B. Tips for Drawing with Very Young Children

This is an article in the series “Drawing as it develops“, which includes a study of my daughter Amie’s drawings from 16 months onwards (this is the first article), as well as Some Theory and a growing bibliography. 

Presented here is a growing collection of handy tips and resources for helping a very young child enjoy drawing, and for making sure her drawing skills develop naturally.

Currently the list is geared towards children between 16 months and 2 years of age


  • reserve a place that she can easily reach and sit at (like a kid’s size table) for drawing.
  • get strong paper and stick the corners to the table (masking tape works best), so it won’t slide or crease.
  • give them a choice: good, greasy crayons, thick felt pens, a thin ballpoint for a different tactile experience (watch them closely with those pointy weapons!).
  • encourage them, but don’t guide them, e.g.:
  • ask about the color and the forms, but not “what is that (supposed to be)?”. It’s about the movement, and any kind of representative quality is alien to them…
  • … until a certain point, when the child herself will let you know what it is. Then read her face to see if she “means” it, ask her to draw the same thing again, and see if it looks the same. But even then, don’t insist on representation: the motor and tactile experience remains important.
  • never draw an example or comment on how it is “supposed” to be drawn, or you’ll miss out on her drawing.
  • with that in mind, when she asks you to draw something, ask her to draw it herself (“It’s for Amie, you do it”). If she insists, try to draw it on another piece of paper.
  • I always have two pages stuck to her table: she can move on to the next page when she feels her drawing is finished, or I can use it when she really wants me to draw.
  • if your drawing ends up on her page anyway, make a note of it on the back.
  • of course, always date her drawings, and note the orientation and whether she drew it left-handed or right-handed.
  • also, always listen carefully to what she says while drawing, and note down what you think is relevant (e.g., “it’s an airplane”)


My articles on the development of Amie’s drawings

  1. First Drawings of a Very Young Child: Amie at 16 months
  2. Circles, and Coloring Books (a Mistake?): Amie at 18 months
  3. More Circles, Graphs, and post hoc naming: Amie at 18-19 months
  4. Naming and Representation: Amie at 20 months

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