Thumbprint art three ways

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Maia brought home a little book from school called Thumbprint Critters (She brings a new book home each night to read for homework). She wanted to try out some of the ideas after reading it, so we brought out the inkpads and paper.


First she used her thumb and fingerprints to draw figures and hearts.


Then she copied one of the critters from the book (a pig) by making a thumbprint and adding details with a pen.


Then Maia drew many of the critters from the book with a pen only (no thumbprints) and colored them in with markers.


I've never brought home any "how to draw" books for Maia so it was especially interesting to see how she interacted with this book. She gathered inspiration and information from it without getting hung up on doing things exactly as presented. I have to say I was impressed! (I realize, of course, that at a different stage, she might interact with a book like this differently.)

Have your kids used any "how to draw" type books or have you used any with your kids? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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  1. tasha says

    My son is 5, and he does not deal well with directions when it comes to art. If it involves something that requires a process, or steps in terms of a piece of equipment its fine, as in the glue gun. But, when it comes to drawing, painting, or anything like that, he wants total freedom and will not be told “how to do” something. Totally not interested in “How to” books. We’ve tried some instruction, but he just gets frustrated. Just his punk rock nature, I guess.

  2. says

    I love Maia’s artwork – so precious!
    My older daughter (8 years) has been enjoying how-to-draw books for years – they fit her personality, I guess. We have had the best success with the Usborne “I Can Draw Animals” and “I Can Draw People.” They are both simplistic and easy to use as inspiration, not hard-fast rules.

  3. Adelle F. says

    My children love Ed Emberly books. I have fond memories of them from childhood, as well. They seem to help my son see how a drawing can be disected into it’s parts. He does do some copying right from the book, but it also seems to have had a positive effect on how he draws not that he has that understanding.

  4. Rose says

    I found an Ed Emberly book at the thrift store one day, and brought it home. My 6yo and 4yo sons love it. They definitely don’t follow it precisely, but it’s given them lots of ideas about how to draw vehicles in particular, which they both love to do.

  5. megwrites says

    I am pretty wary of the “how to draw” books in general, but I think more open ended ones like this look fun, where you can take the basic ideas and branch out from there. Maia made some very imaginative creatures!

  6. Katy says

    I’d always been sort of “anti-” drawing books, but recently have been reading “Drawing With Children” by Mona Brooks, and it has completely altered my thinking about teaching children to draw. She makes excellent points that for “realistic” drawing most children do need instruction and that we would never expect them to learn the violin or piano without instruction, but with art we think it will just develop. She goes into a lot more depth, but I find it fascinating, and inspiring.
    I know that book is technically not a “how to” in the sense that “How to draw 501 whatevers…” is, but even with those books, I think perhaps they can be good practice in copying lines, etc, and perhaps a springboard for later drawing. The idea being that with anything (drawing, sewing, knitting) you copy someone else first.

  7. says

    We have a book on how to draw mythological creatures. A friend sent it several years ago as part of a package for my boys during a difficult time. My almost-7yo occasionally brings it out and this child who doesn’t like to take direction from anyone will sit and follow the instructions to draw something. So I think these books have their place and are a good resource, but probably work best (like just about everything else!) when the desire comes from the child, not the adult. I’m thinking about getting him Jill Bliss’s “Drawing Nature: A Journal” but I can’t tell, it might be too girly looking…

  8. Kate says

    I have absolutely NO artistic ability of my own and have always been discouraged by that fact — stick figures are just about all I can handle. So, when my sister gave my kids a copy of the Ed Emberely books, I was thrilled! They gave me some confidence on where to begin when I pick up a pencil, and they also have give my kids some good “jumping off points” for illustrations.

  9. Lynne says

    I love your blog! I found it while searching for “preschool art” (I think) on bing images. I’m a special ed. teacher, and actually work with older students, but preschool difficulty level projects usually work best with my class, but yet I don’t want their projects to be too little-kiddish. I love your art and nature projects… you’ve given me a lot of good ideas for the rest of our school year. Thank you!

  10. andrea says

    My 7 year old loves how to draw books-all kinds. Even the ones that seem WAY too difficult, but he surprises me with his own take on them. He also loves to draw without them as well. The how-to books have introduced him to new perspectives in drawing and have encouraged him to draw things he normally wouldn’t. I think he gets a lot of new ideas and sees new possibilites in those books. Drawing is his favorite art form, he has never liked painting or messy art as much. He wants his drawings to look a certain way that he measures against an ideal in his mind, not necessarily on the page of a how-to book. I feel like books like this are pretty inspiring and expose kids to new ideas and personal styles in drawing. Of course, if they learn with only these books or if we measure their work against a copied picture that could be detrimental to their creativity but generally, the more exposure to different styes and whatever gets them drawing seems fabulous to me. Do you feel like drawing instruction books are limiting or stifling to creativity? Does it depend on the kid? Perhaps some would just become obsessed with perfect copying of a picture but the opposite happens in our house, one how to picture sometimes gives my boy 10 other ideas.

  11. says

    As a professional artist with a college education in Fine Art, I am 100% for art instruction. In fact, I believe it is necessary.
    Art is no different from Music or Math. So many people consider it to be otherwise. And this is why it is #1 on the list when school budgets are cut. Art, Music, Math are all languages that must be learned. Yes, a child can get pretty far on their own with little “instruction” but they will reach a point (an age) where they will become limited. It’s the equivalent of being able to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or Bach’s cello suites. Children need to learn the language of art, learn it well, and practice, practice, practice. Creativity will flow as skill increases.
    As an artist with three young children of my own, I really enjoy your blog. I think you have great ideas and you have really fueled your daughter’s creativity. You have given her confidence to create. Her response to the “how to” drawing book was perfect: she learned, she was inspired, she created her own drawings.
    {I also recommend reading Mona Brooks’ Drawing with Children.}