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by Kip Bradley, Education Studio Programs Manager

While everyone is scrambling to create work-from-home schedules for themselves as well as their kids, don’t forget to schedule in some time to make art—especially for those kids who are getting a little stir crazy. Sketchbooking can be a great way to get out and about with “plenty of social distancing” as well as a generally good habit to encourage art-making.

I am a big advocate for sketchbooking for everyone, especially kids, for many reasons:

1. It’s cheap, easy fun. You can do it with materials you probably have on hand.

2. It can turn any location into a destination or add time to any place you may go to. Bring a sketchbook pencil and small watercolor set and simply add time to the agenda for sketching.

3. The kid’s work is packaged nicely in a book that is easy to save, so you or they can appreciate it later.

4. It’s done outside and the mess stays outside!

Here are some photos of my girls sketching at Fort Pulaski, in Beaufort, and at Bonaventure. Any square or park can become a destination for making art.

Sketchbooking for kids
A small pile of their sketchbooks I pulled off the bookshelf.

Materials are easy—really the best materials are the ones on hand. Markers, pencils, and lined paper can work just fine. I like to hand-make my sketchbooks, but any sketchbook is good. If you plan on using watercolor you will want to look for heavier paper. The sketchbook should say mixed media or watercolor on it. Moleskine sketchbooks are great but a little on the pricey side. I like the 5”x7” sized books because they fit in my back pocket and are easy to carry while juggling kids.


For drawing, I prefer a sharpie, fine tip pen, or mechanical pencil because they are always sharp.

And for the painting, just a Crayola watercolor set will do, preferably one that has a cover. Finally, these water brushes are pretty awesome because you don’t have to pack water separately. The brushes come in three sizes—I only use the large size.


My kids use the same materials I use. The primary idea is that it fits in my back pocket so we can always have it on hand.



Whenever we go somewhere, I like to let the kids run around and do kid things until they get a little tired or bored, then start encouraging them to draw. It’s naturally a good idea to model the behaviors you want from them, so best if you draw with them. I have classes for that at the museum offered every quarter so you should check it out sometime.

Getting kids accustomed to drawing observationally can take a little work. Here are some processes I use:

Start them off with flat things. Ask them to draw a street sign or manhole cover. Then slowly increase the complexity to a small plant or flower, blades of grass, then eventually to the larger scene in front of them. Choosing your location can also be key. I started my girls off with scenes that provide simple patterns like water, marsh grass, and sky. Then we eventually upgrade to more complex locations with winding rivers and bushes, trees, and even people eating at restaurants.

Encourage kids to draw in much the same way they learn to write. Ask them to write a sentence that describes what they see. Then ask them to draw the sentence or rather draw from memory. It’s easy for an adult to feel overwhelmed by the complexity of things around them, but the sentence will help simplify the idea.

Demonstrate that drawing is just a tracing process. Pick a view and use your finger to trace shapes in the air. Start off with big shapes and after your trace the shape in the air ask your child to recreate the movement on the paper with their pencil.

Finally, I always have the kids write the date and place on the sketch so that years from now we can recall the event.

You may be feeling like this is a lot, but I assure you it is easier than you think! Here are some images of the 3,000 Chatham County fourth-graders we sketched with a few years back.

I will note that each kid made four to five sketches in 45-minute classes. We used the “write a sentence, then draw it” process.


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