The Big Draw: how to encourage your child to draw

The Big Draw is a festival that lasts the whole of October. The aim is to encourage people of all ages to draw! The Big Draw comprises thousands of events, workshops and activities across the country and the world.

Drawing is communication. It is the way we explore and expand upon our ideas and express those ideas to others. In this blog we talk about why drawing is important for children, and how you can encourage your child to draw.

Why is drawing important?

Drawing is where writing begins. Using a crayon or a paint brush helps children to develop the fine motor skills and muscle strength they need to be able to write letters with a pencil (although this is not the only way for them to develop those skills – more about this further down the page).

More importantly, drawing supports children’s ability to visualise and explore their ideas. Before children write words and letters, drawing is one way they communicate their thoughts.

When children draw, they don’t always know what they are going to create before they start. Drawing for them is a journey of discovery. Great artists similarly explore their ideas and find their voice before they paint a masterpiece. Picasso famously made 45 sketches before he painted Guernica. In each sketch he unlocked a new idea and gradually worked out what he wanted to communicate (Howard Gardner, Creating Minds, BasicBooks, New York, 1993, p. 175).

Drawing, and in fact any type of art or craft activity, is beneficial for mental health. Children and adults alike can lose themselves in art which has a calming, stress-relieving effect. People suffering from stress and anxiety have benefitted from art therapy which is built on the premise that difficult feelings can often be better expressed through art than through words.

What can you do if your child doesn’t want to draw?

First – don’t worry! My own son was not interested in picking up crayons or pencils until the middle of Year 1 at school. He just wanted to play with cars, trains and construction toys. He is now eight years old with beautiful handwriting and a great love of drawing. Just this morning he drew a very detailed picture inspired by the beautiful illustrations in a book called The Last Seaweed Pie by Wenda Shurety and Paddy Donnelly, and he was nearly late for school!

What did I do to encourage his love of drawing?

Nothing at all. He started drawing when he was ready.

However, as a mum I understand what it is like when your child never brings any pictures home from nursery or school and other children have arms full. I also know that being told not to worry doesn’t always mean that you won’t worry. So, if you would like to give your child some gentle encouragement to start drawing, here are some activities you could try.

Make opportunities for drawing

Provide different resources on different days and leave your child to it. Do not pressure them into drawing or stand over them. You could sit down and create some artwork yourself – they might decide to join you if it looks fun!

Here are some drawing resources to try:

  • Pastels
  • Crayons
  • Wet chalk
  • Water colour paints
  • Ready mix paints
  • Glitter pens
  • Felt tipped pens
  • Coloured pencils
  • Fine black writing pens
  • Watercolour pencils
  • Scented crayons or coloured pencils
  • Coloured dry-wipe markers (with whiteboard)
  • White chalk (with black paper)
  • Rainbow swirl pencils
  • Pencils with novelty toppers
  • Twig pencils (have a look online).

These are some things children could draw on:

  • Coloured paper of different sizes, shapes and colours
  • Notepads
  • Plain, lined, squared and graph paper
  • Envelopes
  • Index cards
  • Old diaries
  • Notelets and special notepaper
  • Paper with printed borders. For example, if they like dragons you could print paper with a dragon border
  • Postcards
  • Tracing paper
  • Black paper or card
  • Whiteboard
  • Clipboard with paper and pencil
  • Giant cardboard box
  • Very long piece of paper (wallpaper lining or pieces of paper taped together)
  • Tin foil
  • Balloons

You could include these items as drawing stimulus:

  • A favourite picture book
  • Photographs of things that interest your child
  • Rulers and geometry tools
  • Stickers
  • Stencils – you could buy dinosaur stencils, stencils of vehicles, fairy stencils – there are many types available
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Appeal to the senses

Create sensory drawing experiences both indoors and outdoors.

  • Leave out crayons and paper for leaf or bark rubbing.
  • Give your child water and a paint brush to paint the walls, patio or fence.
  • Fill a tray with child-friendly foaming soap (look online). Your child can make marks in the foam with their finger, a paintbrush, a stick – or anything. You could leave out pictures of patterns for them to copy (zig-zags, wavy lines etc).
  • Sprinkle the bottom of a tray with autumn spices. Your child could draw in the tray, as above.
  • Make scented playdough. Go for a walk with your child and collect natural objects like pinecones and twigs which they could then use to make marks in the playdough.

Think life-sized!

Activities that involve moving the whole body especially appeal to children who don’t like sitting at a table.

  • Draw a giant maze together on the patio with chalk.
  • Make then paint and decorate giant vehicles from cardboard boxes.
  • Draw around each other on huge pieces of paper and add in features.
  • Put a large piece of paper under a swing. Show your child how to lie on the swing on their front and draw on the paper as they glide over it.

Draw on their interests

If they are interested in playing cars, for example, leave cardboard and pens out next to the cars. They might draw a car park, a racing track or other landscape features.

You could leave drawing materials next to construction toys such as Lego and blocks, or tape felt tipped pens onto toy cars or dinosaurs and see what happens!

Make drawing meaningful

Your child could:

  • Draw a picture for a family member or a friend and post it.
  • Paint a picture on a postcard and send it to somebody.
  • Draw little pictures of what they would like for Christmas.
  • Make a sign for their bedroom door.
  • Create a sheet of wrapping paper for a present.

Together you could make a book. Make up a story about something – a day out, your child’s favourite toy – anything your child wants. You write the words, and your child draws the illustrations.

Show your child that you love to draw!

Get involved in the Big Draw yourself. If your child sees you enjoying art, then they might want to join in too.

What if my child still won’t draw?

Young children learn about the world and develop their social and communication skills through all kinds of play. They also practise fine motor skills through a variety of activities, most of which do not involve pencils or crayons.

Manipulative activities like threading, using scissors, using cutters in playdough, building with Lego, screwing and unscrewing lids, using peg boards and hammers, doing puzzles – and so many more activities all help children to hone these essential skills.

Are you concerned about your child’s writing?

If your child is at school and they are reluctant to write, please speak to us. Our tutors are skilled in finding enjoyable ways to develop children’s writing as well as their reading, speaking and listening. 

We provide one-to-one tuition for:

  • Reading and phonics
  • Handwriting
  • Spelling, punctuation and grammar
  • Special educational needs development
  • Dyslexia assistance
  • GCSE, A Level and AS Level English Language & English Literature.

Contact us today on 01223 858 421 or