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Upon completion of this Topic, you should be able to:

1. Demonstrate how children are taught drawing

2. Explain how children learn to paint using watercolour
3. Discuss the benefits of finger painting
4. Describe how children are taught finger painting

4.1 Process and Product Focused art

4.2 Should Children be Taught to Draw?
4.3 Teaching Children How to Draw
4.4 Teaching Children to Draw Step-by-Step
4.5 Children and Finger Painting
4.6 What is Watercolour Painting?
4.7 Types of Watercolours
4.8 Paper for Watercolour Painting
4.9 Brushes
4.10 Watercolour Techniques for Children
4.11 Some Tips for Children

Words You Should Know


This Topic is about ‘How to’. You MUST watch the video clips to understand
‘How to’ so that you can apply in the classroom. The video clips will be part of
this Topic.

4.1 Process-Focused Art

Characteristics of process-focused art experiences

There is debate among art teachers as to whether or

not process or product is more important in art

• Process refers to the learning that takes place

during an assignment or lesson.
• Product refers to the actual picture or diagram
that is produced.

However, some teachers tend to emphasise the product of art rather than the process of art. Of
course, both of these are essential in art education. When the child begins to draw, focus should
be on the process as they grow older focus can shift to the product. If the teacher can effectively
teach children to draw, then the product will follow.

How do teachers know that they are focussing on the process or the product of art? They should
ask themselves the following questions:

• Will I be upset of the child colours the sky green?

• Will I get angry if the end result of a child’s drawing does not like a specific way?
• Do I have a preconceived notion about what the end result ‘should’ look like?

If the answer to the above question is “YES!” then the teacher is focusing on the product of art
rather than the process of art. Process art is all about the experience the children have while
they’re creating. If it has a nice end product, that’s great, but the end product isn’t the focus of
process art.

Teaching arts is like coaching a basketball team. If you players are beginner, you will not focus
on winning but instead focus on your team learning how to play. Winning would just be a plus.
It would be silly to put pressure on your players to win when they are new to basketball. The
old saying goes, “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”

It is the same with art, you should not expect children to create beautiful pictures. You should
not focus on the product but instead on the process. Rather teacher should ask themselves: Are

children learning? How are they progressing? How they can do better? If focus is on process at
the beginning levels, then the end product will be better, maybe even amazing.

4.2 Should Children be Taught To Draw?

Art is beautiful. Art is unique and special. Make sure the art activities you plan for the children
invite them to be free to express their ideas, thoughts and emotions in any way they desire!
With regards to art in early childhood classrooms there may be THREE situations:

1. There are teachers who do not teach children art and leave them to do what they want.
Perhaps, they do not know how to ‘teach art’!

2. There are teachers who draw a picture (on the whiteboard or on large paper pinned to
the wall) and get children to copy the drawing.

3. There are teachers who provide step-by-instruction on what children should do.

Unfortunately, there is no right way to teach art to children. There is not right or wrong way to
teach art. However, most art educators agree that ‘children should be taught art’. Do you agree?
But, it is important for teachers to be aware that when teaching art, that art is unique and
original, art is entirely the child’s own, the art experience is a child’s choice and focus should
be on the exploration of techniques, tools and materials.

a) What is the difference between the process and product of art?

b) Do you agree that children should be taught art?
c) How is art taught in your school?

4.3 Teaching Children How to Draw

We often hear people say "I cannot even draw a straight line"; "I just don't have the talent for
art". Unfortunately, teachers and adults tell children "That's okay, I can't draw either". That’s
very demotivating statement to make. Children who hear it may feel inferior about their own
ability to draw. Many teachers and adults seldom make the effort to help children to draw. Do
you agree? Perhaps, this is because teachers have not been educated about teaching drawing.

Imagine a teacher tell a child who cannot read and write; "That's okay, I can't read and write. I
just don't have the talent for it." (Bartel, 2002).

Ron Mulvey (2012) has written extensively about how to teach children how to draw and his
classic book ARTABET – First Steps in Drawing published in 2012 is a good book for teachers
to read and adopt. He suggests that the first step is to look at how children hold the pencil or
marker pen. He identified THREE ways children hold the pencil.


Index and middle fingers on the side of the pen. Thumb is extended and
touching index finger.

Index and thumb working together to create
downward pressure while the middle finger is
curled on the underside of the pen for balance.

All three fingers and maybe even the fourth on the side of the
pen with your thumb on top. This grip is used by the student
so that they can see what they are drawing. Pressure directed
downwards by the thumb.

However, he argues that here is no perfect way of holding the pencil. Teachers SHOULD NOT
FORCE to hold the pencil or marker in a desired manner.

Begin with the “SIX UNIVERSAL LINES”

See Figure 4.1 which show the Six Universal lines which form the foundation of all drawings.
These 6 lines are like vowels. They are the basic elements for the language of art. If children
master these 6 lines, the possibilities are endless.

Figure 4.1 Six Universal

Lines of Drawing

Drawing is Movement

Tell children:

• Move your arm in a round and round motion.

• Move your arm up and down.
• Move your arm back and forth.
• Move your arm in a zig zag motion.
• Move your arm in a wiggle motion.
• Move your arm with a jabbing or dot dot dot motion.

Ask children - What have they discovered with these movements? Do them again and ask them
if there are any other directions that they can move? Get them to move their heads in these six
directions. Then get them to move their foot in these six directions. Ask them to look around
the room and see if anything is not using these six directions. For example, what line does the
‘table’ use? What like does ‘pencil’ use? What line does their ‘school bag’ use? The aim is to
make children realise that all the loops and swirls and curves and dips and dives that they use
to draw with are simply variations of the six universal lines.

Drawing a Ladybug

To make a simple drawing with the least number of lines so that any child can draw, look at
the Ladybug drawing below

Drawing a Chick

Get children to follow Step 1 to Step 4

to draw a chicken.

Children learn how to draw and

combine circles followed by several
curved lines.

Upon completion, children will colour

the drawing.

Tracing and Colouring

Children could also follow the steps

shown below, trace the picture and
colour the apple. See figure to the right.


This lesson requires planning and problem solving, much like a mathematics problem or science
experiment. Children will see that scribbles can become much more.

What You Need:

• Paper
• Crayons or Markers

What You Do:

1. Start by asking children if they’ve ever made scribble pictures. Have a child
explain the process. (This kind of scribble is where you make a scribble and fill in
the spaces with colours).
2. Tell the students that they will be making scribble pictures today, but these
scribble pictures have rules.
3. The first rule is: you can only use three colours. The second rule is: the same
colour cannot share a “wall”.
4. Demonstrate how to make the picture by making a large scribble on the board or
au in the spaces. Discuss which colours may go in which spaces and which MUST go
in certain spaces.
5. When it becomes obvious that the children understand the rules, allow them to
make their own scribble pictures. Emphasise that they should fill the paper and
make large enough spaces to colour. No teeny, tiny scribbles.

NOTE: If the children don’t adequately plan, they’ll colour themselves into a corner where
they can’t use any of the three colors to fill a space. This is when they’ll have to learn how to
“cheat” by adding a new line. Teachers should explain that cheating in class or when playing a
game is bad news but cheating in art is called “creative problem solving” and once they learn
how to do it, they should teach a friend.

This is an example of a child’s work.


Here are some ways to add even more interest to the lesson once the children understand
the technique.

1. Ask children to only use primary, secondary or monochromatic colour schemes.

2. Have the children make scribbles using straight lines and angles.
3. Have groups of children cooperatively create a scribble picture mural.
4. Have children use the same rules to colour “overlap” pictures.
5. Have children scribble using crayon, and then paint the spaces using tempera or
watercolours. Discuss why the paint doesn’t bleed over the crayon lines.

Drawing from Imagination

Students will create drawings based on an imaginary journey. This is a great activity to
children’s creative juices flowing!

What You Need:

• pencils
• paper
• pencil crayons or crayons or pastels or markers

What You Do:

1. Ask children to imagine that they are going on an adventure.

2. Ask children the following questions:

o “Where are you going on your adventure?” (a distant land, somewhere you’ve
been before? a new place?)
o “How will you get there?” (by car, plane, train, on foot, via a new mode of
o “Who will you see when you arrive?” (a friend? a family member? a creature?
an alien?)
o “What will you do on your adventure?”

3. Then, allow your students to draw their adventures!

This could be an example

of a child’s drawing.

Drawing Simple Structures

Let children’s imagination run wild as they create simple structures, massive monuments, and
pretty palaces.


This activity will encourage children to build important pre-math skills such as understanding
the “part to whole” relationship and recognising geometric shapes, while along the way
creating a unique work of art.

What You Need:

• Paper
• Glue
• Scissors
• Markers or crayons (optional)

What You Do:

1. Go on a walk around your neighbourhood to look at some different types of architecture.

Ask children to look at the houses and buildings and name parts of the structure (i.e.,
roof, door, window, porch, column). If this is not possible, you can look for some
building or architecture based picture books and read about buildings while discussing
the illustrations or photographs.

2. Help children cut out basic shapes such as squares, rectangles, and triangles from the
construction paper. Vary the sizes and widths. These will become “building blocks” of
each structure she will make.

3. Allow children to first play with the shapes, building new and different creations. A
triangle may turn into a roof, rectangles in a row may turn into columns, or a square
may become a window.

4. Have children make a collage by gluing the shapes

onto the construction paper sheet to form a
building. This can be repeated for multiple

This could be an example of a child’s drawing.


a) What are the six universal lines?

b) Why do you think children should learn the universal lines?
c) Do you think children should be taught how to draw?
d) Suggest activities you would introduce to teach children drawing

4.4 Teaching Children to Draw Step-by-Step

Bentham (2017) argues that children can be taught

to draw step-by-step which is also known as
directed drawing or guided drawing. It is a
process where children are provided with step-by-
step instructions to help them complete a picture.
When all the steps are completed the children
have created a picture.

This method is good for children who do not

know how to draw, have no confidence in
drawing or reluctant to try. Some children may
get upset when they compare their drawings with their classmates. Teaching children to
draw by a step-by-step drawing process has a number of purposes:

• to increase children’s confidence

• to teach children to follow directions
• to increase directional and spatial vocabulary
• to introduce vocabulary about a new topic
• to have fun drawing

Teaching Step-by-Step Drawing

• Whiteboard or large paper clipped to the wall that all kids can see
• Large newsprint paper for each child
• A large felt marker for each child

Step One: Dot in the middle

• To begin with, the Teacher puts a dot in the centre of my and each child’s paper
with a red felt.
• The dot helps the children understand the term the “middle of the page” or the
“centre of the page”.
• Explain to the kids that you are going to make some marks on your paper and that
when you’re finished, you want them to copy it on their papers.
• Don’t assume that children have a well-developed directional and spatial
• Keep the children who lack confidence close to the front so you can quickly show
them where to put their felts or guide their hands.
• Give the children one marker only, a brown, blue, green, or purple so that it shows
up on their paper.
• Using a marker pen keeps children from constantly trying to erase.

Teacher divides the drawing The drawing of a

paper into 4 parts and puts child
a dot in the middle

Step 2: Make page divisions

• The teach says slowly as he or she shows them….“Put your marker pen at the top
of your page above the red dot and draw a line right through the red dot in the
middle of the page and all the way to the bottom.” [see diagram above]
• Walk around and help all children do this. When all have completed this step…

• Teacher says; “Draw a line from one side of your paper through the red dot all the
way to the other side. Now you have 4 boxes to draw in (Show them, don’t assume

the children will perceive boxes and not a cross in the middle of their page). We
will draw a step by step picture in each box.”

Step 3: Drawing a picture in each box

• After completing Steps 1 and 2, go to the next step, teaching them to draw a picture
in each box.
• Teacher says; “In your first box, draw a circle about this big – this is a nose. Put
2 little circles above it – these are eyes. Let’s make a happy smile. Put your felt
here, go down, go up. Put a big circle all around it for a head. Finish with some
round and round hair…You’ve made a boy or girl…”

Teacher’s demonstration Example of a child’s

of a drawing drawing

Demonstrate one step of each picture at a time, and check often to see that all
children are successful. Arrange the students so that the teacher can see each
child’s paper so that children can be given help if needed.

• In the next box…

Teacher says. “Make a big circle near the bottom of your box. Make a smaller
circle on top of it. Make a smaller circle on top of that circle.. Draw two circles
for eyes, a line for a carrot nose (triangles come later) on the top circle. You’ve
made a snowman.”

• In the next box…


“Make a small circle in the middle of the next box. Make a bigger circle around
it… Make an even bigger circle around that one”. Show only one step at a time and
check that all kids are successful. Put a long stick under it. You’ve made a lollipop.

• In the last box…

“Make a row of circles making sure that they all touch. Draw two circles for eyes
on the first one (great time to teach ordinal numbers, first, second, third…). Make
lots of little tiny circles under the caterpillar for feet. Now you’ve made a

Step 4: Finish the picture

• When all the four boxes are completed, children are told
to colour the picture colour pencils or crayons.

Some Drawing Tips:

• If the children are having a difficult time with the step-by-step drawing, you
may be going too fast, making assumptions that they are understanding your
vocabulary (right, left, under, over, beside, next to, in front of, larger,
largest…) or expecting them to follow too many steps at a time.
• Use the largest paper possible.
• Teach children how to draw big. Demonstrate drawing a teeny picture in the
middle of your paper and show them how hard it is for viewers to see it.
• Children are inspired by their teacher’s enthusiasm.
• To challenge children who already draw with confidence, give them an extra
paper and let them draw whatever they want between the steps.

a) What is the step-by-step method of teaching drawing also called?

b) Do you agree that children should be taught art step-by-step?
c) Describe one method of step-by-step drawing for children?

4.5 Finger
Finger paintingPainting
has many developmental, educational and creative benefits.

No childhood is complete without some good,

old-fashioned, messy, squishy, colourful finger
painting. Research has shown that sensory play
is important for brain development in early
childhood. Sensory play is when children use
their senses such as touch, vision, taste, hearing
and smell. One such activity that stimulates some
of these senses is ‘finger painting’. Surely, you
may have done ‘finger painting’ when you were young.

Research has shown that art activities are important for brain development in early childhood. One
of these is sensory play where kids learn through their senses. Sensory integration is a
developmental process where touch, taste, hearing and vision are part of brain development for later
spatial, mathematics and language concepts. Messy play like finger painting is important to every
child’s development. It helps the body and brain integrate information as well as being relaxing
creative way to express feelings.


Here's what you need

• 4 tablespoons tapioca flour (tepung ubi)

• Little tap water
• A full jug of boiling water (not just hot)
• A large heatproof bowl
• A whisk for stirring

Here's what you do

In a large bowl put 4 heaped tablespoons of tapioca flour.

Use a little water from the tap to mix to a smooth

paste (like making custard).

Take your kettle of boiled water and slowly pour it into

the bowl whisking briskly as you do. You need to move
quickly as it will thicken as you pour in the water.

Decide the texture you want. Thicker is suggested for

finger painting-type activities. By adding more or less
water you can reach the texture you prefer.

If you want to use it as a paste just leave it white. If you want to colour your paint
sprinkle edible dye or food colouring - the kids will love to help with this part.

Spoon your colours out onto a table.

Add some tools

Why not add a few little tools to extend their play and creativity?

Sticks are lots of fun for making patterns in the

paint and older kids love to write their name and
make a masterpiece or two (see picture).

Sit back and watch the magic knowing that all

that mess is easily cleaned away.

Finger painting is an easy activity that has physical, creative and social benefits for

• Kids learn how colours work, especially mixing primary colours

• Good for Sensory Integration - sense of hearing, touching, smelling and tasting are
• Improves fine motor developmental, strengthens finger and hand muscles
• Focus on process not finished product
• Emotionally soothing
• Promotes social skills-sharing paint pots, taking turns, working together are all a
good social experience
• Stimulates creativity and imagination
• If the finger painting is done on the floor kids use balance, large muscle control and
spatial awareness
• Develops communication and language skills when done as a group activity
• Learn about colour, shape and spatial relationships

a) Why do you think children love finger painting?

b) Describe how you make the paste for finger painting.
c) List some of the benefits of finger painting for children.

4.6 What is Watercolour?

Besides drawing using pencils and finger painting, children in early childhood can also introduced
to watercolour painting. Unfortunately, some teachers are reluctant to get children involved in
watercolour painting. Among the reasons given is that it is better that watercolour be taught when
they are older. Still other argue that watercolour painting is too messy and it is hard work for the
teacher and the school.

So, what is watercolour painting?

Watercolour paint is made by mixing pigments (colour) with a binder, usually gum arabic, and
then applying it with water to paper. The water evaporates and the binder fixes the pigment to the
paper. The most common material used in watercolour painting is paper. One could also
watercolour on canvas, wood, fabric, leather and plastics.

See the picture on the right showing a watercolour painting

titled The Blue Boat by Winslow Homer painted in 1892.
The Blue Boat

Watercolour painting has been around for thousands of years. There is evidence of watercolour
paintings in cave paintings in Europe and paintings in ancient Egypt. In China, Korea and Japan,
watercolour is usually ink paintings and is oftentimes black and brown.

4.7 Types of Watercolours

Watercolour is such a fascinating art form and one that should be exposed to children. Children
love the colours that are expressed as they utilise watercolours to create pictures. They also are
learning a great deal about how watercolours work, and are really forming great fine motor skills
with the methodical repeating pattern from water to colour to paper, and again.

a) Watercolour Pencil

A watercolour pencil looks and feels almost exactly (the core is

chalkier) like a coloured pencil with the exception that once you
water, it transforms and behaves like watercolour paint. The pencil
itself is a very simple with watercolour paint inserted into a
wooden casing. The pencil can also be used as a normal pencil and
is easier to use than a watercolour pencil because it allows for more
control, and produces very sharp detail.

When applying water to the watercolour pencil, the final piece will Colour pencil drawings
resemble a watercolour painting and the way the colours blend mixed with water
together will blow your mind! If children have trouble with
watercolour paints, watercolour pencils may be a better choice for them. They tend to have vibrant
colours and are easy to clean up

b) Watercolour Tubes

Tube paints contain more glycerine binder than pans. This

makes them soft and creamy and easier to mix with water.
(See picture). Tubes come in various sizes. Because you can
squeeze out as much paint as you want, tubes are good if you
want large areas of colour.

Tubes are relatively easy to keep clean, but make sure to

wipe the thread of the tube clean with a rag before replacing
the cap or it may stick and be difficult to open next time.
Colour being squeezed out
from water colour tubes
Few Tips:

• It helps to hold the cap and metal shoulder of the tube under hot water for five to
ten seconds to expand the cap and soften the paint if that happens.
• If you squeeze out more paint than you use and don't clean off your palette, you can
still use the paint later since it remains water soluble and can be reactivated with
water when dry.
• If you don't replace the cap of the tube right away, the paint in the tube will dry out
and harden.
• As long as the paint is not too old, if this happens you can cut the tube lengthwise,
accessing the paint and using it as a makeshift pan, reactivating the dried paint with
• If the paint in the tube has dried you can also force a hole through the mouth of the
tube with a nail or end of a brush and add some water, then put the cap back on and
knead the tube to mix in the water and reconstitute the paint.
• You can also cut the ends off of tubes (at the crimp) to access dried paint and
reconstitute it by adding a little bit of water.

c) Watercolour Pans

Pans are small square or round cakes of colour cut out and
put into put in small plastic or metal boxes to keep the paint
pans together as you use them (See picture). The boxes have
a hinged cover to keep the pans in place when closed. The
cover can also be used a palette for mixing colours.
PANS of watercolour in a box

• Pan sets come in pre-determined colours. Teach children that they can also swap colours
out and customise them for their own purposes or subject, creating different colour palettes
if desired.
• Pans can be hard to start when first unwrapped. Tell children that after they are moistened
and softened it is a bit it is easy to pick up colour. Tell children they soften them initially by
putting a drop of water on them and letting them sit for a minute.
• Teach children that to get paint from a pan, to use a
damp brush to pick up a little colour, then put it on the
palette (either the lid of the pan watercolour set or a
separate, freestanding one). See picture

Pick up a bit of colour and put it on a


• Teach children to add more water to the colour on the palette or mix it with other colours.
Teach them to work directly from the pan, but they need to be careful not to contaminate it
with other colours. Teach them to keep the pan clean.

• Teach children to use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe the pan clean. Then let it dry a few
hours before closing the box in order to keep the pans from sticking to the lid when opened.

4.8 Paper for Water Colour Painting

When choosing art supplies for kids, don’t forget the paper! Paper for children can be anything
from a sketchbook or a stack of white or coloured construction paper (see Picture below). Quality
of paper varies with price. So you decide what paper to buy?

Sketch book with paper that can be Construction paper which comes in
pulled out white and also coloured paper


Children paint on small pieces of

Paper Children paint on large sheets of paper

The pictures above show watercolour paper of different sizes. The teacher can choose different
sizes of watercolour paper for children. Some children like to work with several pieces of small-
size paper. Others may want to work on large sheets of paper which can be laid on the floor or
pinned to the wall.

4.9 Brushes

There are many types of brushes use in painting with watercolours. However, among children
the following THREE types of brushes would be enough:

Mop shape Pointed shape Flat shape

The mop shape (for painting large areas such as the sky), the pointed shape (for drawing thin
lines) and the flat shape (for drawing thick lines).

Teaching Children to Keep the Paint Brush Clean

Burnett (2017) suggests that watercolours can easily be dirty or muddy if the brush is not washed
in between colours. Also, colours can become pale and transparent if too much water is used; both
of which can be demotivating for a child. She proposes that children should be taught to follow the
following steps: [See picture below]

1 2 3 4

Step 1: Wet (or rinse if you are between colours) your brush in the water.

Step 2: Lightly dab your brush on the paper towel to remove excess water (this helps provide
the child with a richer colour to paint with).

Step 3: Rub your paintbrush on the colour you wish to use to collect the paint onto the brush.
Generally, the more water on your brush, the more translucent your paint will appear on the

Step 4: Paint away.

a) What is water colour painting?

b) Discuss the differences between water colour pencil, water colour tubes
and water colour pans.
c) What the three commonly used brushes in water colour painting?
d) What type of paper and size of paper would you use for water colour
painting in your class?
e) How would you teach children to keep their paint brushes clean?

4.10 Water Colour Techniques for Children

There is no best method or technique to teach children how to paint using watercolour.

1. Learning Basic Brush Strokes

The teacher can begin by getting children to practice various types of brush strokes and brush
techniques as suggested by Kelly (2014).

Different brush
strokes – swirls,
wavy, stripes and

The picture above shows how the teacher can begin by getting children to experiment with
different ways of moving the brush.

2. Dry Brush and Wet Brush Technique

Two different looks can be achieved by

using a very wet brush or a relatively
dry one.

3. Wet paper and Dry Paper Technique

Wet the paper with a spray bottle before painting. This can provide an easy surface to blend

4. Mixing Colours

See the colour combinations that can be created below:


5. Creating Bubbles with Droppers

Liquid watercolour paint is dropped onto the paper.

Note that the paint bubbles held their shape even after an

6. Drag Watercolor Paint for Spikes and Suns

After dropping watercolor paint using the dropper. Then the

bubbles are dragged around the paper using the tip of the
droppers as well as toothpicks.

This is lots of fun and results in interesting designs.

Drops of watercolour are dropped on the paper with a dropper and

allowed to dry. Then, a pen issued to create pen drawings on and
around the watercolour designs.

7. Tape Resist

Use scotch tape or masking tape on the surface before painting, and remove the tape when
the paint is just about dry. Be careful not to rip the paper when removing the tape (see
picture above).

8. Watercolour Wax Resist

This is a classic technique, and one that yields

great results, because it is magic. Try the
traditional white crayon with darker
watercolour over it, or bright crayon colours
with lighter coloured watercolours on top.
Either way gives very cool results.

9. Sprinkle Salt into Watercolour Paint.

Make sure the paint is very wet. Sprinkle salt on the

water colour painting.

Let the paint dry completely and then brush

away the salt flakes.

Note: The wetter the painted area, the more the salt will spread. Try letting the paint dry
partially and notice the difference in texture that is created.

10. Paper Towel.

Use a paper towel to blot areas of wet

watercolor away. Check out the cool texture
that is created (see picture).

11. Drop Ink into Wet Watercolour

Wet the paper with water colour. White it is

still wet, using a dropper squeeze drops of
black ink. The pattern created is shown in the
picture, i.e. black on red.

4.11 Some Tips for Teachers

Making Mistakes is Natural.

The following are some TIPS how teachers can encourage and motivate children to engage in
drawing and painting:

Children need to get more comfortable with mistakes.

Teachers should not point out mistakes in drawing or painting because it is not helpful. It works
better to emphasise the things that are working well. However, children often notice mistakes
themselves. It is helpful for children to learn that the mistakes they see in their drawing are
useful for learning and for getting new ideas.

Tell children it is okay to erase and fix major mistakes

Make a point to explain that “I like to learn new things from my mistakes”. Tell them that, “I
often leave my mistakes until I am nearly finished with the whole thing”. Sometimes the
mistakes add some interest and expressive qualities that are hard to appreciate at first.

Mistakes in drawing are often very perplexing

The child can see that something looks wrong, but does not know why. It is tempting for the
teacher the teacher to explain how it should be drawn or even worse to draw it for them. DON’T
EVER DO IT! It is much more useful to use this as an opportunity to teach the child how to
learn. When a child is puzzled, it is not the time to solve the puzzle for the child, it is the time
to teach puzzle solving strategies.

Practice on another paper

To solve a drawing mistake, the teacher could ask the child to practice a certain part of the
drawing on another paper.

Don't expect instant results.

The process of learning to draw takes time depending upon a child's fine motor skills and
cognitive development. Pushing a child too quickly will only result in unhappiness for all
concerned. Gentle nurturing will allow their natural talent to blossom.

Learn to listen.
When looking at or making art with children, always be positive. When guiding their drawing,
avoid correcting 'mistakes', but rather offer suggestions at the beginning of the session.

In lives constantly controlled by adults, art is one area of true freedom for children, so be careful
to offer possibilities rather than impose rules. Be guided by their interest and ability. When a
child is happy with their efforts, share their pleasure. If the child feels the drawing is
unsuccessful, discuss why it does not achieve their aims, and find some positives to praise, and
things to learn from. The following are comments a teacher can make to encourage children in
the visual arts:

• How do you feel about your picture?

• What do you like about this colour?
• Tell me about these shapes.
• I like these zig-zaggy and swirly lines.
• Do you like using the large or small brush?
• These colours are so bright and deep.
• This pattern is interesting.
• Your drawing reminds me of ..................
• What excellent attention to detail.

Exhibit the works of children without showing

preference for any one painting. Do not exhibit
only the ‘so-called’ good drawings.

4.10 What Can We Learn From Children’s Drawings?

Adoniou (2012) in an article argues that teachers,

parents and other adults can learn a lot from children’s
drawing. Children like to draw. Around the age of two
they discover the sheer pleasure of making marks. They
pick up any crayon, pencil or pen and they scribble.
Toddlers are not trying to represent reality with these
scribbles. It is simply a joyful exploration of their own
new found power; the ability to make a permanent mark on the world (see picture above).

The importance of scribbling

At around three or four years of age, the earlier straight-

line scribbles evolve into circular scribbles and this is a
very important milestone (see picture). Their big,
continuous, round scribbly lines begin to join up to
make enclosed circle shapes. The ability to draw an
enclosed shape marks the beginning of being able to
represent the objects in the world around you. It also
marks the beginning of being able to form the letters of
the alphabet.

Making meaning

Gradually the scribbles shift from simply being an internal visceral pleasure for young children
as the adults in their lives search for messages in their marks. Circular shapes become heads, or
the sun, or flowers. Mums, dads, grandparents and other adults assign meaning to their
scribbles, “Is that mummy?” “What a beautiful flower!”. Through the encouraging
conversations and modelling from adults, their scribbles have now become recognisable as
“things” to others. This is also an introduction to the complex and abstract notion that written
words are also symbols of meaning. Children begin to understand the communicative power of
their mark making.

The next important development is the ability to recognise an “inside” and an “outside” of those
shapes. Dots on the inside become eyes and noses, lines shoot from the outside to become arms,
legs, sun rays, petals and stems. These same skills are needed to refine their alphabet letter
writing. The adults in their lives are thrilled and those positive responses give great
encouragement to our children. Their drawings are praised, put up on the walls, popped on to
refrigerator doors. And so, they draw and draw. From a four-year old’s perspective; what is not
to like about drawing? It gives them immense intrinsic pleasure, and it seems to make their
loved ones happy too.

It is not all rainbows and flowers

Five and six year olds tend to draw flowers, rainbows

and pointy roofed houses because they are easy shapes
to draw (see picture on the left).

It turns out that these are all fairly simple shapes to

draw, and they represent very easily recognised
schemata, which means you get a lot of praise and
appreciation from adults. Drawing them brings a lot of
external praise and internal pleasure.

But a closer look at the drawings of 5, 6 and 7-year-olds

can reveal much more than sunshine, lollipops and
rainbows. The proportion of the objects in their
drawings has little to do with real life.

Things that make an impression on them loom large on It is sad that children in
the page. Hence, belly buttons and eyelashes often feature detention centres draw fences
prominently in young children’s drawings of themselves.
with and barbed wire.

By around age seven another drawing milestone is reached as children start to anchor their
drawings on the page, where previously their objects had floated randomly in space. They draw
in baselines and skylines, usually thin lines of green grass and blue sky, as they try to represent
the world they see around them.

Why do children stop drawing?

By the time they are 9 or 10-years of age, for many children, the sheer joy of drawing begins to
fade away. WHY? Surprisingly, children become critical of their own drawings. This is because
they think their drawings should represent reality or be “more real”. This when they say, “My
drawing is lousy”, “I cannot draw”. They realise human hands are not round like they usually
draw. They become frustrated when they cannot draw real hand. Drawing the human body is

To matters worse, adults who once loved everything children drew now seem less impressed
with drawings of a 10-year old. “Your drawings are like the drawings of kindergarten child”.
At school teachers no longer encourage drawing, and many discourage it - “You can draw a
picture if and when you finish your mathematics or writing”. Everything seems to be conspiring
against children continuing to draw. That’s sad!

We need to teach drawing

When the 10-year-old stops drawing because “I’m not good at it”, they lose an important
learning tool. When drawing is allowed to slip away children are disadvantaged. Drawing
allows children to test and play with feelings and ideas. It nurtures the verbal skills of reading,
writing and speaking. Drawing is a means of closely observing the world around, recording
what children observe and using that as the basis for further enquiry.

Drawing is a learned skill that should be improve with instruction. Yet teachers are reluctant to
teach children drawing. There is a misplaced fear that teaching drawing will stifle creativity.
But the reality is that most children simply give up on drawing because they receive no

It’s not about creating masterpieces. Not all children will become great novelists yet
we do teach them writing skills. Not all children will become great artists but we don’t teach
them drawing skills.

a) Suggest some watercolour techniques for children.

b) Discuss how teachers can help children to draw and paint.
c) Explain why children give up drawing and painting when they get

• Process-focussed art • Drawing is movement • Brushes

• Holding the pencil • Drawing from • Brush strokes
• Round and round imagination • Wet on wet
• Up an down • Finger painting • Dry on dry
• Zig-zag • Watercolour pencil • Tape resist
• Dot-dot • Watercolour tubes • Wax resist
• Watercolour • Watercolour pans • Stop drawing

• There is debate among art teachers as to whether or not process or product is more
important in art education.

• Process refers to the learning that takes place during an assignment or lesson.

• Product refers to the actual picture or diagram that is produced.

• Make sure the art activities you plan for the children invite them to be free to express
their ideas, thoughts and emotions in any way they desire!

• There are teachers who do not teach children art and leave them to do what they want.

• There is no perfect way of holding the pencil. Teachers SHOULD NOT FORCE to hold
the pencil or marker in a desired manner.

• The Six Universal lines which form the foundation of all drawings are like vowels when
learning a language.

• Bentham (2017) argues that children can be taught to draw step-by-step which is
also known as directed drawing or guided drawing.

• Teaching children to draw by a step-by-step drawing to increase children’s

confidence, teaches them to follow directions, increases their directional and
spatial vocabulary while having fun.

• No childhood is complete without some good, old-fashioned, messy, squishy, colourful

finger painting.

• Three common types of watercolour are watercolour pans, watercolour tubes and
watercolour pencils.

• Paper for children can be anything from a sketchbook or a stack of white or coloured
construction paper.

• Watercolour paint is made by mixing pigments (colour) with a binder, usually gum
arabic and then applying it with water to paper.

• The mop shape brush (for painting large areas such as the sky), the pointed shape brush
(for drawing thin lines) and the flat shape brush (for drawing thick lines).

• A watercolour pencil looks and feels almost exactly (the core is chalkier) like a coloured
pencil with the exception that once you water, it transforms and behaves like
watercolour paint.

• Tube paints contain more glycerine binder than pans and this makes it soft and creamy
and easier to mix with water.

• The teacher can choose different sizes of watercolour paper for children.

• Teachers should not point out mistakes in drawing or painting because it is not helpful.

• Parents and other adults can learn a lot from children’s drawing.

• By the time they are 9 or 10-years of age, for many children, the sheer joy of drawing
begins to fade away because they become critical of their own drawings.


• Bartel, M. (2002). How to Teach Drawing to Children. Goshen College.

• Bentham, P. (2017). Step-by-Step Drawing. Kindergarten

• Burnett, C. (2017). Kids Art: Learning to Use Watercolours.

• Fussell, M. (2014). Art Education-Process vs. Product. The Virtual

• Gee Whiz Education (2014). The Digital Curriculum for the Family Child Care Proider.
Process vs Product Art – Do You Really Know the Difference.

• Kelly, A. (2014). Painting with Watercolors: Experimenting with Technique.

May 13, 2014. Be A Fun Mum

• Mulvey, R. (2012). ARTABET – First Steps in Drawing.