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The Surprising Truth About Teaching Drawing to Kids

photo of a boy drawingWhy teach drawing to kids?

When you teach drawing to kids, you’re giving them a skill that pays big dividends in today’s world. Drawing is the foundation for many forms of art. But you certainly don’t need to be an “artist” or work in an art-related career to benefit from drawing.

Anyone can use drawing to explore an idea, solve a problem, give visual form to a mental picture, or illustrate a project or plan. Therefore, drawing is a communication skill that has value for everyone, so we need to be teaching drawing to kids.

But when teaching drawing (to kids or adults), there’s one thing that often surprises people.

This may surprise you

Students are surprised to learn that drawing has a lot less to do with their hand and everything to do with their eyes! Drawing is more about seeing, noticing, looking carefully, and paying attention than it is about the marks they make on their paper.

When students are taught to look mindfully at something, studying its lines and shapes, light and dark areas, and relationship to the area around it, they may feel like they’re really “seeing” it for the first time. These are the observation skills that help us to best translate what we see in real life into a two-dimensional image on paper. We call this “seeing like an artist”.

How to help kids “see like an artist”

Echo Drawing is an activity that helps kids learn to “see like an artist” and take their drawing skills to the next level. With Echo Drawing, students copy a series of abstract designs ranging from simple to complex. This encourages “seeing like an artist” in 3 ways:

1. Copying abstract designs will prevent students’ brains from switching into “memory mode”. This is when they draw the generalizations they remember about something (like a flower or a face), rather than what they’re really seeing at that moment. When drawing from life, it’s important to draw what you actually see and not just a stereotyped image of it.

2. Progressing mindfully through a series of designs from simple to complex allows students to naturally begin observing more details and relationships they hadn’t previously noticed.

3. Like anything worth learning, the skills of careful observation and eye/hand coordination improve with practice. Echo Drawing gives students the motivation to practice these skills because it’s fun!

Echo Drawing Resources

My Echo Drawing resources (available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store) were originally inspired by the “duplication exercise” in Mona Brooks’ classic book, “Drawing with Children”.

Ever since introducing my original “Intro to Echo Drawing” resource, I’ve received many requests for additional pages. So I created my newest resource, “More! Echo Drawing”. It expands on my original resource with 5 more pages each at 4 levels of challenge… that’s 20 new pages, totaling 300 unique designs in all.

Teaching kids to see like an artist will not only help them be more successful with their drawing, but it will also help them become better noticers of detail and better observers of the world all around them. This is sure to pay off in every aspect of life, school, and work.

So, when you teach drawing to kids, surprise them by training their eyes as well as their hands!

Click here to visit my store on Teachers Pay Teachers. Try all of my drawing resources and let me know what you think!

Are you ready for a deeper dive into how to teach drawing to kids? Here are a few of my favorite books for teaching kids how to draw:

Drawing with Children by Mona Brooks

Drawing with Older Children and Teens by Mona Brooks

Art for Kids: Drawing by Kathryn Temple

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  1. Thank you for sharing this post! I love how you state that drawing is more about your eyes than your hands. I’m sure this is a useful tool in teaching kids how to draw. I love your recommendation to have kids draw abstract art so they have to focus on drawing exactly what they see, rather than what they remember like on a typical face or flower.