Kids Turkey Drawing
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Kids Turkey Drawings and Art Instruction Books


Kids Turkey Drawing

After my post (and mini rant) about hand turkeys, I was somewhat surprised when Maia drew a completely different kind of turkey yesterday afternoon.

Kids Turkey Drawing

So now I feel a bit foolish about getting so worked up about the hand turkeys, especially since she’s now drawn three completely different kinds of turkeys in the last week or so.

(Although I still do feel that hand print art can be overdone with young children.)

Kids Turkey Drawing

Maia and Daphne were both drawing at the little red table. They each had their own sketchbook and were sharing hoarding crayon rocks.


This post contains affiliate links. Maia still likes to draw things using a formula, though. This is another bird she drew yesterday. She’s been drawing the same bird almost line by line since they drew birds in her school art class last year (although from what I can tell they mostly encourage authentic and individual art-making there).

Should We Use How-to-Draw Books?

I don’t know whether to go with it and give her one of those step-by-step “how to draw animals” kind of books, which I never thought I would consider but which I think she would eat up, or do Mona Brookes Drawing with Children program, which I’ve read through and seems intriguing. Or if I should work instead on helping her to express her ideas through more natural methods and try to steer her away from the formulas and crutches. I’m more inclined to do the latter, but think Maia would like the former better.

I want her to draw happily and with self confidence but I also want her to continue to be creative in her approach.

Update :: We’ve since tried Ed Emberley’s drawing books for kids as well as the Monart method, both with success.

Some of you have mentioned in the comments yesterday that you think crutches are okay as a starting point.

I am an art therapist, and I don’t mind hand turkeys and similar projects if it gives kids a jumping point to be creative. Some kids need the “prop” to get started or to even create anything. -Nina

We have a huge collection of the William Foster beginning drawing books geared toward kids… I’ve watched my 6 year old take those simple steps and move toward his own representations. -Cagey

I want him to have complete freedom and not be constrained by “it is supposed to look like this” but, sometime you just want things to look the way you have in your mind. I have to remember to respect that desire in him. (even if I think what ever he is creating is beautiful in it’s imperfection) -Dani

Have you ever read “Drawing With Children” by Mona Brookes? She explains that symbolic drawing and realistic drawing can coexist in young children, because they serve two different purposes. She also has a lot of suggestions for developing confidence in young artists. -Arwen

my oldest is almost ten and as we have done more and more open-ended art I have seen him relax into the process. He is by far my most deliberate child when it comes to art making, but that is also part of his personality, and I do believe art benefits from both abilities, that of free-for-all creativity, and that of deliberate-ness. As with anything else, it’s finding the balance that is key. -Amy

what if you looked at her interest in creating recognizable figures as another “different” activity? Maybe by following her interest you’ll find a crutch that makes you squirm, but that satisfies her (like drawing books (ugh) or tracing paper). -Katie

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Have any of you used the “how to draw” books with your older children? Or used Mona Brookes program? Or found a different way to approach this dilemma? Please share!

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Not a Hand Turkey Drawing for Kids

  • Patty
    November 11, 2011 at 11:01 am

    This is such a great question. I was a very inspired child and I ate up everything art related. I loved coloring inside the lines, I loved art instruction books, I loved tracing, I loved creating something from nothing (which I did often)…it all worked for me. Now that I’m all grown up and my kids are almost there, the only advice I can share (and one in which I truly believe) is that there is no wrong way to introduce art. It’s really up to the kids what they will gravitate towards. Parents (in many ways) don’t have much influence other than providing supplies, a space and some time. Lovely blog, by the way!

  • Maria
    November 11, 2011 at 11:39 am

    As a music person I was thinking about this post this morning when I heard my daughter singing in the other room. I realized that without meaning to I have more “approving” feelings when she makes up her own songs than when she sings songs she’s heard other places (particularly, ugh, cartoons!).
    I wonder why? I sing songs all the time that I didn’t make up, and I teach them to other kids, and I think it’s all great and valuable and necessary. So why do I want my daughter to always be “more creative”, “more original”, “more of an individual”? For one thing, because she does write her own songs, I suppose I feel like regurgitating brainless pap from the Backyardigans is cheating somehow. Also, I’m just so pleased and proud and excited to get a glimpse into her brain and her psyche that I like it better when she exposes herself through songwriting. It’s a selfish desire on my part, I now see.
    I think after the thought process this discussion has provoked I will try to be more embracing of my daughter’s learning and interpreting songs, wherever they come from. It’s an attitude I hope I can maintain through the coming onslaught of Rudolf and Jingle Bells.

  • Cheryl
    November 11, 2011 at 11:45 am

    I teach first grade and do many “directed” drawing lessons throughout the year (like Mona Brooks). Each child’s art is very different from everyone else’s even though we drew them together… and it is amazing to see how beautiful they are! It is always exciting to see how these lessons provided a jumping off point for kids to create their own art pieces.

  • Abigail
    November 11, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    i tried to leave a comment on your last post, but for some reason it didn’t go through.
    try looking into something like “drawing on the right side of the brain” by Betty Edwards.
    the beginning introduction is a little shaky science wise, but the idea is that she teaches you to draw what you see, not what you think something should look like. it’s really great for training you hand and eye to cooperate. i had great success using it to help hone my drawing skills. in the book she talks about using her methods with children as young as 5, and I’ve heard great things from other parents who have used her book. that might help Maia with her “it doesn’t look the way i want it to/the way it is” problem.
    also there are no formulaic step by step drawings, its all just drawing what you see.
    (although i am also a fan of the step by step drawing tutorials because it helps give you confidence and after a while I’ve found that most people start diverging from the formula once they get the hang of it and start see the inner shapes of things so that if you someday want to draw from your imagination you can without needing reference pictures)

  • amy
    November 11, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    I’m trying to figure out how to answer succinctly! First of all, I’ve read the Mona Brooks book and don’t think it’s something a person can dip in and out of. If we’d decided to homeschool, I’d use it, but I don’t see how I could successfully use the program the way it’s written around the demands of the school schedule. Only so much time in a day.
    I don’t see anything wrong with looking to models while drawing (which, if I remember correctly, is one of Brooks’s points). I could not draw a realistic turkey out of my head. “Real” artists also use references, which is not necessarily something kids know. I remember thinking, as a kid, that I couldn’t draw, because I could only draw well if I was referencing something, and don’t we learn that’s copying? But it’s not! Go to any art museum affiliated with an art school, and you’ll see students in the galleries, drawing the art on the walls. How else to learn? We don’t expect music students to compose original works without first learning how to play what somebody else composed, after all.
    I’m not a big fan of the “learn to draw” books because they are so step by step–first this line, then that line–but on the other hand, my 7yo has one and has used it and it hasn’t stunted him any. :) But you might think of gathering lots of drawings of turkeys (or whatever), talking about the different ways the artists approached it, and then just letting that sit. Or photographs. Or field guides, which often have photographs AND line drawings. You could talk about the differences–do all those turkeys look like “real” turkeys? Why or why not? Or you could just keep it really simple and offer to help Maia collect a bunch of turkey pictures in a folder for reference. She’ll draw her own conclusions, I’m sure.

  • Rachel
    November 11, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    I have very vivid memories as a young child of “the tyranny of the blank page”, something I still struggle with.
    I was always disappointed that nothing seemed to come out the way I saw it in my mind, so i think that using templates like the hand techniques can be great “gateway art” for the naturally nervous.
    And I agree that many kinds of art can co-exist – I draw, paint, craft, crochet, and take photos. Whichever medium “wins” on any given day depends entirely on my mood and inspiration.

  • molly
    November 11, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    I don’t know what the right answer is, it is probably different for every person too! I remember getting a lot out of my high school art class where my teacher taught me the general rules of proportion in human figure drawing — but then she always encouraged us to look and look again. With E & H we have done some observational drawings but not anything as specific as what we did in my high school class, just exercises in looking. And, E asked me the other day how she could draw a computer so it looked “open”, a jumping off point for perspective. I am interested to see the Drawing with Children books and what suggestions they have.

  • Juise
    November 11, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Neither of my children are old enough yet for me to have to consider “how to draw” books, but I *can* speak from my own experience. Part of this is in response to the previous post, which I didn’t get the chance to reply to.
    I think it is harder for a child growing up in a creative family to feel satisfied with their own work. It is one thing for a child to look at art in books, or museums… the artists are distant, far removed beings of notable talent. Children don’t generally get frustrated that they don’t paint as well as Caravaggio. It is another thing entirely, however, to see the people around you, solid, real, “normal”, human beings just like you, that can, with such seeming ease, produce things that are unfathomably amazing to a child.
    I spent my entire childhood being frustrated that I couldn’t whip out realistic looking sketches like my parents, or draw as well as my older brother. I spent so much time trying to be as good as them, that it wasn’t until college that I finally started figuring out what, and how, *I* liked to draw, paint, etc.
    But we know that we do, and always will, like it or not, learn from each other. That doesn’t have to mean that you never develop your own style, or even cramp it. Learning basics, and even other peoples methods, gives you understanding of technique and mechanics that you can then utilize in your own unique work.
    I know I have a handful of step by step drawing books, and I know I at least skimmed through them, but I never was very interested in them or really used them. I don’t think it would do harm for her to have one, it may give her the confidence in herself, and the understanding of how images *can* be put together, to better develop her own ideas.
    Okay, wow, that turned pretty lengthy, sorry! I hope I managed to make the point of what I was trying to say at least remotely coherent, though. :)

  • Katie
    November 11, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    For what it is worth, I wish that someone had given me directed art instruction as a child, because it might have given me some confidence! Some children need directed art, some do not. I have both kinds in my family. But I really, really wish I could draw!!!

  • cagey
    November 11, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    I should have mentioned in my original comment that I initially bought a drawing book FOR ME because my toddler kept asking me to draw him specific animals. I had NO idea how to draw since I had spent my electives on music and wood shop. Heh. That book were a great starting point for me.
    Honestly, I love fiddling with paints and pastels. I wonder now what I could have eventually done if I had been given some sort of instruction. My sister is an artist and I am so jealous of what she can create!

  • Catherine
    November 11, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    I understand everyone’s concern with not wanting to stunt any child’s inherent creativity but even the great master’s learnt from copying other artists so I don’t really see the problem with it. Something that helps creativity is having the tools in the first place. Knowing how to draw a simple bird one way can lead to all sorts of creativity. My older daughter was lacking confidence and even refused to draw anything for awhile because she was too frustrated but I bought her a couple of ‘how to’ draw books and now she is back to drawing again and putting her individual stamp on each one.

  • Juise
    November 11, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    I wish I knew! I worry about it a lot, although my oldest daughter is 3 1/2 now, and not in the least bit worried about it yet.
    Any time something along these lines has cropped up so far, I have pointed out the many, many ways that different people can depict the same thing.
    At her age and capability level, I tend to try to draw special attention to abstracted images, as they resemble more closely the way she currently draws and paints. I have a fair amount of art books, and sometimes we’ll go through those, comparing depictions of the same subject. The internet, though, is really a great resource here, as you can plug in what the current frustration is, (e.g., “horse painting”,) select “images”, and get a whole slew of completely different takes on horse paintings, from children’s art to masterpieces.
    Of course, I also try to remind her that everything takes time and practice, and that if she is not happy with how her work is turning out, she needs to keep trying. It will change, she will get better at getting the image from her head onto her paper.
    Time is a hard concept for a child to swallow, though, they just live so completely in the now, especially at my daughter’s age. Unfortunately, I am also not really sure how much it all helps, sometimes it seems to help more than other times. I am sure my mother told me the same kinds of things, I *know* she did, but I was (ok, I *am*,) pretty stubborn.
    I did see a comparison of Viktor Lowenfeld and Betty Edwards’ ideas on drawing development in children, I can’t remember where it was linked, (It could have been you, for all I remember, lol,) but I did find it at least interesting, if not accurate but to a very broad spectrum.
    I’m not sure how well the age ranges apply to all children, especially children who grow up doing more art, but both include a stage of frustration. I’m sure it is probably something every artist, no matter the age it is come to, needs to work through at some point. I don’t think it is really something that can be, or even needs to be, avoided. We just need to do our best as parents to reassure and comfort, and help them get through it.
    Here’s the link if you’re interested:

  • Becky
    November 11, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    I just let me 4 year old use a how to draw book for the first time last week…she LOVED it. And I was happy to see that she was incorporating what she learned into new subjects later in the day (basic shapes for body parts, techniques for drawing hair, etc.). While I won’t let her have constant access to these books, and I make it a practice to never “help” (ie. draw it for her) when she is trying to draw something new, I do think that she benefitted from the basic techniques that she picked up while using the book and I don’t think that it limited her drawing after she used it. But I think this is one of those kid-by-kid decisions…I could seem where some kids would get so hooked on making it look like the picture in the book that it would be a problem.

  • Gesche
    November 11, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    Just briefly: I looove the discussion here and can agree with most of what has been said. My son is just 15 mth old though, so there is still a lot of time…
    But, Maias turkey is just sooo beautiful!!!! There is no way drawing a “real” turkey could have come out as beautiful as this one. Acctually she even managed to make me see turkeys differently because so far I never thought of them as being particularly pretty…

  • Melissa
    November 11, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    I have been reading your blog for a while and love all of the process art you do with your kids! I am an elementary art teacher (3K-5th grade) and am always looking for fun process art for the little ones. I teach at an inner city school with a high poverty level and most of my students have very little skills and confidence when it comes to artmaking. It’s been a struggle creating lessons where the students can find success. I was thrilled this year to discover when I give them a handout showing them step by step how to draw whatever we may be learning about, most of the students are able to stick with it much longer without giving up. I feel they are able to be more creative because they have more confidence in their skills, and as I walk about the room, I am sure to comment on how wonderful and different each drawing looks to encourage them to add their own spin. Right now my first graders are making owls and it’s amazing how unique each one really does look. I will post a link to my flickr when they’re finished with their projects…good stuff.
    So, I don’t think how-to drawing books hinder a child’s creativity as long as you encourage them to use it simply as a starting point for more open-ended creations.

  • Jean Van't Hul
    November 11, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    Thanks for your words of wisdom, Patty! Some of us with little kids worry about these decisions perhaps more than we ought.

  • Jean Van't Hul
    November 11, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    I’m there with you, Maria. If Maia draws something unique from her imagination I tend to think of it as more real, more pure. But processing and incorporating the images and ideas around us is an important part of creativity and artistic development as well.

  • Jean Van't Hul
    November 11, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Wish I could see pics of all the kids’ artwork from one of your lessons!

  • Jean Van't Hul
    November 11, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    Sorry your comment didn’t go through on the last post!
    I do have Betty Edwards’ book and have been thinking about re-reading it for myself. I don’t remember her talking about children’s art, so it’ll be interesting to see what she says on the subject. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Jean Van't Hul
    November 11, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Thanks Amy!!

  • Jean Van't Hul
    November 11, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    I like your comment that many kinds of art can coexist!

  • Jean Van't Hul
    November 11, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Thanks, Juise! That’s something I worry a bit about — Maia comparing her art to mine, Daphne comparing her art to her big sister’s, etc. Any tips for avoiding the frustration you felt?

  • Jean Van't Hul
    November 11, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Thanks for your comment! Hmm, if you are not confident drawing and still really, really want to be able to do so (realistically), perhaps seek out Betty Andrew’s book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Here’s the amazon link:

  • Jean Van't Hul
    November 11, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    That’s funny that you bought the drawing book for yourself! As for the “I wonder what I could have done” comment — there are so many possible paths along the way, aren’t there? So many of us wonder how we would have turned out if different paths were chosen. I know I do.

  • gretchen
    November 11, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    great question. we do a lot of free form art here. set up different materials (many from the recyled bin) and let them go. (see a puppet project i just did at his school with toilet paper tubes: that being said, my son LOVES to draw and was in love with how his art teacher at school showed them how to see the shapes in a drawing of a horse head. (oval, rectangles, etc). he’s also math oriented, so i can see the two wedded in a nice way. for the first time, i bought him one of those animal drawing books for his birthday. i’ll let you know how it goes.

  • Debbie
    November 11, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    You said that so well.

  • gwen
    November 12, 2011 at 8:20 am

    I have struggled with this teaching elementary and middle school art. I inherited a stack of drawing books from my mentor and kind of scoffed at them for a while, until I did more and more of putting myself in my student’s shoes. I would have a hard time drawing a dog without looking at one, too. So, I collect lots of images and have brought out the drawing books that do not over-simplify the animals into cute cartoony things in the end. I like the ones that use simple shapes to arrive at a more realistic animal. I let the kids have them as a choice during free art time and some kids like them and some don’t.
    With my own children, I recently cringed when my daughter came home from school and drew a stick figure instead her own wonderful figure she had figured out for herself. I am her art teacher, so I know it was a friend! I encouraged her to use her own ideas with the stick figure, so now it is half-stick, half-formed. Lovely.
    At the middle school level, just yesterday I gave my kids a step by step process for making a bird mobile sculpture so they could use the idea when I have a sub on Monday and they were so creative with it- very few actual birds resulted. They know they have the freedom to be creative and they take it. Your daughter will always know she has that freedom, I am sure.

  • Megan
    November 12, 2011 at 9:05 am

    I remember distinctly…using “How to draw” books as a kid; I thought they were fun. As time went on, I remember that I lost my confidence when I encountered trying to draw something that wasn’t “in the book.” I didn’t know how to do it! So, I avoided drawing a lot of things. I ended up sort of “drawing myself into a corner” and couldn’t figure out how to really SEE in order to draw. I also distinctly remember; in second grade, when we were drawing snowmen and the teacher showed us about shading/value and how if you add shade to one side, it made the circles look like spheres and if you add a shadow on the ground on that side, it anchored the snowman to the ground. This blew me away. I began shading everything I drew and loved how it added realism. At first, our version of shading was drawing a series of horizontal short lines on the side of the circle, but hey. Perhaps your daughter is craving some sort of next step in how to add more depth to her drawings? My bit of advice would be to simply point out things to get her to truly SEE them…what shape is the highlight on the apple? What color is the shadow on the snow? What colors are on the bark of the tree? What sort of shapes are all the peanuts? Or if you look at a round flower at different angles you see a circle from the front, but elipses from the side views. I think taking time to observe and note things is valuable in learning how to see and then to draw them. That is the backbone of the theory in drawing…that everything is made up of shapes. And that’s what the how to draw books talk about anyway. And, perhaps she can add shading to create a ball instead of a circle or a cone instead of just a triangle. It might give her that extra detail she craves? In the end, I would avoid the “how to” books because later on it can be limiting and frustrating. Especially when you the book is called “how to draw” and you want to do something differently. Just my 2 cents!

  • kids tops
    November 12, 2011 at 9:06 am

    Allowing the kids to draw the image they want and coloring the color they love will help them to develop their skills.

  • Jessica
    November 12, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Ok that sucks I just wrote a very long comment and now it is gone…. hmmm…
    Anyway, I wanted to say I believe that art is a balance of both process-based experiences (creativity) and learned skill.
    I own a dance studio that focuses on early childhood dance programming. My studio has a unique approach that I feel helps my children become better dancers and artists within their own right. While I will talk about dance I think this process can be applied to any art discipline with some variation.
    In all my dance classes we use a conceptual approach. Most people would recognize this as creative dance. In my classes all of our classes are based on a movement concept in the areas of Time, Space, Body and Effort (which are then broken down into smaller elements such as size, level, direction, pathway, speed, rhythm, relationships, etc). During the exploration section of my classes there is no right or wrong. The children explore in their own way how they can move their bodies using the concept as their guide. Because I am not giving them specific steps (yet) they are completely free to experience the process. They have a greater understanding of all movement as these concepts can be applied to any style of dance or kind of movement in general.
    Next I teach the children specific dance steps. As dancers there are skills they need to learn how to do with proper technique. I would argue, from my experience watching my husband taking his art and design courses in University (he is a graphic designer), that all artists in any discipline do need to learn the techniques of their art. In my classes while I teach my dancers the steps I have them evaluate and analyze each step and apply the concept we are working on. This not only teaches them the skills of the steps but how they can use the creative process to alter the steps. It also takes them to higher levels of thinking and problem solving (based on Blooms Taxonomy).
    After we have explored and learned skills we combine these processes to create. I have seen first hand how it takes my students dancing from a series of memorized steps or a random, unguided free for all, to pieces that are art! They are masterful, thoughtful, creative, and well executed. The students are free to be creative but also feel confident in their skills. They are artists!
    I do a lot of art at home with my girls (thanks at lot to your blog for inspiration). We do many purely processed based explorations, but I also like taking these processes and applying them to more directed projects that do have an outcome in mind. I want my girls to see how they can apply the explorations they have learned to create something specific. I have not seen this stifle their creativity but rather give the ideas of their own. They need my help to learn skills they can’t do on their own. I feel the key is then to give them the space to take the process and skill and create their own art. They need both to be successful.
    On a side note my husband bought my 5 year old daughter a how to draw book as she was going through a similar issue as Maia. She loves the book! It has helped her gain confidence, work on her skills, AND even better I have seen her take the skills she has learned in the book to apply to her own creations. She is feeling confident and loves the process. She may not grow up to be an artist or dancer but I am not concerned about that as they outcome. I want to nurture her creativity as a thinking process she can take to any area of life. I want her to love all fine arts and appreciate how they contribute to our culture. I want her to have hobbies as an adult that are outside the TV and computer that bring her joy! She loves science and wants to be a vet. I believe science and art are the best of friends.
    Sorry this is so long! I love your blog, have read all the comments and enjoy the dialogue they create :)

  • Nikki
    November 12, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    After reading through Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, I found another book by Betty Edwards at our library. It’s called Drawing on the Artist Within: A Guide to Innovation, Invention, Imagination and Creativity. Something in Chapter 1 caught my attention- she calls talent “The Slippery Concept”, where she explains what if teachers assumed (like art) that reading was unteachable, that you had to have a certain “talent” for reading. She says, “If a child asked, “How do you read this?” the teacher would respond, “Just be free! Do what comes into your head. Use your imagination and just enjoy it! Reading should be fun!” Then the teacher would watch and see who showed “talent” for reading… no doubt someone would say, “Oh, yes, Billy is good at reading. The family is quite literate, you know. It’s in the genes, I guess.” Meanwhile, the rest of the children would grow up… “I can’t read. I haven’t any talent for it, and I’m sure I could never learn.”
    I have the privilege to do art with about 40 students (K thru 6) once/week at my childrens’ co-op. Having an Art/Architecture background, I’ve had to step back and look at where my students are coming from. Too free, and some don’t have a clue where to begin. Too restrictive, and some feel trapped. I go back and forth on whether or not to show examples or give steps.
    Betty goes on, “In my work with groups of artistically untrained people, I have discovered that any person of sound mind can learn to draw; the probability is the same as for learning to read. It is simply a matter of learning basice perceptual skills- the special ways of seeing required for drawing. I claim that anyone can learn enough seeing skills to draw a good likeness of something seen “out there” in the real world.”
    I plan to implement some of her exercises, and I used some of Mona Brookes last year, just to loosen the kids up and get them to LOOK. Many students would say, “How DID you DRAW that?” when something looked 3 dimensional, so I taught a quick one point perspective lesson. I find my students still drawing that one over and over in their sketchbooks now, months later!

  • Karen
    November 13, 2011 at 4:24 am

    (As a mother of 3) yes, I agree that parents can be overly concerned.
    However, I believe you are mistaken by calling instructional drawing a “crutch.” Rather see it as a tool. Your free-form artistic teaching methods have really captivated your daughter’s interest. She is at the point where she is ready to branch off of that (by no means going in a direction that will limit or hinder her creativity).
    I am an artist. My husband is a phenomenal musician (a musical genius: very successful & very talented). I would like to draw a few parallels between art & music:
    When learning to play an instrument my husband recommends starting with the individual student (not a particular method) and build gradually, so you do not lose the student in the process. Find out what music they already like and then branch off from that, teaching elements of music where it pertains. It is to their advantage to learn notes, how to read music, scales, elements of composition, etc. Now it is possible that someone would only want to play their own compositions. But this is not common. The majority want to play songs others have written.
    How would you respond if your daughter wanted to play songs someone else had written? If she played the same songs her friends did?
    When your daughter is drawing the same bird over and over, she is practicing, as if it were a song she wanted to know by heart. She is trying to master it.
    Introducing your daughter to realistic drawing instruction is not going to limit artistic creativity, but increase confidence and natural ability. What is important is finding out what it is she wants to learn. Perhaps imitating her friends and wanting her own art to be more realistic are two different things? Perhaps let her look at a few of the books you were interested in getting, and get her opinion on what type of instruction she is seeking at this time.
    ~sincerely wishing you & Maia all the best.

  • [email protected]
    November 13, 2011 at 11:40 am

    I don’t think children should ever feel pressured to create drawings like those in “how to draw books”. But, there are definitive skills involved in making art. You would never expect a young musician to create beautiful, original, music without teaching them the scale. Or how to play twinkle twinkle little star. If Maia wanted to learn carpentry, or sewing, you would give her patterns. We have to learn first how to use a pencil, how to draw a tree, the shapes in a horse, the spacing of features on a face. I think it’s only after mastering the basics in any area that we can ever be truly creative.

  • Emma
    November 13, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    HA! After your post on Thursday, I dug out MY copy of Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Animals (circa 1975!) and drew some of them for the kiddo today. She liked them, but at age 2, she likes to draw all over her hand and arms too!

  • Linda
    November 15, 2011 at 10:10 am

    I am a retired elementary school art teacher and have referred many parents to your excellent blog. The concerns expressed in this interesting thread seem to be that one way or the other would be “better” for encouraging creativity, talent, skill, etc. I think, particularly for young children, the most important thing you are doing for them by providing (any kind of) creative opportunities is building brain cells. The field of neuroscience is fairly new and many people are unaware of the advances science has made in understanding how creative expression and movement (for example) work to build childrens’ brains. Here is a link to an excellent article on the subject: But my point is that no matter what kind of activities you provide for your children, if they are fully engaged in the process of drawing (or painting or singing or dance), their sensory awareness is having positive effects on their brains that will last a lifetime.
    Also, an excellent resource for parents and teachers interested in fostering creativity in children is TAB; Teaching for Artistic Behavior. TAB is an approach to teaching art that offers real choices for expression that are personally meaningful to the children. It will provide you with many avenues for exploring creativity with your children.

  • Leslie
    December 22, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Just saw this post today, oddly enough we just unpacked 20 year old “art plates” made by my kids to set out for Christmas use. As an 18 month old at the time, my son scribbled in four different colors. He made me a welded sculpture last year that is fabulous, and yet he was told by many in elementary school that he “had no art skills”. He will graduate this year as a Mechatronic Engineer.
    My daughter’s plate is one color (fuschia!) with a simple line drawing of a heart with a smiling face. It has a neck that is connected to a box, which looks eerily like ET. She was 3 1/2 at the time and had been “making pictures” for some time. She graduated as a Graphic Designer. For a while she loved architecture and drew elaborate buildings, but realized that math was not her forte and wouldn’t make it through calculus. Now, she “makes the numbers LOOK pretty”!
    My point is this, everyone finds their way if they are allowed to explore and are given encouragement. Both of the kids went through Mona Brooks programs, my daughter loved it, my son was just sort of there… Maybe if there were a welding class for 4 year olds he would have excelled there! Try different media, and don’t forget sculptural. Don’t expect anything, you may not get it. Don’t show disappointment, but don’t lie – “maybe we should try something different?”, encourage exploration. Legos and building blocks are art too!