How to Teach a Child to Draw

Are you worried about your child learning to write or draw? There are developmental stages of drawing that lead to writing success later on. Do you want to improve your child’s writing skills or teach them to write? Let them draw!

How to teach a child to draw

When I was a child, I was never good at drawing or really most types of art. I remember in later elementary school and honestly, even junior high being ridiculed for my drawing skills. In the 8th grade, there was even a day when my teacher held my drawing up in front of art class and my friend Cameron’s (we were supposed to be drawing the same picture we chose from a magazine) and said, “Do these two pictures look the same to you? They are supposed to be the same person!”

He was shouting. I was embarrassed. I remember it was a makeup ad for Cover Girl of Candace Burgin. I don’t think we need to talk about my age here, okay. How could things have been different? Let’s get into children’s drawing and we can talk about that later.

Simple drawing for kids

Drawing should be a fun experience for kids. They should be allowed to create what pleases them and experiment with drawing on their own. There are 4 developmental drawing stages for children. They go in the same order for every child. The age of the stages is unimportant to me, but I love watching kids progress from one to the next and EVERY SINGLE CHILD does it in the same way. It’s fascinating.

Developmental stages of drawing

Drawing stage one is random scribbles. This is an experimental phase where children are learning to hold a drawing utensil. They are learning muscle control. They are learning they can manipulate the medium onto the paper. It’s so fun to watch their faces as they discover this control.

Drawing stage two is controlled scribbling. As fine motor control becomes better, children can make a few discernable shapes such as something that resembles a circle. There are a number of ways to help kids develop fine motor skills. We’ll talk about those in a bit.

Drawing stage three is patterns or lines. During stage three, children can copy basic patterns of objects and make straight lines. It takes a lot more fine motor skill and critical thinking to do this. This stage will be reached through practice and repetition. Give kids plenty of opportunities to draw whenever they are interested and you will see their skills blossom.



Drawing stage four is people and objects. Shapes and lines take on a recognizable image. You will start to see smiley faces which then turn into blob faces with arms and legs and then will eventually gain a torso and neck that the head and arms and legs come from instead of straight from the face. Make sure to encourage kids to enjoy themselves and work at their own pace, not pump them to do it better or more your way. We don’t want any Cover Girl mishaps with our kids.

You can learn more about the stages of drawing by clicking here.

Learning to write and draw

Do you want to improve your child’s writing? Let them draw! Mastering muscle control and drawing are the first steps that will eventually lead to writing and writing well. Offer kids as many experiences with holding a crayon, pencil, marker, or whatever as you possibly can. Let them choose chalk or crayons. We have a small art supply area with crayons, rainbow crayons, colored pencils, pencils and markers that kids are allowed and encouraged to choose from as they wish at drawing times.

Drawing and coloring are two different things. One is defined and predetermined with lines that should not be crossed, one is creative and free. Coloring is good for fine motor development and learning the pincher grasp, but drawing offers kids so much more. They learn self-awareness and confidence, self-control and creativity as well from being allowed to draw whatever they wish.

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Building fine motor skills in kids

Muscles in the hands that need to be strengthened for kids to be able to hold utensils, draw and write. There are many ways you can stimulate this control. Building with blocks is a great way to help kids gain control of their fine motor skills. Letting them draw and color. Molding dough such as clay or play dough is awesome. Feeding themselves, dressing themselves, and cooking are all GREAT ways to build motor skills AND build self-confidence at the same time.

Other fine motor building skills include digging in the dirt, sand and water play, lacing cards or sewing, threading beads or other objects into a string, making collages with small bits of materials, cutting with scissors, letting kids peel stickers from a sheet and stick them to paper and so many more. Click here for more activities that will help build fine motor skills.

Draw to work through feelings

Encourage kids to share their feelings with drawing. Teach them drawing is a great way for them (or you) to express themselves. Give them a variety of colors and plenty of time to work through their emotions.

How drawing leads to writing

Letting your child become familiar with markers, chalk, pencils, and crayons helps them gain control of their motor skills and prepares them for writing. Letting them express ideas through drawing will help them translate that into letting them express ideas through writing.

Label children’s belongings with their name. This shows them that letters have meaning. Show them written words and how they are a part of everything around us. Cook with them using recipes. Show them words at the grocery store that label foods. Read signs to them on the street. Keep reminding them that words have meaning.

We do a language experience where I print a picture of each child. Then I show the child the picture of themselves doing a random activity. I ask the child to tell me a story about what happened in the picture and as they talk, I write down what they say. This shows them even more that words have meaning as I capture their expression in print.

Click here to understand more about writing and drawing skills in kids.

I came across an amazing book that helps emerging drawers hone their skills. The Woo Jr. “Drawing Book for Kids”. This book is very well put together and engaging, although my kids are a little bit too young for it. They were very interested in the process of drawing, especially the 3-year olds, however, they don’t yet have the skills to do each step. That didn’t stop them from trying.

How to Teach a Child to Draw

It would be super fun for school age kids, maybe 4-8 years of age. Even though it was over the skill level of my kids, it’s put together in a way that drew their interest and made them want to try. Then they wanted to try coloring on the instructions a bit. That’s what young kids do.

I received a copy of this book for free to give my honest opinion of it and I think it’s awesome. I love the way it’s laid out, how simple the projects are, and how it’s divided by similar topics to draw. The drawings aren’t complicated, they are simple and easy to understand. I hope you will grab a copy here and give it a try with your young school age kids. They are going to love it! Check out some of their other super cool books such as these activity books that my kids are LOVING.

How to Teach a Child to DrawHow to Teach a Child to Draw

Win a set of awesome books

You can actually win the drawing book AND the other Woo Jr. kid’s books by entering this awesome giveaway. If you win, you will get one each of the eight books in the Woo! Jr. Kids Activity books series, retail value just over $55. Click here to see them all. I hope you win! Share the giveaway with your friends too! 

How to Teach a Child to Draw

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So, back to Candice Burgin and her cover girl flawless face. My friend Cameron’s picture was 80% better than mine and much more like the original Candace. Cameron was humiliated, I was humiliated. There is nothing worse than having your work publicly shamed, no matter what it is. I’m sorry Candace, I just don’t have the skills. I am still tearing up about this memory.

My cousin, who is an excellent artist, once told me that you learn to draw to a certain stage and then you stop. For me, my skills stunted at a very young age. I won’t continue to labor the art shaming that went on in my childhood. But as I thought about what he was saying, he was right.

He claims you can keep building this skill even as an older person. You could use the “Woo Jr. Drawing Book for Kids” to grow your abilities if they stunted out in early elementary school like mine did. I have yet to delve into that process. Art is a pretty painful subject for me. Case in point, what I did to Candace.

I wish I would have had a book like “The Drawing Book for Kids” in elementary school so I could have developed more understanding and skill in drawing. Maybe I would be an awesome drawer these days too. (I think I’m going to work on it with the book anyway)

Please be careful in the way you talk to and interact with kids and what they create. It leaves a lasting impression on them for sure. Art teachers have no business shaming kids for their skills or creativity. My mom is an artist and my family is very artistic, so this area I lack in is a really shameful thing for me. She always encouraged me to keep trying, but no one can undo what was done when I was younger.

Encourage kids to try things, to decide for themselves if they do something good or bad, and to keep trying what they enjoy. They’ll gain confidence from it for sure!

Don’t forget to pin for later! 

How to Teach a Child to Draw

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