Drawing Kids Arts and Crafts Activities

What if Your Child Wants YOU to Draw for THEM?


Several of you have asked me how to respond when your toddler or preschooler asks you to draw something specific for them, such as trucks or trains or circles. I have been stumped about this myself. Maia sometimes asks us to draw specific things as well, although more usually she asks us to write the names of family and friends, and we usually do on request but have wondered if we were doing the right thing.

So I asked Susan Striker for her suggestions.

JEAN: Hi Susan, several parents have asked me how they should respond when their toddlers ask them to draw something specific for them. One mother said that her 20 month old drew an approximate circle, called it a circle, then asked her to draw a circle too. The mother said she was confused as to how she should respond.

Another mother said that her almost-3-year-old son frequently asked her and her husband to draw firetrucks, and she also said that she wasn't sure how to respond, especially after reading your interview.

Is this something you could answer for me and for my readers?

SUSAN: I tell parents NEVER to entertain their children by drawing for them. Best to say "let's both draw" and to let loose and scribble.

Maybe with a red crayon while making a siren sound. The lines of the scribble could be the route the truck is taking to the next fire. Say things like "hurry up, we have to get to the fire" and "Now let's go around the other way"…all the time scribbling.

Hand your child a crayon and say "you have to help get the truck to the fire" and as soon as you can, stop scribbling yourself and let the child take over.

For the circle problem, I would simply say, yes, that is round like a circle. If I absolutely could not get the child to stop the requests, I would take the crayon and scribble, going round and round in circular motions. Good time to talk about all the things we know that are round. Maybe while this is going on, sing "Ring around the rosy."

Thanks, Susan, for the ideas and for being a wonderful resource for us! For more information about Susan or her books, see www.susanstriker.com.


  • Reply
    February 9, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    So glad you had this post! I am constantly being asked by my 2yr old daughter to ‘draw kitty’, ‘draw bird’, etc. etc…..and she really doesn’t let up until I do it, and sometimes actually throws a fit if I try to get her to do it instead of me! I will definatly be trying some of the suggestions you have given–thank you!

  • Reply
    February 9, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    Such wisdom! We’re past the scribbling stage, but I can see application to my kids’ stages.

  • Reply
    February 9, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    This is so helpful, thank you. It is something that came up in my teaching a lot (how much to model and scaffold vs allowing kids to have creativity) with older kids, writing not art, and I have struggled with this for years with my kids. Thanks for the concrete suggestions via Susan Striker. I so appreciate your asking her this question, Artful Parent!

  • Reply
    February 9, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    It is always great to get new ideas of how to interact with the children, thanks for sharing. I have only just come across your blog and love your approach to children.

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    February 10, 2008 at 3:23 am

    Brilliant response! Thanks so much for this! (And your blog in general, I am so happy to have found it.)
    Have you talked about the use of easels? We have one of those double sided easels but my son is only two – isn’t it a bit early? For some reason I have it in my head that it is a good idea to use it yet but I am not sure why or if it is true.

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    February 10, 2008 at 3:38 am

    Does she say why she is so against drawing to entertain kids? I talked for him before he could talk. I danced for him before he could dance. What’s wrong with drawing for him before he can draw? My mom drew and painted for us, and now two of us are artists.

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    February 10, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    I’m not sure that I agree either, and would also like to know why she is so against it. I draw for my girls all the time. I draw whole families of mermaids, which they then color, cut out and play with like paper dolls.
    Now that they are 5 and 7, they are drawing their own mermaids, following my example. My drawing skills have improved considerably, which I consider a bonus. And, I always feel like you must DO the things you want your children to do.
    I would like more explanation too…

  • Reply
    February 11, 2008 at 1:38 am

    what a load of rubbish! Why can’t you draw for your child? Any normal person would of course try and get their child to help. They’re only young for heaven’s sake, plus children learn by copying. Sometimes I thinnk child behaviour is OVER analised. People need to step back and hear the questions they are asking!!

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    February 11, 2008 at 9:05 am

    I didn’t want to sound argumentative in my comment, I just wonder what her reasoning is. I do think it’s important to remember that these are just theories and everyone is entitled to their own. So far, I like Mona Brookes’ theories better, but I still plan on reading Young at Art to find out more of what Striker has to say. (Afterall, I keep both Ferber and Sears on my bookshelf – they each have their own valid points)

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    February 11, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    I think it’s the “NEVER” in her answer that is jarring. I agree that there are lots of valid approaches to childrearing. I checked out Striker’s website and feel like I understand her better. I think the most important thing is to educate yourself and then to follow your own parenting instincts.

  • Reply
    February 11, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    My 2.5yo loves for me to draw with him, b/c he loves for me to do EVERYTHING with him. :) We’re pals that way. One lead I’ve taken from Kindermusik is often the teacher will pass out some kind of instrument (like wooden sticks) and have the kids explore. She says to the parents, don’t tell them how to play it, just follow their lead. So when E and I are drawing together sometimes I just kind of follow his lead. He picks colors out for me and then we have at it.
    He also likes it when I draw a car for him or a face. He also LOVES for me to write the letters; he can sign the whole alphabet, so he signs the letter and has me write it. And I view these more as language opportunities than art opportunities. *shrug*

  • Reply
    July 31, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    Great ideas. I got a lot from Young At Art but the NEVERS were a turnoff–and not so awful things to do, after all. We went through a heavy phase of my daughter, who was watching Sesame Street in her 2s as we dealt with providing hospice care in our home, wanting me to draw the characters over and over and over. I finally got her a coloring book to decorate even though I’m not a huge fan of them in general. She’s 5 and behind where I thought she would be in drawing by now, but I think it’s more due to slow fine motor development tendencies in her dad’s family and ALL the process-based art we’ve done instead of focussing on drawing! The point is though that just as having her watch TV (which I never intended to do) didn’t kill her imagination, neither did drawing for her stop her from figuring out how to draw or make her feel bad about her ability.
    The absolute best drawing activities we do now involve me drawing part of a picture, and having her do parts I know she can do. Even as a toddler she enjoyed scribbling the hair or fur or ocean water or grass on a picture. She was proud to have made something with me. She LOVES drawing the face on.

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