Observational Drawing | Day 21 – 30 Days to TYP

Observational Drawing - 30 Days to Transform Your Play {An Everyday Story}

Observational Drawing - 30 Days to TYP {An Everyday Story}

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Hope you all had a wonderful weekend. We’re into the last ten days of our 30 Days to Transform Your Play series. Today we are talking about observational drawing.

Observational drawing is not about creating a flawless likeness of a subject; like all languagespainting, sculpting, dance, drama, music… – it is another way for children to make their thinking visible.

Observational Drawing - An Everyday StoryUsing watercolour pencils - a blue wren - An Everyday StoryThe subject of an observational drawing set-up can be anything of interest to the child at the present moment; often you’ll see arrangements of flowers or natural materials collected from walks and other experiences.

However it really can be anything; we’ve taken our sketchbooks to different architecturally interesting buildings when Jack was interested in buildings, we’ve observed native birds as part of an on-going project, we’ve used our model skeleton to explore our bodies, we’ve even sat down to sketch the floor polishing machine at our local indoor sports centre.

This Homeschool Week - Child-led Homeschooling from An Everyday Story Drawing in the Morning - An Everyday StoryObservational drawings can be something as simple as a provoking image in a book; Jack is hugely inspired by machines and inventions at the moment, or a more intentional invitation using materials inspired by the changing seasons or materials gathered from a recent field-trip or bush walk.

Setting Up

At home:

  • Choose your subject – what has your child been exploring lately?
  • Arrange your materials – use transparent vases, simple trays or a mirror to display your materials
  • Choose your drawing materials – sharpened quality coloured pencils, fine-tipped markers, watercolour pencils
    • fine-tipped markers are wonderfully satisfying for children. They create a nice dark line while being fine enough to allow for increasingly intricate details in their drawings.
    • arrange them invitingly with some paper
  • Ask questions, talk together about the subject but resist directing their work and telling them how to draw. We want to encourage our children to draw what they see and show them we value their ideas
  • Take note of any new questions your child asks during their drawing – you can use these to explore further

Out and about:

Outdoor art basket  An Everyday StoryProject 52 - snippets of our Reggio-inspired preschool homeschoolObservational art while out and about is one of our favourite things to do. I pack the kids their visual journals (K-mart have reasonably priced journals) and some art supplies:

  • coloured pencils
  • fine-tipped markers
  • watercolour pencils
  • block watercolours and a brush and
  • a clear container for water

Set yourself up when inspiration strikes.

BUT… My child doesn’t like drawing…

I think a love of drawing; sketching, mapping out ideas and representing them, grows like a love of reading. Similarly to learning to read though, I also think that learning to draw needs to be a relaxed and meaningful experience with no external pressure to create a specific product.

At first your child might not draw their subject, they might be inspired to use the colours for something else. This is ok. Talk with them about their drawings; this will give you more of an idea of what they are interested in drawing.


  • create an observational drawing set-up for your child based on their interests or a recent experience
  • leave the exploration out for the week
  • after each drawing session, talk to your child about their drawings; encouraging them to articulate their ideas and clarify their theories – you can use these to make any changes to the invitation (the subject) over the week

Come and share your set-up on Facebook or on Instagram using #30daystyp

If you missed a post, here’s the rest of the series.

Don’t forget to check out Rachel’s posts on Racheous – Lovable Learning

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Observational Drawing - 30 Days to Transform Your Play {An Everyday Story}

5 Replies to “Observational Drawing | Day 21 – 30 Days to TYP”

  1. I am loving this series Kate! It is really wonderful! Jack seems to be an avid artist – his interpretations of the world are fascinating. How does Sarah go with this kind of activity being younger? I am looking forward to the time when Ginger will begin to draw shapes and pictures.

  2. Our 2,5-year-old does not like drawing much, eve though I have introduced him a lot of different materials. He likes to paint though, so I think it’s just matter of time… I love the idea of drawing outside! Have to try that when it gets warm enough here.

  3. Thanks Kate I’m a fan of yours! I love your blog and have admired Jack’s work for a long time. My child is nearly 3. I wonder how you got started. My daughter can draw lines but she’s reluctant to draw in a representational way. If she wants something she asks, “how to you draw x?” and she is persistent until I show her. I tried to encourage her to try it herself first but she wouldn’t. Our education system here (in Asia) is fairly rigid and it could be that she got the idea to distrust herself already from daycare and always look to adult’s help…Any ideas? Or is it just a matter of time?

  4. Thanks for this series Kate, I’ve really been enjoying it. I like Rebecca am curious about encouraging my 2.5 year old daughter to draw and create. (We do this a few times a week, but I’d love to extend it both in quantity/time and quality/focus/explorattion). Right now she is into ballerinas, mermaids, princesses and the like. I want to embrace her enthusiasm and not just dismiss it or squelch it because it is ‘girly’ or not my cup of tea, but direct her excitement/play in this area into more meaningful learning experience.This seems to be what she is gravitating towards on her own – we recently took a beach vacation (hence the mermaids) and she love to dance, which we encourage. What do you recommend for a representational drawing provocation? I’m thinking her mermaid dolls and seashells, or a artist mannequin along side some ballet books/figure sketches…am I on the right track? Also, what materials do you suggest at this age? Thank you! Love your blog!

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