Drawing with Kids using the Monart Method - Lesson 1 Birds
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Drawing with Kids Using the Monart Method :: Lesson 1 – Birds


Drawing with Kids using the Monart Method - Lesson 1 Birds

My post on Drawing with Kids using the Monart method really seemed to strike a chord. It has been one of my more popular posts lately, both in terms of comments and readership.

The kids and I have continued with the Monart method outlined in Mona Brookes’ book, Drawing with Children, with several small lessons and drawing sessions each week. Sometimes we sit down and do a formal lesson (actually just part of an official lesson since they are rather long—we’re making each stretch out over a week or two) and sometimes we just have a super informal joint drawing session (although elements from the more formal lessons have a way of sneaking in…).

Drawing with Kids Lesson 1b 16

Between the two, there is definitely more of an emphasis on drawing in our house!

Maia and I are now well into lesson 2, but I’m going to backtrack in this post and share the rest of lesson 1 with you as well as answer some of your questions.

I know that some of you are following along with your own kids, and that many of you purchased copies of Drawing with Children since my last post! My plan is to share our experience with the book and provide the tools and inspiration for you to help your kids learn specific drawing skills, if you are interested.

Also, while I’ve decided to start with Mona Brooks’ book, I will incorporate other ideas, methods, exercises, and books throughout.

Drawing with Kids Lesson 1b 06

I want to address one concern that some of you have regarding creativity with the Monart Method.

Some parents are concerned that by teaching specific skills and especially using some of the copying techniques that Mona Brooks suggests, that their children’s creativity will be stunted. I have to admit that this was a concern of mine for a while, as well.

Drawing with Kids Lesson 1b 04

However, after reading and thinking, this is what has swayed me to Mona Brookes’ ideas on drawing with kids:

  1. Mona asserts in her book that giving children the tools to draw accurately actually gives children the confidence and skills to portray what they see and to share their creative ideas with the world.
  2. Kids who have these drawing skills are more likely to continue to draw and to do art beyond age 8 (the age that many kids stop drawing because of lack of skills, confidence, and the de-emphasis in schools on art in the later grades).
  3. It is completely normal for kids to use their accurate drawing skills in one situation yet use symbols and stick figures for quick and creative drawing play. Kids know the difference and one doesn’t interfere with the other.

Drawing with Kids - Shapes Exercise

Each lesson is begun with a warm up exercise that involves drawing the 5 shapes and lines (dots, circles, straight lines, curved lines, and angles) in various combinations and patterns.

Drawing with Kids Lesson 1b 12

And, unlike the first skills level test that involved copying the shape combos exactly, these are very free form and everyone’s version is completely unique and creative!

The warm up drawing exercises go something like this:

  • Choose two fine-tipped markers and draw three straight lines on the paper, in any direction, starting and stopping at the edge of the page.
  • Choose three broad-tipped markers and draw five dots of any size, with at least two of the dots intersecting lines.
  • Choose one broad-tipped marker and draw an angle line starting and ending at the edge of the paper.
  • Choose a fine-tipped marker and fill in at least two of the empty spaces with a pattern of straight lines.

Drawing with Kids Lesson 1b 03

Maia and I have been LOVING this part! As has her friend Stella, who joined us for one of the exercises. And even Daphne has really gotten into it.

Drawing with Kids Lesson 1b 23

Once we do a warm up exercise, we segue into one of the drawing lessons. This first one was a simple bird.

Drawing with Kids Lesson 1b 20

Now, the drawing lessons are very step-by-step, which can feel wonderful to someone who doesn’t feel like they have a clue how to draw, or can possibly feel a little stifling to someone who is experienced at drawing and confident in their skills.

I think it’s important to remember the main point of Drawing with Children here, which is to learn:

  1. Ways to connect specific shapes and lines into a recognizable figure.
  2. Show a child how to draw something, such as a bird, that they can then replicate so that they “own” that drawing in a way and have the confidence to recreate it.
  3. Provide the basic steps to draw something that can be built off of and provide the basis for variation.
  4. As children learn the step-by-step instructions for drawing a few different specific things, I think they’ll start owning the whole process and that the drawing skills for these specific items will start to spill over into other items and areas until they are using those skills to draw anything they like, any way they like.

Drawing with Kids Maias Bird Drawing

Maia, who has plenty of self-confidence (usually) and a 7-year-old’s sense of humor, scratched out her first “by the book” bird and decided to create a silly bird with a very long beak, tiny body, a cherry on top,  singing “ainty dainty doodle,” and eating a banana, all the while still following the drawing instructions as written.

Maias Bird Drawing

I don’t think I need to worry about her feeling stifled by drawing instructions any time soon.

Drawing with Kids Lesson 1b 31

My own bird drawing seems somewhat tame in comparison. :)

How about you? Have you tried any of the drawing exercises in Drawing with Children (or another drawing book)? What do you think?

Follow along on the Drawing with Kids series:

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  • Reply
    March 21, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    I just picked Mona Brooke’s book up from the Library yesterday and started reading it! I’m really excited to start exploring it with my 7- and 5-year-old. :) Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Reply
    March 21, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    I love this! Maybe we should get the book. Stella has been asking us to have family drawing together and talking about the warm ups.
    Maybe we should do it tonight after dinner. thanks so much for continuing to encourage me as a parent to stay engaged in the creative process as our children age.

  • Reply
    MaryAnn F. Kohl, art book author
    March 21, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Wonderful, Jean. There’s a time for lessons, and this is your kids’ time! It will help them see differently and that is just amazing. I’ve heard good things about Monart, though I have not tried it. Maybe I will?!

  • Reply
    March 21, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    I love the Monart method and I suggest it as required reading for my Teaching Art e-courses. It’s a fantastic approach to helping us “see” things. I have my opinions on drawing because drawing has been my life long passion. As a kid, I traced, copied, drew from observation and my imagination…I did everything. Teaching drawing skills is entirely separate from developing creativity. I encourage those who ask, not to judge a child’s expression of art, whether he traces everything, draws only from books or looks to nature for inspiration. It’s theirs to do with what they will. Instruction won’t hurt creativity…nothing will actually. Creativity is inherent and trumps everything! Love your daughter’s process. Such a joy to see!

  • Reply
    Sandra Vince
    March 21, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Oh!! I have this book! I was totally intimidated by working through this with the kids, but I think I’m going to pull it out again. My daughter is 7 and and she’s very into drawing and art.
    I love how you’ve distilled it down a bit and your colour pictures make it even more inspiring. I think I see a trip to the art supply store in our near future especially since we are on spring break right now.

  • Reply
    Emily M.
    March 21, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    Okay. Have been following and thinking about this since you first posted. You’ve convinced me to order the book. Mostly because of my 8-year-old son. When he was maybe 4 or 5 he started drawing all the time. And was pretty darn good at it, from my perspective, considering his age. But after a year or so he completely stopped because he was SOOOOOO frustrated when things didn’t look how he wanted. He rarely draws anymore, and when he does it has none of the complexity and details that his drawings did when he was 4-5ish years old. It breaks my heart a little bit. Maybe some more formal instruction will help, if we can stick with it (oy, that’s a pretty big if, I must admit). Should be interesting, because my own drawing skills are exactly on par with his at this point. Anyway, thanks for this.

  • Reply
    March 21, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    I have had this on the bookshelf for a few months and had the same concerns about teaching children to draw. However I am re-reading it and think this Spring I will begin the lessons with my 7 and 9 year old.

  • Reply
    March 21, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    Hi Jean,
    I must have missed the first post on this. Is this something that Daphne is also doing? My daughter is the same age so I was just wondering if it was okay to start this with her now or wait a while. Thanks!

  • Reply
    March 21, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    This looks really cool! I was wondering what ages do you think this would be good for? My kids are pretty young, so I don’t think this would be something we’d start anytime soon, but I’m definitely interested at some point in the future :)

  • Reply
    Jeanette Nyberg
    March 21, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    I’m so excited you are posting on this! I’ve had a copy of this book lying around forever, and I keep meaning to post on us working through the chapters, but….. haven’t gotten around to it yet. I think we’ll wait for the summer, but I’m looking forward to following your progression. By the way, I think the ainty dainty doodle drawing is awesome. Why wouldn’t a bird have a cherry on its’ head, anyway?

  • Reply
    Fiona Wood
    March 21, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    Hi Jean, first may I say I just LOVE your blog! I only discovered it a few months ago and I’m addicted. Actually you were inspiration for me to start up something I had been thinking about for a while – after school art classes to nourish children’s creativity. Thank you so much! The classes have been a huge hit and I’m totally in my element and having the most fun I have had in ages. You even inspired me to start up my own blog (I mention you all the time). As an amazing coincidence (or not) I also recently purchased this book ( Patty from Deep Space Sparkle recommended it in her wonderful Teaching Art 101 class which I recently did) and I’m doing the lessons with my children. I was also hesitant to teach them how to draw worrying it would stifle their own creativity yet after a lot of research into art lessons for children I have come to conclusion that some instruction is actually beneficial. Your comments in this post sum it up beautifully. Thanks once again, keep the wonderful posts flowing.

  • Reply
    March 21, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    I’m curious if this book would be appropriate for a 5 year old. I hate to say it, but my son is not very artistic and never enjoys just sitting down to draw. I wonder if I did these lessons with him, if he’d enjoy art more.

  • Reply
    March 22, 2013 at 7:00 am

    Art and music are both creative outlets for children. I wonder why music lessons and private lessons at that, are more commonplace and acceptable? I think teaching children any skill is important and drawing will aid them. Thank you for your blog, I’m really enjoying it.

  • Reply
    Amanda Volenec Anderson
    March 22, 2013 at 11:47 am

    I”ve had this book for several years (three or four?) and never could quite wrap my mind around how to use it. Thanks for inspiring me to pick it up and try again!

  • Reply
    March 22, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Thanks so much for your reply Jean! We are so enjoying the e-book and every time I hear Naomi say, “let’s do an art project mommy” I am so thankful and appreciative of your blog and thoughtful hard work and care you put into it.

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    March 22, 2013 at 10:11 am

    You’re welcome, Gini! I hope you enjoy it!

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    March 22, 2013 at 10:11 am

    No problem, Molly! I think that you and Stella will enjoy the book. :)

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    March 22, 2013 at 10:12 am


  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    March 22, 2013 at 10:13 am

    That’s soo good to hear, Patty! Instruction won’t hurt creativity!

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    March 22, 2013 at 10:14 am

    Glad you find the post inspiring, Sandra, and that you’ll give the book another try. I think 7 is a great age for it.
    Btw, we’re due for a trip to the art supply store, too!! Time for a new set of markers, I think…

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    March 22, 2013 at 10:15 am

    Emily — I hope you give the book a try. Both for you and for your son. It sounds like it might be helpful for both of you. And please let me know how it goes!!

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    March 22, 2013 at 10:17 am

    Go for it, Rosemarie! And if you haven’t already, read the comment above by Patty from Deep Space Sparkle. It’s not instruction that blocks creativity. (It’s judgement, in my opinion…)

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    March 22, 2013 at 10:20 am

    Dena, Daphne was not at all interested when we did it the first time around, but she’s gotten into the warm up exercises (shapes,line, color) probably mostly because that’s what we’re doing and she wants to be involved. Mona Brooks does say that some three year olds are ready for this sort of instruction, but my feeling is that Daphne is not ready for the step by step drawing lessons. Your child may be different. The book is very interesting to read — I would suggest picking up a copy and giving the first couple of chapters a read. If nothing else, you could start identifying the give main shapes in your environment with your daughter and talking about the shapes that things are made up of.

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    March 22, 2013 at 10:23 am

    Anna, I think it depends. Mona Brooks talks about doing this with kids as young as three. I’d give the book a read — at least the first couple of chapters. Your library probably has it. Personally, I don’t feel that Daphne (age 3) is ready for this yet as she’s mostly still scribbling with only the occasional face or mandala drawing. I’d rather have her explore her own early drawing progression on her own and then bring in more formal instruction later on if she requests it (as Maia has) or shows frustration at her ability to draw something she’d like to draw.

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    March 22, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Exactly! Why wouldn’t a bird have a cherry on its head?! :) I hope you enjoy the book when you get to it this summer.

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    March 22, 2013 at 10:25 am

    Thanks so much, Fiona, for your kind words and for sharing your own story! I would love to learn more about your after school art classes!!

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    March 22, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Krista, Every child is so completely different, it’s hard to say. But the book is geared toward that age, if you want to give it a try. It’s a very interesting read, for one thing, and your library probably has a copy.

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    March 22, 2013 at 10:28 am

    I’ve wondered about that myself, Ruth. People seem to expect art skills to develop on their own, whereas music skills are commonly taught.
    Glad you like my blog!

  • Reply
    March 22, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    We just checked it out from the library and E has been begging to get started. I haven’t even had a chance to read much of it yet but I did copy the level 1 exercise and she whipped through that in no time and asked for more. Looks like I have some reading to do! I’m so glad you recommended this, she is definitely ready to move to the next level. I’ll be interested to see what other methods and resources you reference, I feel like I am always learning something new here. xo

  • Reply
    March 22, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    I have another book that I have been using with my little girl and which I used when I was a child. it is very intersting and easy to follow but would love your opinion.
    here it is

  • Reply
    March 22, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    Very interesting! My child is only 2 and a half, but I do find myself wondering how to keep art going in later years. I know I am creative, yet I’d be one of those to say I “can’t draw” and feel self-conscious about it. I did push myself to take Drawing I in college with a friend and I’m still glad I did it, although it didn’t come easy. Offering instruction before this anxiety takes hold is probably a good idea if the kid is interested in it as your daughter is.

  • Reply
    Child care in nj
    March 25, 2013 at 7:57 am

    What a wonderful teaching art!Looks like I have some reading to do! I’m so glad you.I love this. I can’t wait, my second will be here in october and my boy will turn three in February.So I must learn to my child.I think any skill is important for our children and drawing will aid them.

  • Reply
    March 28, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    I’m doing the book with my daughter and son right along with you! It’s been a wonderful experience so far.
    I wasn’t too sure how to go about the bird exercise. Did you read the instructions out loud without visuals or did you also need to show the examples of the bird on the side of the page to your kids? The instructions seem so hard to just read out loud and expect kids to know what you mean without showing the pictures on the side. Just curious how you went about it.
    Also, are you doing the no eraser thing?
    Thanks for the inspiration! Look forward to your next post!!!

  • Reply
    March 30, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Hi! I perfectly agree with your considerations on creativity. Children need to express themselves freely, but having some tools is helpful too!!
    I developed a drawing game with my 5 years old daughter. You have to draw in turn a circle-sqaure-circle (or other forms of your choice) and it’s surprising the effects you can obtain… after a while you start ‘seeing’ things amongst or inside the forms and and you develop a drawing quite simply…
    This post also reminded me of Reynold’s book – ISH and THE DOT –
    don’t you think?
    thanks for sharing!!

  • Reply
    April 10, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    We just picked the first edition of this book up at a used book store. So excited! I’ve started working through it, having my kiddo (7yo daughter) jump in here and there, but we are in transit for the next couple weeks, so we’re not able to set up the designated creative area. I can see where the benefit would be in having a designated space, but for now, the couch works just fine.
    Thanks for suggesting the book!

  • Reply
    Chele Troutman
    April 27, 2013 at 8:21 am

    Just saw this post today and wanted to chime in. I have been using this book for years and it is the best (out of many) for inspiring and unlocking creative potential. I thought about opening a school but in talking to Mona Brooks realized our town doesn’t have the population to support it. So my girls and some other home school families are using the book and seeing some amazing art. My kids have no “art fear” and have the confidence to apply their skills to many areas of creativity. The exercises have helped them “see” differently. As an artist who just can’t get enough this method is full of possibilities and I highly recommend it.

  • Reply
    barbara masoner
    May 11, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    Your posts and experience give me encouragement as I plan on using this summer to begin the book with several grandchildren! I’ve loved the method for years, wished I’d learned this way, and now will slow down and try again with my dear grands. Thank you! I’ll be checking out your book, too.

  • Reply
    October 4, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    I LOVE Mona Brooks. I had the opportunity to attend a free drawing session of hers at our local Barnes and Nobel. After years and years of never trying to draw because I knew that wasn’t a talent of mine, I walked out with an awesome ink drawing of a toucan in hibiscus…I cried tears of joy and my self-esteem rose greatly. And I will never forget how all the other participants (who happened to be art teachers) laughed at me when I showed my first attempt that looked more like a penguin than a toucan. She silenced them all and then calmly walked me through my 2nd attempt. She’s awesome. :-).

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