…and a look at why using drawing prompts for kids is a smart idea.
It’s rainy outside. Your city is in semi-lockdown due to a pandemic (imagine!).
The kids have grown bored of their toys. You briefly consider giving up on your limited screen-time policy and turning on the TV…but you swear you’ll flip right the hell out if you have to hear another song from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
Then it dawns on you: Drawing is a thing! Maybe your children could try that?
But your kids aren’t exactly thrilled about the idea. So how do you get them started?
In this post, I’ll look at:
- The benefits of drawing for toddlers and older kids
- Tips for getting your kids interested in drawing
- A whole bunch of drawing prompts for kids to help you get started
- Places to find free, downloadable drawing prompts for kids
- Sites that generate drawing prompts on demand
10 benefits of drawing for children
Surprisingly, drawing has benefits that extend beyond “keeping them quiet for five goddamn minutes.”
1. It teaches kids concentration
Let’s be honest: Children aren’t known for their ability to focus intently on things. (Staring at Mickey Mouse Clubhouse doesn’t count.) But when they’re absorbed in drawing, they learn to concentrate on a single project at a time.
2. It trains fine motor skills
Operating a pencil might not be a big deal to you, but a toddler might disagree. Drawing helps improve children’s hand-eye coordination and build their finger muscles. They’ll learn to hold and manipulate different drawing tools. Later, they might even be able to draw a dog that actually looks like one.
3. It inspires creativity
Drawing for fun gets children to use their imagination and think outside the box. In fact, drawing skills have been directly linked to future artistic creativity. You might not be raising the next Da Vinci, but you can still motivate your kids to draw as a creative outlet.
4. It encourages kids to learn about the world
Babies aren’t born with an innate grasp of concepts like shapes, sizes, colors, and proportions. When they draw, they get to actively learn these concepts in a hands-on way. (Especially if assisted by specific drawing prompts for kids, as we’ll see later.)
5. It’s great for self-expression
Especially for toddlers and kids who can’t yet communicate verbally, drawing provides a way for them to express thoughts and feelings. Putting things on paper gives them a channel to deal with frustrations and process emotions.
6. It can improve memory
Images are more evocative than words. (Unless those words are in the form of Frozen songs.) Perhaps that’s why studies show that drawing helps with memory and recall by helping kids integrate “semantic, visual, and motor aspects.”
7. It teaches problem-solving
Drawing involves a lot of decision-making. What colors do I use? How big should the cat’s ears be? Should I add five more feet to this snake? Kids are forced to actively make these choices as they draw. (There’s even evidence that deliberate drawing helps older students solve physics problems.)
8. It boosts self-esteem
On a related note, making decisions about their drawings is one area of their life where kids have complete autonomy. Finishing a picture thus gives them a sense of accomplishment and self-worth. So help them build confidence by not laughing at the picture of a “bicycle” that’s actually just seven amorphous blobs.
9. It has a positive effect on their mood
Drawing can help calm a child down and even distract them from negative thoughts. I’m not just pulling things out of thin air, either. There’s scientific evidence showing that drawing as a distraction leads to a measurable improvement in mood.
10. It builds bonds
Bond. Social bond. (I’m not sorry.) When kids draw together, it creates social connections between them. They learn how to share and create things together. Similarly, you taking the time to draw with your kids is a fantastic way to bond with them in a whole new way.
8 ways to encourage kids to draw
“But my daughter hates drawing,” you scream in despair, “She swore vengeance against the very concept of putting squiggly lines on paper!”
Not to worry!
While you can’t exactly force your kids to draw on demand, there are subtle ways to get them engaged:
1. Focus on the process
To recall the inspirational quote your friend posted on Facebook a minute ago: “It’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey.”
Your obnoxious friend is right!
Shifting the focus from what the end result looks like to simply having a good time is key. So try to make sure your kids see drawing as a fun and lighthearted activity rather than something to master.
2. Act as a role model
Don’t say “I can’t draw” when your child asks for a picture.
It’s okay if you think you can’t draw a stickman to save your life.
Trust me: I have 40 years of experience in being awful at drawing. But you can bet I’ll do my best to draw a faithful representation of the International Space Station that my kids are asking for…
…and when it comes out looking like the aftermath of terrible traffic accident, I’ll just shrug it off and say Dad gave it his best shot.
Set an example. Show your children that drawing can be rewarding even if you’re not Rembrandt.
3. Create natural opportunities to draw
You don’t have to make drawing a “thing.” Children might not like the idea of being watched when they draw. It can make them feel pressured, as if there’s an expectation about the outcome.
So just give your kids free access to pencils, pens, crayons, papers, coloring books, and so on. Let them decide when and how to draw, on their own terms.
This creates the environment where drawing can take place naturally as your children experiment with their options.
4. Link drawing to their hobbies or interests
Appealing to the kids’ existing interests is another thing you can try.
This can be as simple as asking them to draw their favorite dinosaur or planet.
You could also go further and incorporate drawing into their hobbies more directly. Does your child play hockey? Maybe you can draw a mean battle face to stick onto their hockey helmet. Are they into playing with cars? You could draw a city with roads that the cars could drive on.
This actually ties in nicely with the next point…
5. Add a purpose to drawing
Rather than drawing for the sake of drawing, infuse it with a purpose.
Fold paper to create a Christmas postcard to give to their grandparents, then have them to draw Santa, reindeer, and other Christmassy things on it. Create a bedtime pamphlet with illustrations of things to remember (brushing teeth, putting on PJs, etc.).
Play around with this so that drawing becomes part of a bigger project.
6. Introduce something unexpected
Boring old pencils and white A4 sheets can quickly get stale. Try to think of unexpected things to draw with or on.
As for unusual things to draw on, you can try cardboard boxes, balloons, plastic bags, or the top of your husband’s balding head (maybe give him a heads-up first).
The idea is to flip the context and show that drawing doesn’t have to be boring or predictable.
7. Involve the other senses
If your child likes to get messy, you can introduce finger paint or try drawing in the mud outside. To engage the sense of smell, you can buy markers that smell like fruit.
You can even get the whole body involved. Cover the floor with rolls of paper and get creative: Dip your feet and hands in paint, add foot- and handprints on the paper, then fill in the rest with crayons to end up with a lifesize person. Or lie down and have the kids draw an outline around you.
The key is to associate drawing with more than just the classic pencil-and-paper setting.
8. Give a nudge…
Staring at a blank sheet of paper isn’t exactly stimulating. Anyone who’s gone through a bad case of writer’s block can attest to this.
To help your children get started, give them a nudge in the form of a fun challenge or a prompt to spark their imagination.
…and that’s where drawing prompts for kids conveniently come into play.
60 drawing prompts to get you started
Now for the the actual list of drawing prompts.
I’ve split these up into a few separate categories. Pick one depending on your goal.
You can also experiment by combining prompts from the different categories (e.g. “Draw a tap-dancing caterpillar without looking at the paper.”)
Creative drawing prompts
These are prompts to spark your kids’ imagination.
- Draw an octopus playing lots of instruments at once.
- A tap-dancing caterpillar.
- An elephant tiptoeing to sneak up on someone.
- A fish visiting a swimming pool.
- A T-Rex trying to tie his shoelaces.
- A car if it was a person.
- Two giraffes sitting in the front row of a cinema.
- Combine two vehicles into one new one.
- Draw a ladybug as a scary monster.
- A snowman trying to stay warm.
- A bird climbing a ladder onto a roof.
- A flower piloting a spaceship.
- Trees racing each other.
- A fruit and a vegetable having an argument.
- A butterfly exchanging its work wings for its party wings.
Self-expression drawing prompts
These prompts can give an outlet to your children’s emotions.
- Draw yourself as an animal.
- Your family having a fun time.
- Look outside and draw how it makes you feel.
- Your favorite teacher
- Your least favorite season.
- Create a drawing of your room when it’s messy.
- Draw yourself defeating something you fear.
- Remember a time when you felt upset. Draw what made you happy again.
- Make a drawing of you drawing.
- Draw mom and dad as queen and king.
- Draw something that made you mad, then draw yourself giving it a hug.
- Imagine someone you love sad, then draw how you’d cheer them up.
- Draw your friends holding their favorite things.
- Your heart whistling a happy tune.
- You and your siblings (or friends) defeating monsters together.
Drawing prompts with a challenge
These are prompts that can challenge your kids to learn about the world and practice problem-solving.
- Draw an object without looking down at the paper.
- Draw three tiny things on top of a giant thing.
- Place a mirror in front of the paper and draw by only looking into the mirror.
- Write out the numbers from 1 to 9. Turn each number into a zoo animal.
- Draw a bunch of different shapes, then link them to make a train.
- Draw something smooth, then make it prickly.
- Try to draw an animal without lifting your pen from paper.
- Draw a house using only circles and ovals.
- Draw one thing that’s right in front of you and one that’s very far away.
- Make a drawing of something that can fly.
- Draw a face using only straight lines.
- Draw the same object in three different ways.
- Design your own labyrinth.
- Draw a car that’s moving and one that’s standing still.
- Draw by holding the pencil with your toes.
“Finish the picture” drawing prompts
This is a collection of ideas that give your kids a starting point for their drawings. You’ll have to draw the beginning and let your children take it from there.
- Complete a picture of someone falling. Where are they falling from and why?
- Start with a pair of shoes in different parts of the page. Ask your child to complete the rest.
- Glue a piece of shaped pasta onto the page. Turn that pasta into a fantasy creature.
- Randomly place a number of dots onto the page. Join them into a drawing.
- Draw a few ovals next to each other. Fill in the faces (sad, angry, etc.) and finish their bodies to create a story.
- Draw some squiggly lines, then complete the picture.
- Complete a picture of someone running. What are they running from?
- Draw a hat. Let the child draw who’s wearing it.
- Dip your finger into ink and leave a few fingerprints. Complete the picture.
- Draw a vague shadow on the page. What’s casting it?
- Draw water splashing in different directions. Where’s it coming from and what’s pushing it out?
- Complete a picture of someone yelling. What or who are they yelling at, and why?
- Draw a car flying upside down. Complete the rest.
- Draw a person sitting on top of something. Complete the picture.
- Complete a picture of a dozen balloons lifting something up into the sky.
Bonus: YouTube guide to drawing animals for kids
This isn’t a drawing prompt per se, but it’s a great way to teach kids a few easy drawing tricks:
5 sites with free printable drawing prompts for kids
Text-based prompts are great, but sometimes it’s nice to have a visual prompt as a starting point.
Luckily, there are sites that offer downloadable drawing prompts for kids that you can print out and use.
I even found a few that don’t charge you anything for it. Check them out:
- Childhood101 (best for older kids who can write)
- How To Draw: Step by Step Drawing Tutorials
- Soul Sparklettes
- The Artful Parent
3 drawing prompt generators
If that’s still not enough, here are a few places that generate seemingly endless drawing prompts at the click of a button.
- ArtPrompts (lets you select from a few like “Creature” or “Situation”)
- DrawingPrompt (even more categories to choose from)
- Random Art Prompt Generator (you can ask for “simple” or “elaborate” prompts)
Some of the generated prompts are geared toward adults, so you might need to remix them a bit.
What did you think of these drawing prompts?
I hope you found the above drawing prompts and links helpful.
I’d love to hear about (or even see) the results! Feel free to share in the comments.
If you’d like to share your own awesome drawing prompts for kids, leave a comment below.