Supporting Young Children’s Drawing


Pebble has become very interested in drawing over the past few months. I think it is partly because her lovely Grandma has spent so much time at the craft table drawing with her, modelling different ways to draw objects, and supporting her through what can be a very frustrating task for a toddler. I think Pebble’s interest has also grown out of her own increased ability to make shapes that are meaningful to others. She can draw people by creating one smaller circle on top of another circle, with lines for arms and legs. She includes features like eyes and ‘smiles’, as well as hair. She can draw flowers, a sun, and grass.

{Drawing by Pebble, ‘Face with hair and big tummy. Grass along the bottom with sun’ and writing’, 29 Months. Scribed by Grandma)

Each success brings keen interest in making more meaningful drawings, but it’s not so easy for a toddler to make the image in their mind appear on the page. There have been many times where Pebble has asked me to help her draw a particular image and has ended up throwing down her pencil in frustration, pushing her chair from the table and letting out a howl of annoyance. But she comes back, she picks up her pencil again, because more than anything she wants to draw.

20120715_081521{‘Grandad’ by Pebble, 30 months}

Here are eight tips for supporting drawing for young children:

    1. have many different drawing tools available for children to experiment with. Try pencils, textas, chalk, charcoal, felt tip pens, oil pastels and crayons of different sizes.
    2. provide a range of papers to create on. Try cartridge paper, computer paper, recycled paper, card board, dark paper, smooth paper, textured paper, and paper of different shapes and sizes.
    3. however avoid having ALL of these materials on offer at once. Provide one or two options at a time or children may be overwhelmed by choice.
    4. provide quality materials. Is there anything more frustrating than textas that don’t work, broken crayons that are difficult to hold and pencils with no colour?

  • try drawing in many different spaces – at the table, an easel, on the floor, at a light table or using clipboards outside.
  • if a child is frustrated try talking through the steps of a drawing. Look at the object that the child wants to draw, or pictures of that object. Ask if they can see any shapes that they can start with, and what might need to come next.
  • for very toddlers it can be helpful to get them over a particularly tricky part of a drawing by guiding their hand, holding your hand over theirs. It is important that they don’t become reliant on this help, but instead use it as a tool to feel the movement of the drawing tool and then practice again on their own.
  • using a whiteboard and whiteboard markers can give young children the freedom to easily erase and try again, reducing frustration and giving them confidence next time they draw.


For more great ideas for drawing with children read Ursula Kolbe’s ‘Rapunzel’s Supermarket’, one of my very favourite art resource books for children. Or visit my Drawing Pinterest board to see how others have been supporting their children’s drawing.

Have you been drawing with your children lately? Do tell!

9 Replies to “Supporting Young Children’s Drawing”

  1. Funnily enough, after my jealous rant about the fb pic you posted, within a week after Brooklyn had a circle with legs and eyes. I thought it must be a coincidence but it’s kept happening!!
    She loved the mega-sketch also. It’s a shame you didn’t mention bedroom walls – they make a fantastic blank canvas (especially at nana’s). Hehe!!!

    1. It’s amazing how quickly these things come along, it was the same with Pebble, one minute she was all zig zag and ‘scribble’ and the next minute there were shapes on the page. It’s a joy to watch :) Oh no, poor nana’s walls!! LOL

  2. Good on Pebble! That is fantastic that she is drawing so well for a 2 year old, kudos to Grandma for encouraging her creativity.

    “Popette” and I love to draw also. At 3.5, “Popette” has only just gotten the knack of drawing faces, including eyes, nose and a big smile. We love to draw pictures of her extended family or a sunny day with flowers, our house and car etc.

    Popette has two pencil cases, one filled with an assortment of crayons and other with textas and pencils. I’ll have to try her using my pastels to see if she likes it..but maybe outside :)
    JulieM recently posted..Week 28: Grateful for LaughterMy Profile

    1. Yes Julie, I definitely recommend getting the pastels outside! The first time we used them I wasn’t so clever LOL

  3. A really useful post! My 3.4 year old still mostly draws “potato people” rather than discrete head and torso. I don’t know I’d that’s normal or a bit behind. She also draws a bit on the iPad but I’m
    Trying to encourage her to do more real vs virtual drawing at home now, like she does at Childcare. My 16 month old loves drawing with my multicoloured pen of late. I hope to encourage both to draw together more. Maybe I might learn too! I lean to anal-retentive so struggle to draw free-form without some examples to copy. :-)
    Veronica @Mixed Gems recently posted..Birthday reflectionsMy Profile

    1. They all come along at their own pace, I’m sure those potato people with have more body parts soon :) And there’s nothing wrong with using things to copy, that’s a great tip actually – occassionally copying another style or technique to add to your skill set!

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