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First Drawing Lessons for Children

Learning to See the World


Part of the attraction of art, for many kids, is the freedom from restraint that it offers, so be sure that any formal lesson is well balanced by plenty of free time. Often 'art lessons' can be incidental to everyday activities, observing the shapes found in nature, tracing with fingers on foggy windows, or observing textures and colors of fabrics. Try these introductory drawing lessons for children:

Seeing Shapes: From around 5 years
What You'll Need: a cylindrical object (a mug or can), a rectangular object (a box).
The purpose of this lesson is to discover that what we know about an object is different to what our eyes see at one time. Begin with a discussion. It should go something like this: Sitting beside junior, at their eye level, I hold up the cup, and ask what shape the top is. 'A circle!'. 'Good! Now, look closely at the circle.' I tilt the mug slowly until it looks like a fairly thin ellipse. 'Now what shape is it?' 'Hmmm.. a circle?' 'Is it? Really? Have another look. It is a circle, but see how it LOOKS thin and squashed.' I draw the ellipse on the chalkboard. Do the same exercise with the box, observing how the rectangle becomes a rhombus when tilted.

Seeing Colors: From around 5 years
What You'll Need: Simple, solid-colored objects and a directional light source (so that the object will have highlights and shadows).
Like the lesson above, this is essentially a discussion to investigate the difference between the known and the seen. Show the object to your child, and ask about its color. Is it the same color all over? The surface is (painted) the same all over, but it looks different depending on the light. Where does it look lighter and darker? Sketch the object and show how you can use shading to show the light and dark areas. (Keep it simple).

Observing Perspective: All Ages
When travelling in the car, or walking, look out for an area where you can observe a clear foreground, middle ground and background. Take the opportunity to point out:

  • how much smaller distant objects look than closer ones
  • how colors change from close to distant
  • how distant objects look blurry (atmospheric perspective)
  • how much detail you can observe in closer objects

See if you can find a reproduction of a painting of a similar scene, and see how the artist has handled these elements.

Next page: Art History Ideas

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