Tips to Help Your Children Draw During Lockdown

In this blog, the author of Children Draw gives you the Ten R's - tips on how to keep your children entertained during lockdown.


Keeping children occupied indoors is always challenging. But it takes a special effort to keep their mood up, particularly during lockdown, when in-person activities such as visits with friends or after-school classes have been cancelled and indoor play spaces such as pools or gyms are closed.

There’s no doubt that spending day after day sheltered in place, seeing the same faces and doing the same sorts of things, can feel just as dreary and uninspiring for kids as it can for adults. To re-engage stir-crazy children and help them through the next few months, parents need to be resourceful and inventive.

Beyond offering youngsters a flat surface, some colored markers, and a blank sheet of paper, it usually doesn’t take too much prompting to get them to draw. This is because, for children, drawing is a pleasurable activity that also enables them to reflect how they see, what they know, and how they feel about things in the world around them, at that very moment in time. This type of creative self-expression is tremendously satisfying for them, especially when they feel they can express themselves openly and without fear of judgment. And this aspect may be particularly important right now, when so many of us, including children, may be feeling a bit gloomy or bored. Most children love to draw, having developed a natural impulse to do so at an early age. But to rekindle children’s enthusiasm for drawing and foster their creativity, parents may need to tap into their own ingenuity as well. The key is making the old and familiar now feel new and exciting.

Micaela, aged 8

Refresh and Reorganize

The most obvious first step is to make the child’s designated art space look and feel fresh again, which probably involves a bit of cleaning, organizing and de-cluttering. The romantic notion that artists love working in messy studios is simply a myth. Most artists want their stuff to be organized because it is usually hard for creativity to thrive amid chaos. Likewise, when children’s art areas look orderly, children tend to treat them more respectfully and are inclined to be better behaved when using them.

Refreshing also means reorganizing art supplies into a system that makes sense, especially if, these days, the art space does double duty as the place for online learning. Group drawing supplies together by type, i.e., crayons, colored pencils, pens, markers, papers. Clear plastic drawer organizers and bins stored on shelves ensure that the items used most frequently are visible, tidy and accessible. If shelves are not an option, a simple yet sturdy rolling cart is a viable solution.

Julian, aged 6

Revive and Replenish

No one enjoys using short, stubby crayons or tired old markers. And standard sheets of white copier paper are limiting and do little to engender excitement. The easiest way to revive children’s interest in drawing is to replace their old art materials with brand new ones. That could simply mean supplying them with a new box of crayons with more colors, a larger set of markers with chiseled or pointed tips, or a big pad of paper.

Introducing new, age-appropriate art materials is a sure-fire hit. Older children may prefer drawing with slimmer crayons and fine-point markers rather than thicker ones. Common wax crayons can be upgraded to softer gel crayons or even craypas (oil pastels) which offer lush, jewel-tone colors and smoother, denser, glide-on coverage. Paint sticks can be supplemented with a starter set of watercolor or tempera cakes. And drawings made with metallic and liquid chalk markers look so cool on black construction paper. Regarding paper, most children like having the chance to draw on different types, sizes, colors, textures and thicknesses of papers. For something different, a starter set of scratch art paper is a fun and easy type of reverse drawing.

Juliette, aged 8
Reinterpret and Reimagine
New art supplies can go a long way toward renewing children’s desire to draw. But they won’t answer the proverbial question, “What should I draw?”

During times like these when both casual and special outings have been curtailed, it might be hard to motivate children by suggesting they draw a recent “adventure.” However, some closer-to-home activities, such as practicing the piano, walking the dog, making dinner together, shooting a pet video, or inventing new dances might inspire ideas for narrative drawings that depict who, what, where, when and how.

Children may also enjoy new drawing formats. By rolling out a sizeable length of brown kraft paper, children can draw one long, continuous story from beginning to end, just like some old murals or tapestries. Similarly, a paper divided into equal, measured, penciled-marked squares serves as a framework for a drawing “quilt” or, for older children, a comic book-type sequence. Younger children might like the novelty of drawing on inexpensive white envelopes or even paper plates.

Last, if parents are tired of seeing their children draw the same rainbows and flowers over and over again, they might want to suggest some fun mash-ups, such as a rainbow cat, flower shooting stars, a striped monster, or a polka dot house. These quirky combinations are sure to inspire some unique images.

Minh, aged 6

Redesign and Rearrange

It’s probably time to retire some of your children’s drawings – the ones either stuck on the refrigerator or taped up as part of the wall gallery. Take photos of everything. (You can always delete them.) Write the date in pencil on the back of the drawings you really love. Then slide those into a rigid folder for safe-keeping. Toss the rest.

An industrious and environmentally-conscious craft project might entail recycling the throwaways. Glue the drawings – collage-style - onto the side of one of the cardboard boxes you probably already have on hand. Then use this box as the basis for making a pet house, a spaceship, a robot, a fort, or just a generic hold-all.

At the very least, rearrange and add new works to the wall gallery. To avoid damaging the walls, use string and clothes pins (or small binder clips) to hang new drawings on a “clothesline gallery.”

Santiago, aged 7

Revisit and Reconnect

Many museums offer highlights of their permanent collections and recent exhibitions online. Some even provide special children’s “tours” with suggested hands-on activities to do at home. Lockdown can be an excellent time for your family to take a virtual tour of some great museums you may have missed and some unique one you may have never heard of.

Viewing museum exhibitions together can help start conversations with your children about subjects (or objects) that might interest, intrigue, inspire or frighten them. And looking at classic themes in art, such as people, animals, faces, heroes, monsters and nature may fuel children’s curiosities and motivate them to draw their own versions.

In addition to art museums, don’t overlook historical, natural history, science or the vast number of specialty museums. Such places focus on a specific theme, such as cars, spys, dolls, fashion, puppets, cowboys, football, transportation, rock and roll, air and space and so much more. Besides sparking their imaginations and suggesting ideas for drawings, perusing museums online together is a great way for you to learn more about your children.

- Marilyn JS Goodman

To read more about how and why children draw, you can order Children Draw: A Guide to Why, When and How Children Make Art by Marilyn JS Goodman from our online shop now.

Marilyn JS Goodman is an art and museum education specialist who has served as Director of Education for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Her previous books include Learning Through Art (1999).