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Art for Kids: Seeking Inspiration


My five-year-old son loves to draw – and he spends several hours engaged in drawing. Most of his drawings come from inside his head somewhere, but I’ve noticed that he really craves examples of drawing to imitate. The problem is, I never took art (not even at school, apart from one very cool sculpture class in college), so my knowledge of art for kids is pretty scarce! We have a few of the standard how-to-draw x books. Is there a sketching/line drawing resource for young kids? 

A few weeks ago I was watching this youtube video. Johnny came over to see what was playing on the computer, and begged me to pause. I did, on this shot:


He ran for a paper and pens, and started sketching the photo at the top of this page, and then something happened that interrupted us and the drawing was left unfinished. But it got me thinking – what resources would you share with a child who loves drawing this much and is so anxious to find references to learn from? Do you have favorite art resources (books, sites, or child-friendly YouTube videos) to recommend?

MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

28 thoughts on “Art for Kids: Seeking Inspiration”

  1. I am actually an art teacher or atelierista for an early childhood center. I think one of the best resources to use with your child who loves art is the things around you. Set up a mirror for them to look at themselves. Ask them open ended questions like what shape is your head? How many eyes do you have? What shapes are your eyes? etc. The same can be done with a still life. Set up some fruit or a favorite toy and ask your child if they could draw it for you. Another thing I like to do with kids is to sit down and make up our own creatures. Sometimes a list of features can be a great prompt. You and your child can come up with some basic features of your creature… 3 legs 8 eyes wings and a circle body… it will be amazing to see what your imaginations come up with! No two creatures are ever the same!

  2. I love how into drawing Johnny is. I haven’t tried it but I have heard good things about the Mark Kistler online drawing school for kids -http://www.draw3d.com/OnlineVideo.html – there is even one course (mini-marshmallow) for very young children.

  3. My five year old also enjoys drawing. She often draws pictures of her room, our house, her classroom, or things that are familiar to her that she can recall easily. It’s fun to see her add more details as her skills grow.

  4. The Mona Brooks book, yes, but also you might try some observational drawing–just drawing what he sees, from life, either outdoors or set up something to draw inside. Really looking closely will help him with his made-up drawings too. My oldest likes to draw from cartoon books, as someone else mentioned, especially TinTin. Sometimes we get the idea that drawings should be all from our head, and looking at source material is “copying,” but this isn’t true at all. Walk through any art museum and you’ll see students making their own drawings of the artwork hanging on the wall.

    Would he enjoy his own sketchbook to take on excursions and every day walks and errands, to have handy to draw what he sees? I think this is an excellent habit for the whole family!

    1. I love the drawing from real life suggestion. My son LOVES to draw too. I would get book of anything he’s into to practice drawing…my son loves Angry Birds, Star Wars and Birds. Sometimes we reproduce the artwork in children’s books we love. We just did Brown Bear, Brown Bear. We once did Feathers for Lunch. You definitely want to balance copying other artist’s work and allowing freedom to draw from imagination or life. Kids artistic instincts are often better than ours — we get muddled up with symbols of how things should look… I also try to introduce kids to loves of mediums and supplies. I let them play around with real watercolors on watercolor postcards. We are also checking out work by famous artists and then trying out their technique — in a very casual way! Have fun!!! And thanks for reading my blog. =)

  5. Hi there, firstly thank you for all the terrific ideas you have shared with others!
    I encourage kids who can draw like your 5 year old to add more detail, and to add context. Recently I talked with a boy who loved drawing footballers in outline, but felt ‘stuck’ as they did not look real to him. I got him to start with more specific details: he added stripes and numbers to the plain shirts, made some long and some short sleeved, blocked in some areas with black or one colour, then he was off adding his own details. For context, I got him to add a ball, goal post, and a ‘horizon line’ ie a horizontal line that runs across the paper, behind the footballer, so he no longer ‘floats’ on an empty page but has a background- even a simple horizontal line adds realism.
    There are some great art ideas out there. My favourite art inspirations so far come from Rich Davis, who has a great series on robots:
    Mark Kistler, who is on tv in the USA, but also produces great workbooks [start with Learn to Draw in 3D]: http://www.draw3d.com/
    and Susan Striker’s Anti-coloring Books: http://www.susanstriker.com/books_0.html

    1. I just ordered the first of Susan Striker’s anti-coloring books – can’t wait to see what he thinks of it! He loves Rich Davis’s Pick and Draw game; I need to show him the robot series. And we’ll look into Learn to Draw in 3D as well. I love your idea of adding in details; I could see that making a big difference in his artwork. Thanks again for the suggestions and recommendations!

  6. Elisa | blissfulE

    I second the Mona Brooks “Drawing with Children” recommendation! I’ve begun very slowly going through it with my kids. I’m supposed to go through it on my own before I do it with them, but it’s all so interesting and accessible so far that I’ve been sharing what I’ve learned as I go.

    Seeing the screen capture and Johnny’s drawing made me think that he would enjoy a cartoon book from the library, like Peanuts or Garfield or something else to copy from.

  7. That is so cool that he’s interested. I don’t know of any resources. So great you want to encourage him in this!

  8. See the Light is an art curriculum for kids that’s a DVD series. I’ve got one of them, that we haven’t tried yet, but I’ve heard awesome things about it.

  9. You must read Mona Brooks Drawing with Children. I had that book forever waiting to get through it to do it with my kids. It wasnt however, until they were older and I had a small group of kids for art that I decided to go through it and d0 it with them. you do not need an art background, just the patience to go thru the book

    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Faigie! I borrowed it from the library when my oldest was 2 or 3, but didn’t stick with it. I think I could, now!

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