Tips for Drawing with Toddlers

After posting the photo shown above to Facebook a Childhood 101 reader asked me for some tips for starting out with drawing with younger toddlers.

I would preface the following by saying that every child is different and there are a number of influences to when and how you would start out offering little ones the opportunity to draw. AJ is now fourteen months old and has been making marks with a range of drawing materials since she was about eleven months old, which is unsurprising given that her older sister spends so much time creating and that there is reasonably easy access to drawing supplies in the playroom.

So here are my thoughts and tips on starting out with drawing with toddlers;

  • In my opinion it’s a good idea to wait until an older baby or toddler is standing quite steadily, or at least sitting up well, before starting out with drawing.
  • Choose drawing tools that make marks easily – good quality crayons, oil pastels (the more traditional kind or slick stix), chunky pavement chalk or felt tipped pens. Ensure they are non toxic. I look for well know, child friendly brands like Crayola and Micador.
  • Supervise closely, especially if your toddler is still mouthing objects.

Childhood 101 | Tips for drawing with toddlers

  • I find that AJ is most comfortable standing at a low table or our easel to draw, don’t limit yourself to times when your toddler is sitting as drawing on on a vertical surface assists with the development of hand and wrist strength and stability.
  • Allow your toddler plenty of time and regular, repeated opportunities for mark making with a range of different drawing mediums.
  • Remember, it is not about them representing any particular idea, instead they are learning to co-ordinate their body, arms, hands and fingers, and exploring what is possible when they manipulate each drawing tool.

What advice would you add to my list for starting out with toddlers and drawing?

Time to Create by Christie Burnett

For more ideas for creating with babies, toddlers and bigger kids, check out my new book, Time to Create: Hands On Explorations in Process Art For Young Children, now available online at all major online booksellers including The Book Depository, Amazon, Fishpond and Barnes & Noble.

9 Comments

  1. Stick paper to the children’s table with tape so they can write away without the paper slipping off to start with. Felt tips are definitely less frustrating for them to begin with as they leave a clear mark easily.

  2. We used cardstock paper when beginning so that it didn’t wrinkle and crumple like regular paper did.

  3. When my son was two he went through a stage of getting really frustrated if he ever tried to draw, and then avoided doing it, even tho I’d tried really hard not to say, “what is it?” and was always complimentary about his pictures. I think my mistake was to draw alongside him as a peaceful shared experience and he realised he wanted his pictures to accurately represent something too. The only way he came back to it was by using a megasketch board, where you can easily rub out what you’ve done, or chalk on a blackboard. Now he loves drawing and is way more talented than me- although he’s only six!

  4. Racheal Tighe says:

    Thank you for this blog post. Starting to make marks and representations on paper is such an important milestone for children. I love watching how children move through different stages when drawing, first making marks then round figures with stick arms, legs and a face and then more sophisticated stick figures.

    One fun activity that encourages kids to draw is water painting. Give your child a paint brush and a tub of water and let them get creative on the paving and outdoor walls. My 22 month old niece loves this game!

  5. My 4 yo son didn’t really like drawing much after starting Kindy, as it was all focused on writing his name and making meaningful pictures. So he avoided it for ages… until one day I bought a big bucket of Crayola chalk (from Woolworths for $5 for 24 BIG sticks – wonderful bargain!). And he started drawing ALL over our trampoline – what a wonderful way for him to get into drawing again! It washes straight off, (or you can let the rain do it) and now he loves drawing things again – especially treasure maps and “x” marks the spot:)

    1. Great tip, Kerryn. We haven’t drawn on the tramp for ages. I must suggest it to Immy again 🙂

  6. When Emily was about 1 she used to carry a mini Magnadoodle around with her all the time. She loved to draw on it (sometimes carefully, sometimes frantically depending on her mood). We loved it because it didn’t matter if she put the pen in her mouth and she couldn’t draw on the furniture with it either 🙂 If she drew something extra special (like when she started drawing circles, or her first picture of a person) we just took a photo of it before the board got ‘swiped’ again.

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