A Note to Parents and Carers wanting to encourage their children to draw!

Encouraging children to draw can be so difficult! Many, many children WANT to draw, but as they get older and exposed to more artists, they can become quite self critical! Our instinct as parents and carers  Here is a collection of things I have learned. Some I have learned through my reading texts and books about children and drawing, and some from experience with my own children and from teaching kids! 
  • It is important to recognise the difference between Symbolic and Representational drawing when presented with work by a proud childSymbolic drawing (stick figures or abstract drawings) is about communication, expressions of self and language development- it is not a “less mature” form of drawing and it is important for children to continue this expression as part of their toolbox, it is not appropriate or necessary for an observer to comment or intervene on how this type of drawing is carried out. Alternatively Representational Drawing (realistic forms of drawing) is like learning to play the piano. Children benefit from guided instruction and mastering the basics before becoming independently creative. It is important to remember that both Symbolic Drawing AND Representational Drawing can be used by the child without one form interrupting the benefits of the other. 
  • Communication is important when helping children learn to draw. Limiting verbal communication to basic and simple instructions is very beneficial as it lessens the need for the child to process the words, thus distracting from the mental concentration that is so important when drawing. 
  • When speaking to any child about their drawing it is important to speak as though you are speaking to another adult- using the same tone, inflection and mature language will inspire confidence in a child learning. Avoid using judgemental language when you are giving the child direction. Avoiding words words which inspire competition or fear of failure are important. Eg- Good, Bad, Better, Best or Right, Wrong, Cheat, Mistake, Easy or Hard. When comparing one drawing to another, avoid those words and use words that show what aspects you are personally enjoying about the work, what areas might need altering or transforming, or how the child feels about the work themselves. I personally like to point out how it's obvious that the child has put a lot of work into their drawing. I also like to ask them how they feel about the work- it helps guide how I respond. 
  • Do not give ‘false’ praise or harsh criticism. When you give false praise you are robbing the child of the opportunity to grow as an artist. On the flip side of the coin, being nit picky or harsh can quash creativity and hurt feelings. Asking the child how they feel about the work, that it’s obvious they worked very hard on the piece or what they feel would need more work is a nice way to start.  
  • Whilst it is a very fun process, drawing can sometimes bring out many emotions we are not prepared for. A child who can be so keen to start can suddenly react in such a way that may initially appear to be about the “failed” drawing but after the opportunity to discuss it, the child may reveal that they are actually upset about something else. Even as an adult, being quiet and creative and connected with our subject matter can be emotional. Use the time to be supportive and have time together to find solutions to the problem. If the child is feeling emotional or overwhelmed by the drawing process, it may be possible that breaking it down and finding the part they are stuck on creates a sense of personal challenge and one that will give them a sense of control over the process.  
  • If a child consistently compares themselves negatively to other artists it may be beneficial to go to an art gallery and show them the paintings and drawings. Find ones the child likes, ones you like and see if you both like all aspects of them. The exercise should show the child that there is no need to compare their work to other artists as everyone has their own style and all art will hold different appeal to different people. The only person the child should compare themselves to is their past self. With consistent practice they WILL get better. The results will be easy to see in as little as a few months. Keep the drawings so the child can see the progress they are making. 
  • There are so many great resources both online and at your fingertips. I would recommend Drawing With Children by Mona Brookes as a starting point for any adult wanting to teach their child (or themselves!) to draw at home. For those on social media following hashtags such as #illustration, #drawing, #drawinmystylechallenge can inspire and show that there are artists all over the world creating (ensure you are always supervising when searching on social media of any kind). Places like deviantart and Pinterest are also great for aspiring artists. Local art galleries and art supply stores will also have flyers and information on local artists who might be exhibiting their works. Taking kids to see art can be a fun and inspiring experience.  
  • Have fun with it! Enjoy watching your child create and be inspired by everything around them. Children who grasp the basics of drawing at a young age are far more likely to continue drawing into adulthood.