hours lost in vintage(1950's and 1960's) how-to drawing/paiting books which were passed down to me by my great uncle, but my current style resembles those books not at all. I still cherish those hours, though, because they gave me a solid foundation of basic skills, and the desire and drive to continually be at work, which has allowed me to really develop my style into the consistent, recognizable, and unique "outsider art" that I produce because I want to, instead of the traditional, photorealistic style that people, all of my life, have told me that I SHOULD be doing.

  • Nikifashion

    Nikifashion said 4 years ago

    Great crayon rings set!

  • dorothydomingo

    dorothydomingo said 4 years ago

    Also, she's pretty young for Mom to be stressing out about repetition and skill sets. At this point she is at the most free stage of her life in terms of making art. She's doing it for the joy of it (a goal for all of us!) and to start regimenting and projecting adult considerations on her is a sure way to kill her love of drawing.

  • LunasaDesigns

    LunasaDesigns said 4 years ago

    As a new elementary school art teacher I struggle with this question every day. What I've discovered (so far) is that it depends on the child. Some children need free reign and get their creative talents squelched quite quickly with any kind of instruction. Other's need step by step instruction in order to build confidence in their own skill. My own issue is how to teach 30 students imcompassing all ways of learning. What usually happens is a half and half approach... Give a little instruction and then give free reign... Technique is never a bad thing. It's how you choose to express yourself with or without technique that is the important piece.

  • clothscapes

    clothscapes said 4 years ago Featured

    I have used Mona Brookes method with my son, and even though I keep it pretty casual I have noticed that he has gotten much better at drawing what he observes. I don't think books and lessons limit artistic expression. If a child expresses interest in music, you don't just hand them an instrument and expect them to teach themselves. You get them lessons and printed music. And yes some people will be happy to just follow sheet music for the rest of their musical experience, while some will improvise and compose. I feel the same way about drawing and other visual arts. Providing supplies and saying express yourself is limiting for most kids. Formal lessons and how to books provide the tools that some will take to the next level, and some will not.

  • VintageEye

    VintageEye said 4 years ago

    This reminds me of a wonderful Harry Chapin song. Flowers Are Red about a little boy who on the first day of school started drawing pictures of flowers using many different colors. He is told by his teacher that he's doing it all wrong and that he should paint them red and green as they always have been seen. Worth a listen.

  • mojo3777creations

    mojo3777creations said 4 years ago

    Each child is different, my youngest son is 8 and has been drawing since I can remember. We have given him artistic freedom to draw in his own style and also provided books to show him how to draw people and faces. He played with the books for a couple of days, but really has no interest in them in. He would rather do it his own way and that is perfectly fine by me.

  • elizenazelie

    elizenazelie said 4 years ago

    i loved ed emberly's books too! i think access to educational stuff like that is great, they always have the option to draw however they want too! its not like youre strapping them into a chair for a drawing lesson every day, give them the books, if they like it then great, if not whatever. i also remember a great drawing book by klutz that was illustrated by quentin blake (who did all the roald dahl books), they did a watercolour one too that hugely influenced me as a 9 or 10 year old, although it was a little advanced for me i remember. if i didnt understand a lesson (like perspective) i just tried my best and painted whatever. knowledge is power!!

  • picklehead

    picklehead said 4 years ago

    I LOVE Ed Emberly's books!! I've bought some for my little 2 year old guy. I think it does give young artists a boost of confidence learning from step by step drawing books. I remember having some as a kid and learning technique more than anything else. I can't draw like other people, even when i try, it all comes out in my own way. I don't think it's ever a bad idea to give kids books! Besides, it's about the joy of drawing and making paint messes. Who cares if they don't become art geniuses, let them be kids first!

  • schin

    schin said 4 years ago

    The most important thing is to let the child have fun and draw what they want. As long as it remains fun, passion will come and bring confidence into their lives. It's the best gift you can give to a child.

  • AlisaDesign

    AlisaDesign said 4 years ago


  • KettleConfections

    KettleConfections said 4 years ago Featured

    I think that learning how to do anything well is a combination of self experimentation and learned skill. I used to draw free form, but it wasn't until I took a drawing class that I learned concepts like perspective, shadows, etc, but it was because I experimented with drawing in the first place that I got so much out of that class. You learn from experts to refine techniques but a good foundation of experimentation helps a lot.

  • freckletree

    freckletree said 4 years ago

    Wonderful topic, thank you for posting this. Before I had my children, I was an art instructor for children ages 8 weeks to 12 years. I also taught seminars on HOW to teach art to young children. My opinion is that children need to be given the materials to work with and then the adult needs to step back (unless you are prompting them to talk about the work or teaching a new medium). My belief is that teaching children that there is a correct product can only inhibit the imagination. On the flipside, children LOVE to copy things perfectly. They want their drawing to look like something that they might to have the ability to produce. My girls are almost 3 and BEG me to draw a "face" or "flower"-- I try to teach them shapes if they want to copy. Maybe I'm an over-thinker but it's been a huge part of my life. I would suggest finding books and photographs of the subject that the child loves and discuss the shapes of the object but don't ever emphasize the end-product.

  • studiorandom

    studiorandom said 4 years ago

    No one gave me any art lessons when I was a child. I took art class sometimes in school but even there, no one gave me lessons. I was expected to figure it all out myself. And... I'm suffering. I have really stagnated over the past 20 years since high school because I have NO idea what I'm doing. I can only take things so far when I don't know how to progress. I see people doing amazing things with digital art and I've not a clue. (It doesn't help that I don't tend to have the money for the necessary tools, either.) Art is not just about making up stuff. There are techniques involved that if you want to grow as an artist, you really need to learn. And you might be lucky enough to learn some of them on your own but you'll always have gaps and it WILL show. I've noticed the same thing with writing, actually. Parents hand kids a pencil and say "here, write something," but don't teach them anything about technique and what do you know--young adults today write very badly, for the most part.

  • BarnshopAntiques

    BarnshopAntiques said 4 years ago

    lol, just got off the phone with the town librarian. We are both self taught artists. My parents got called into a parent/teacher conference once because I drew a cartoon of my dad yelling and wrote I love you on the card. Someone saw it and thought I was in love with my 8th grade history teacher (he had the same kind of bald head). Artistic children get to have the silliest memories. I just published a children's picture book this year. Yeah me! Yeah ART! Yeah all creative souls.

  • erikareboucas

    erikareboucas said 4 years ago

    I agree with freckled tree! I've been an art teacher to elementary school students for the past 12 years and children are the most creative and imaginative people I know. When they come up with their own way of drawing or making something the results are always amazing. But even more important is the process of discovering and experimenting. As a teacher, I feel like my job is to facilitate the creative process and teach them how to observe things closely. If I know what the end product should look like what are they really discovering?

  • happygohandmade

    happygohandmade said 4 years ago

    Wow what a great article! I am an avid Artful Parent Reader and am constantly inspired by her blog. My son is only 2, so not quite drawing "birds" that look like typical birds, but I really try to encourage him to use his imagination while making lots of non-fiction books available to him. He has a bird guide we read over constantly. He identifies at least 20 by sight so I'm waiting to guide him until he asks me. I say, go with your kiddos instinct.

  • ninetrial

    ninetrial said 4 years ago

    Picasso was classically trained... need I say more? Well, sure. If I child has a "Picasso" in them, I think it will come out one way or the other. If they don't I think teaching them to draw is a great way to broaden their talent. How many children would figure out how to play the piano without some instruction first? Let alone create their own music?

  • EmillineDC

    EmillineDC said 4 years ago

    I loved picture books as a kid and drew obsessively from them. Horses were my favorite subject. I was not a fan of the instruction books, as I didn't like the style of the drawings or drawing from a pencil sketch in a book. The pictures took my imagination places that an instruction book never could. I wouldn't say that the instruction books would hurt you, only that for me the colors and "real-ness" of photos made me much happier!

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 said 4 years ago

    How-to books can be very helpful as a starting tool but the person will develop their own style as they progress - like an individual's handwriting. I agree with the music analogy. Music books and instructions are as necessary as the instrument.

  • TheMillineryShop

    TheMillineryShop said 4 years ago

    As a little child I drew very well but lost it somewhere and I understand from what I've read that this is not so unusual. Now, as an adult and a designer, I would definitely benefit from being able to draw and think that instructional books are no different than an art class.

  • adaliajean

    adaliajean said 4 years ago

    I think meeting in the middle is great... if they show an interest provide them with materials and tools and maybe a book or two for drawing or clay, etc. Let them explore the type of art they enjoy the most. Regardless of how far their talent goes, it will help spur a creative mindset :) excellent article!

  • feltstories

    feltstories said 4 years ago

    I love to do that with my kids they love to craft too we have a blog

  • KKSimpleRegalJewelry

    KKSimpleRegalJewelry said 4 years ago

    Good question!

  • 4dazz

    4dazz said 4 years ago

    I think it helps to show the child how to draw something and then they can add their own "flavor" to it. I like showing my interpretation of something and then tell them they have to change it and make it their own. Give them the tools and then it doesn't take long before they are off using their own imagination to create.

  • codylaaksonen

    codylaaksonen said 4 years ago

    Hi, I absolutely love drawing and painting!! My daughter is almost 2 and we always color and draw. She has a great time and learns shapes and letters when we draw. It opens the childs imagination and lets them realize that they can make anything. I draw and paint daily and I hope my daughter is inspired by art. I know she loves numbers and letters. Teaching them how to "draw" or write their name is fun for toddlers, and very good for them!

  • overthemeadow

    overthemeadow said 4 years ago

    Wonderful post! I do not have any little children but I probably would provide all the basic materials / supplies and perhaps a few advanced materials along with basic instructions and then let the child experiment and explore as they develop their confidence and knowledge. Children's artwork is innocent and uninhibited, which is what makes it so beautiful !!!

  • OnlyOriginalsByAJ

    OnlyOriginalsByAJ said 4 years ago

    Great post! My nephew is only 2, but he loves to draw and paint, so this Christmas, I bought him a whole bunch of art stuff. I can't wait to paint with him :)

  • Griffiths

    Griffiths said 4 years ago

    Great topic! My love of drawing started in middle school and gridding off photos to draw them square by square. It wasn't particularly creative, but it taught me how to look at the relationship between different shapes and spaces, as well as value and texture. With drawing, as with writing, you have learn the rules in order to break them!

  • MissHildebrandt

    MissHildebrandt said 4 years ago

    Pay attention and go with your child's individual flow. She'll/He'll have one I'm sure! I say purchase your child several different mediums and give them one to play with each day of the week. Right now my Son can't get enough ball point black pens...and he's two! Yikes... but he already enjoys the contrast of dark ink on prestine white 'puter paper.

  • JennasRedRhino

    JennasRedRhino said 4 years ago

    I can't believe there is any debate at all about offering a reference book to a kid. The debate only starts when you force the kid to use it.

  • iktomi

    iktomi said 4 years ago

    I was obsessed with drawing as a child and eventually became a professional illustrator as an adult. My mother always provided paper, pencils, crayons, paint, and anything she could find to encourage my creativity. No coloring books because she thought they "stifled" you. I think it depends on the kid. I did the same with both of mine, and one has no interest in art and the other likes to draw - so who knows what the answer is.

  • wonderboom

    wonderboom said 4 years ago

    We were so lucky to have artistic parents that taught us to draw & always made us feel so special about making things. This is a great gift to give any child, it helps them to be confident in their abilities and a offers an alternative to television. I'm never bored as long as I have a pen and paper , or a stick and sand or.. As a child grows comfortable making, I find they will choose their own materials. My father would bring home anything that looked fun or interesting, from old watch parts to oil pastels and put them in a large glass jug for me to pick from. He kept adding to this and I never had a shortage of inspiration. Plus it looked really cool.

  • jennyleefowler

    jennyleefowler said 4 years ago

    I really love Illustration School: Let's Draw Plants and Small Creatures by Sachiko Umoto. She places a very sweet emphasis on improvising her designs and sharing your work with others. She also offers little songs which animate the drawings. As an artist and an educator, I think that forms can be really helpful at certain developmental stages to help people learn to see in shape and increment. In my own home and for the kids I love, this is balanced with free access to a wide range of artistic materials and plenty of time to experiment with them in your own ways.

  • andiespecialtysweets

    andiespecialtysweets said 4 years ago

    It really depends on what your goals are. I am convinced, myself, without question, and generally speaking for all children that the time allowed for a child to draw is the most valuable instruction of all. And might I add, a little T.V. starvation really gets the mental wheels moving. Everyone knows their own child best -so go with that first. But I think early art instruction can really ruin it for an artistically gifted child. If the goal is to have a renaissance, cultured child, one that knows how to paint with oils and sketch with charcoal, recognize fine works of art, etc. by the time they are 10, then early instruction might be the way to go. But if the goal is to create an environment that is free to exploration, for the child's unique artistic expression, mistakes, and life as the child perceives it (at every stage along the way) then formal instruction can come later - maybe at age 13. Personally, I think this is the most valuable. Kids who are artistically inclined can be spurred on to incredible artistic feats just by simple questions and observations made alongside by the parent. I can't thank my parents enough, for letting me learn this way. When I began receiving formal instruction (age 12/13), my mind had already been there, mulling over the concepts that I was now ready to have defined. I was ready for the final pieces of the puzzle to fit. And instead of feeling like I had to meet a standard of what someone else had done, I felt like I had years of experience to now break forth into skills. The confidence had been laid. Our 6 and 8 year old sons love to draw, and are not impressed with any visual entertainment other than the ones they can produce (stop motion films and such). They are drawing in perspective, with great detail and learning from their finished works, what they can do better next time. Our 4 year old loves to draw as well, but we haven't yet been able to decipher what she is drawing, so we ask her to explain it to us. The main point is -she knows what she is drawing and it's really exciting to her. So we get excited with her. Our 2 year old, on the other hand, loves to draw on the walls, and we ARE giving him formal instruction NOT do that. : ) Sorry for the length. You just struck a passion of mine : )

  • AmyCanSew

    AmyCanSew said 4 years ago

    Very well said clothscapes!

  • glusk

    glusk said 4 years ago

    Very interesting. I think it is best to give kids lots of opportunities to explore and find what works for them whether it is with their art or anything else.

  • deeshandmades

    deeshandmades said 4 years ago

    When a older child wants books on drawing, then I don't see how that is a bad thing.

  • lizhutnick

    lizhutnick said 4 years ago

    As an artist and also one who's worked with teaching children to's both. Allow those who wish to follow the lines and samples exactly and at the same time allow those who wish to explore their own style and methods to do so. Those that want to forge ahead with their own way will do so yet can also be inspired by a book at the same time. The most important thing is to praise the result! And if you are not sure what it is, ask them to talk abut it...instead of saying great, now what is it?

  • lizhutnick

    lizhutnick said 4 years ago

    (about)...wish there was an edit function here. :)

  • VioletdaleJewellery

    VioletdaleJewellery said 4 years ago Featured

    It has never occurred to me to teach my child how to draw. I've always just given her a crayon and sat back to watch what she comes up with.

  • tatsu15

    tatsu15 said 4 years ago

    My almost 4 year old daughter loves looking at the drawing books and copying the images. She doesn't follow the step-by-step directions, but draws what she observes!

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 4 years ago

    When I was a kid I did use a drawing book but once I'd grasped the idea of shapes and working with colour my dad taught me that its better to draw what you can see. Drawing books have their place but I think being taught how to observe is important to in tandem.

  • JodyBallArt

    JodyBallArt said 4 years ago

    I believe it is both. Most kids start out drawing what they see and copying cartoons etc. The act of repetition gives them the self confidence to continue on with their endeavors. All kids are so proud of their accomplishments! As they mature, it is good to give step by step instruction so that they have the tools necessary, both in head and in hand to deliver the goods should the desire arise. It is always good to have knowledge of different mediums. When I teach classes to older kids I like to give step by step instruction on medium and technique and then let them be themselves and have at it in their own artistic way! I believe teaching patience and perseverence through art is a great tool for self control through all venues of life...never give up! The motto of my teaching to kids is based on 2 Peter 1:5 & 6. I like to encourage them with that scripture from the Bible. Great thoughts...thanks for the opportunity! That is the big picture in my humble opinion....

  • JodyBallArt

    JodyBallArt said 4 years ago

    I said above in "head and hand....let's include "heart" there also!

  • rebeccawilliams4

    rebeccawilliams4 said 4 years ago

    As an educator with a Masters In Early Childhood education, I believe a young child should be free to draw how she is naturally inclined to create. In every part of early childhood repetition is the way that children learn. She may draw a bird a thousand times the same way, and when she is ready, she will naturally move on. If she is taught one way, her own uniqueness will be hidden. There is plenty of time for "how to" books in the future. For now let her be the creative child that she is meant to be.

  • StudioBotanica

    StudioBotanica said 4 years ago

    We have always had a space set up stocked with art supplies and just let the kids create what they pleased with a 3x/week clean up :) messy, yes. But they both have so much joy in that freedom. We also own Emberly books and have used those, too. Just like everything in life, there can be a balance of both freedom and training.

  • hooraycrochet

    hooraycrochet said 4 years ago

    Good heavens, this feels like over-thinking. Give the child what you think the child would enjoy. Then step back, smile, and encourage. Perhaps because my parents don't draw or paint themselves, they had no problem with the how-to draw books I loved. They also kept me well-stocked in art supplies, tolerated my artistic messes, and took me to museums. I loved those books, and spent hours tracing and copying from them, but I dare you to find any trace of them in my work now. It doesn't have to be such a fraught decision. Just let the child's interests guide you and stop worrying so much about whether what she's doing meshes with YOUR artistic sensibilities. Sheesh.

  • metalicious

    metalicious said 4 years ago

    This is such an interesting question! I could barely draw as a child, even as an adult. Until I was able to build things in 3D it was very difficult for me to express my creativity in traditional ways. Jewelry was a natural fit for me, but I had to take a class to learn how to translate my 3D brain into 2D sketches. They taught a very formulaic way of sketching and although I have the 'building blocks' to draw it's still unique because it comes from my brain and my hands. I think kids can adapt to anything, we are all creative individuals and come into our own when it's time.

  • GoddessEngraving

    GoddessEngraving said 4 years ago

    I let my 7 year old do it her way, and if she wants help she asks."Mommy how do you draw a duck?" or whatever she is working on. She has this weird style that amuses me. She drew a pair of bunny slippers with big round maniacal eyes and sharp teeth, and told thats what she's getting me for Christmas. ... I sure hope not. I'll be hiding from them at night.

  • OneClayBead

    OneClayBead said 4 years ago

    I think that a true artist can develop either way- from early mechanical instruction or none at all, because art isn't about drawing anyway. it's about seeing and also following inner impulses and compulsions to allow an inner voice expression in line, form, color. The biggest mistake I've seen is from parents who view art as a product, with dictates like "draw something for Grandma", or who foist craft projects that must produce specific results onto small children. Most of us as adults would trade our new cars and designer jeans to have 5 minutes of the exhilaration and crazy fun that children naturally and effortlessly experience while drawing. If you nurture the joyful experience of creative play, the development of a child's talent will follow.

  • cseagbas

    cseagbas said 4 years ago

    I think this should be related to all things that a child shows an interest in.....singing, acting, swimming, the list goes on. Schools need to home in on a child's talent and not just steer them towards gaining higher grades for subjects they just don't enjoy or to improve the schools curriculum statistics. I hated maths, religious education amongst a few others, but adored art, music, geography, sport and graphics! I was a gifted illustrator from a young age, winning many awards but had NO support or acknowledgment from my teachers, they never tried to improve on my talents nor did they encourage me to be an artist or even singer. My parents were very supportive and helped me progress.

  • FranceGallery

    FranceGallery said 4 years ago

    An interesting question! I was most influenced by my art teachers from grade school through college - yet developed my own distinct style as time went on.

  • cseagbas

    cseagbas said 4 years ago

    My illustrative, painting and designing skills are all self taught, with no guidance or advice from all three schools I attended. I do believe that if one loves something so much, they will find a way to continue and improve their abilities no matter what gets in their way!

  • larkspurfunnyfarm

    larkspurfunnyfarm said 4 years ago

    Why can we not do both??? We all learn differently and thru different stages. I am thrilled to pieces of any parent will take the time to show a child that expression of their talents - any talents are valued and giving time to grow... They way folks look at life now a days is there is a Right or Wrong way to do everything - ease up and CREATE!

  • Iammie

    Iammie said 4 years ago

    Yes, I agree with both ways.

  • whimsypie

    whimsypie said 4 years ago

    Wow, this is a question I've never thought or worried about. I have two little artists making a mess in my kitchen every day, with or without something to copy, guide or inspire them. I don't think instruction books get in the way of natural development, in fact I think it can ease some frustration that many young kids experience. Some people might say the learning is in working through the frustration, but there's time for that when they're older. Whatever makes it more enjoyable for the child is the way I'll always go.

  • GoldhawkPotteryEtc

    GoldhawkPotteryEtc said 4 years ago

    I identified myself as an artist at a young age. I drew lots of the same things over and over. I also had an aunt who was a gifted artist that lived out of town, and once she sat me down and gave me a lesson in still life drawing. I was so excited but I could not mirror what she did. I tried but went back to drawing my way. I think kids need nurturing of their imaginations and creative spirit first. As they get older there are simple drawing techniques they can learn - like looking at a simple line drawing upside down and copying that way. It teaches them to see things in new ways.

  • TheNightjar

    TheNightjar said 4 years ago

    I totally agree with GoldhawkPotteryEtc....nurture the creative spirit first and foremost. Why is it that drawing "things" and copying objects is the goal? A person can always just take a photograph if exactness is the goal. Some kind of transfer of the spirit and energy of the artist is the most important thing, not tracing or copying like a trained monkey.

  • pixiegirl1925

    pixiegirl1925 said 4 years ago

    I think that children should learn how to draw on their own, unless they ask for art lessons. I learned how to draw on my own, and I've never had an art lesson.

  • RossLab

    RossLab said 4 years ago


  • magicalneedleworks

    magicalneedleworks said 4 years ago

    I think on a whole what was neglected here is the personality of the child and the way he/she learns. We all learn in different ways. Some learn visually, some need detailed instructions and then they venture outside of them. I am not a parent yet, but I worked in a kindergarten and observed the different attitudes and learning aptitudes of the kids. So, on a whole I'd say a good basic knowledge of one's own child is needed and then some sort of combination of the two approaches, in a ratio proportional with the kid's personality. Obviously, before all this there has to be a strong love, support and appreciation for the talent the little one shows. Without that how can she/he lean how to love the act of art in itself? There are already far too many kids who were forced to learn to play the pianoforte and they hate it.

  • ktreasures

    ktreasures said 4 years ago

    I think children should learn on their own, when I was little I loved to draw and what my parents did was to offer me all the tools I needed to work with (plenty of paper, pencils, brushes and acrylics...). I took the first art lesson aged 25th, just because it was a portrait course and I wanted to draw different models and faces.

  • FawnSpots

    FawnSpots said 4 years ago

    When I was little my dad would draw the same, random shape or lines for my sister and I, and we'd take that shape and turn it into a picture. For example he'd draw a circle for each of us and I would turn it into a person, with the circle as the head and my sister would turn it into a snowman. We'd sit facing away from each other so we cold come up with our own ideas. To us it was just a fun game to play with our dad, but it could also be a good way to guide your kids drawing, but still give them tons of room for creativity. To encourage there creativity!

  • NateWhittaker

    NateWhittaker said 4 years ago

    Interesting post, I believe it is a mix of both approaches. You have to let them learn on their own, but maybe a little guidance is a good thing.

  • missdanielle7

    missdanielle7 said 4 years ago

    I am a fine artist with a masters degree in art education. My mom is also an art teacher. This question will always be debated, especially among art teachers, parents, and artists. From what I have seen, learned and experienced, it seems that young children (pre-school and elementary) respond best to a free-play approach to drawing, painting, and other art making, along with some guidance with a more complicated task when needed. Young children have such active imaginations that this is the best time for them to explore their creativity, and for the adult to nourish it. As they get older It is absolutely OK to show the child practical skills and usable techniques, such as cutting, rolling out clay, and how to hold a pencil to have the most control. As they get even older (lets say middle school age) children seem to respond very well to drawing training. With this training comes an ability to draw something "right". While many of us artists my think there is no right and wrong when it comes to art, try telling that to a frustrated 14 year old who just wants the mug to look like a mug. Being able to draw something correctly gives them an enormous amount of confidence which will boost and nourish their creativity throughout their life. How many of us know people who say, "I can't draw" or "Oh I'm just not creative" or "I could never do what you do"? It breaks my heart because when I hear these words because I see people who have given up on their own creative abilities. I believe a progressive approach to art education is absolutely the way to go, with the teacher or parent acting as a guide and a resource to the child. It is absolutely a combination of skills and techniques for control along with free play for creativity and imagination.

  • KMA28

    KMA28 said 4 years ago

    I believe that it is far more important to let your child know that their work is of value than the debate between instruction and freedom. My parents were never particularly involved in my artistic development. They provided the needed tools when I asked and encouraged me to excel in whatever I did, whether it was school, sports, or art. Neither of them new much about art, but when I showed that I was improving, they couldn't have been more supportive. This assignment of value to my work is one of the main driving forces in my choice to go into photography. So let your child know what they are doing is important and they will thrive on their own!

  • Helm

    Helm said 4 years ago

    I was given step by step books as a child. I didn't follow the steps, just drew from the end product :) Every ones journey to do what they want, is different, and they will get there some how, wether you provide the steps for them or not :)

  • bjhissong

    bjhissong said 4 years ago

    Let the child be your guide. They will ask if they want more instruction on how to draw something. Children with an inclination towards being artists will learn much on their own because they draw for the fun of it. College art professors in foundational drawing do not call the work "art" because it's just studies. I think instruction should be given in "how" to use the art materials because that avoids frustration. And who really enjoys drawing with crayons? Really, they are hard to use! I think everyone should do perception exercises in school because that's a skill everyone uses (or should) as adults but skill in doing art or illustration is something that only some will choose. I wish everyone used drawing as communication but that's not how we are. I am an art educator and have taught over a thousand children of all ages how to draw and I am a mommy of two very good teenage drawers (they are better than their art teachers at school) and an illustrator/artist myself. I still believe that most learning comes from independent drawing and exploring because that's when you learn to see reality and see into your imagination! :)

  • bjhissong

    bjhissong said 4 years ago

    I just want to add that it is important to teach children to slow down and quietly look at things, especially on walks outside or in new places... the big things and the very small details. The more that they notice in life, the more that they understand. That includes shapes, textures, colors. If you can't recognize what is in front of you, then it can't be interpreted on paper. Half of drawing is seeing.

  • bjhissong

    bjhissong said 4 years ago

    I want to add that it is important to teach your child to slow down and quietly look at what is around them. If they can see the shapes, textures and colors of what is in front of them, then they can more easily interpret that on paper. I love going on nature walks or looking at beautiful photography, and noticing the small details. Half of drawing is seeing. The best drawings are personal observations of any subject where they have noticed something unique or special. Contour drawing is the best way to learn to draw anything too!

  • 5erg

    5erg said 4 years ago

    I have a ton of art books but I never really was able to learn a lot from them. It seems like I only understand what they mean after I have already come to the same conclusion myself. My mum always said I have a real problem with instructions because I always start from the end and skip all the middle part. I am guessing most kids are like that? But what the books are useful of, every time I see a drawing tutorial it makes me really want to draw and it has been like that since I was a kid All in all I feel like guiding is necessary on some level, demonstrating different possibilities can give some confidence and a starting point. My art teacher used to say that the problem with kids is that they are taught to color inside the lines, and do art in a 'correct way'.

  • ArtByKarenEHaley

    ArtByKarenEHaley said 4 years ago

    I would say that the reason I am an artist is not because I started off with how to draw books or anything like that, but because my parents made art a family activity. Finger painting, playdough, scribbling... It was like a game, something that was fun. I also loved to draw while watching my favorite movies as a little girl- the fridge was coated in a healthy layer of Land Before Time drawings and scribbly portraits of Ariel from the Little Mermaid. Then it morphed in to my own creatures and the household pets. The fact that it was an enjoyable experience and not a chore made it my passion, and once I became a little more serious about drawing in my later years of elementary school I started to pick up the how-to books at the school library. I would say don't force it, just make it fun. If it becomes something that your kid starts to pursue more, then great! If not, nurture a different passion like music or sports. You can't really decide what your kid will be when they grow up anyways, that's for them to decide. You can only guide them toward greatness by being supportive and teaching them the right values they need to function as a member of the human race.

  • Tuesdaymoon

    Tuesdaymoon said 4 years ago

    As soon as my parents noticeded how much I enjoyed drawing they started giving me art books and I read them cover to cover in no time. The basic instruction gave me the confidence to continue drawing - knowing that I was getting a foundation in it. In college my art degree was focused on drawing and I truly believe that early training I got gave me the direction I needed to pursue art many years later. I say give your child the books and the suppies and let them play around with it. As they get older offer classes if they still seem interested.

  • mylittleposies

    mylittleposies said 4 years ago

    Sometimes it's soothing to draw the same thing over and over. Art isn't always about progressing to the next step. When you're sitting nervously waiting for a phone call you might doodle, I make spirals that grow out from a corner and eventually cover the whole paper with a spiral garden. Art isn't just about what other people see in it but it's also about what you feel while you're creating it. If you don't like what you're making ie freehanding a turkey then it's not a valuable experience IMO it's just re-enforcing in that young child's mind that free hand drawing isn't fun, and it isn't pleasurable. Let the children progress the way they want to progress, some people are more drawn towards step by step book learning while others learn just by observing the world around them.

  • marieowltoinette

    marieowltoinette said 4 years ago

    Free Range! Art shouldn't be about how "good" you are, it should be about passion and how it makes you feel!! I dropped many an art class in high school because the teachers were too controlling. I desperately I wanted an hour a freedom, to lose myself in something I loved, not a teacher who breathed down my neck and told me everything I did was wrong...

  • PoppengaArtStudio

    PoppengaArtStudio said 4 years ago

    When I was a preschooler (age 4), a neighbor gave me what she thought was a coloring book---actually it was a blank sketch book. I loved it! Also, about the same time I'd "drawn" on the back hall wall of my parents' house and instead of punishing me, my mother used some blue painter's tape and used it to tape off a ceiling to floor line down the wall, telling me to "keep it on this side of the blue tape. Cool! But mostly my art was encouraged by the neighbor and it was through that kind lady that I got my first real paying art jobs (posters, logos, T-shirt design) when I was in fifth grade. So, you never know where influences and life-directing influences may come from.

  • PoppengaArtStudio

    PoppengaArtStudio said 4 years ago

    I should add to my comment immediately above this one, that today I am a full-time professional artist, doing studio work, public art and also (during the school year) serve rural schools once a month as a traveling artist-in-residence.

  • JenniferChammas

    JenniferChammas said 4 years ago

    I think there is a place for learning how to draw, but it is also extremely important (especially in childhood) to hold onto that imagination and creativity that most of us lose once we stop believing in Santa and the Easter bunny. Those miraculous moments in childhood that are filled with wonder and innocence are what helps a child be as free and nonrestrictive with their art and play. Something very hard to do as we get older.

  • SciarrettaFarms

    SciarrettaFarms said 4 years ago

    Teach your child to draw what they see (not what they know). This is what taught my now almost 15 year old son. He's a marvelous artist now! He tried how to books, but they were not interesting for him.

  • ferrijoe

    ferrijoe said 4 years ago

    Art is like sugar. You can read everything that has ever been written about sugar and still not know it until you taste it. Copy everything that has ever been produced and never get to know art until you express yourself with it.

  • judyjeske

    judyjeske said 4 years ago

    To give instruction to a child can be perceived as "So you think I am doing it wrong" unless the child is asking for instruction. Why is there a need for children to perform like adults? Usually it's the adults who are pressuring their children for "excellence" at the expense of their natural childhood. I wonder if Picasso was ever told that his drawings could be better if............. Keep judgement out of childhood creativity.

  • AlteredPhotos

    AlteredPhotos said 4 years ago

    I read through just a few of the many comments and having four grandchildren, ages 5 thru 8 this is what I've always done. I give them lots of supplies, I encourage them to think of things and picture them in their minds and draw what they see using the colors they love. No rules! For my 8 year old grandson I've gone on youtube and searched "how to draw a dragon, a shark, etc". He loved the videos and so I have a few saved for him. I encourage them to copy from books because that takes quite a bit of skill too. I always praise them for their original work. I even frame some of it. I truly love it. My sons are 31 and 27 and I still have a couple of beautiful pieces of art they did when they were young hanging in my guestroom. I encourage them to take art in school and if the interest is strong as they get older they can read books and further their art education.

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