Observational Drawing For Kids

Close up of a child holding a bunch of crayons.

In a nutshell, observational art is simply; "drawing what you see," it's a realistic portrayal of what's in front of you. This skill has so many benefits, as well as developing you and your child's drawing skills, it also improves accuracy and concentration.

It's the perfect drawing activity for all ages from; toddlers to teens and you can get involved too, it's fun to decide what to draw and see how you all interpret the same object.

What is Observational drawing?

The beauty of observational drawing for kids is that they are simply drawing what's in front of them and the subject can be anything from; a flower, a person, still life, like a bowl of fruit or a landscape. As long as the representation is a realistic portrayal, then they are on the right lines.

If you're looking for inspiration, search around your house for every-day objects.  Examples include; a candle, an egg, an orange, it doesn't have to be anything complicated, it's better to start with something you feel you can draw, rather than feeling frustrated.  So, now you are ready to start.

Materials Needed


Pencils, a range of  2B  and 3B


Pencil sharpener

A subject

What to look out for...

Pick a subject or item which you find interesting, put it in front of you and take time to really study it, the object could be as simple as a tomato cut in half, consider the following;


Shapes and Pattern

Colours and contours


Light and shade


For example, If you are drawing a banana, consider its shape, any imperfections (like bruising), colour differentiation, texture and tone. Start with doing a loose outline, try to make it as accurate as you can, considering its position on the page and perspective, so if the banana is next to a jug, make sure it is in proportion. You don't want to see a giant banana next to a tiny jug!

Look back and forth between the object you are drawing and your paper as many times as you can, ensuring you are portraying the subject as accurately as you can.

Now, consider detail, shading and pattern and colour.

If you make a mistake, don't worry, rub it out, once happy with your outline, you can start shading.

Don't rush the drawing, the beauty of observational drawing is that you are taking your time and really looking at the smaller details, which would normally be overlooked.

A common error, made, even by experienced artists, is drawing what you think you see, rather than what you are actually seeing. The purpose of this activity is to really focus and to make your artistic interpretation as realistic as possible.

Helpful Tips and Ideas

Don’t rush: Take time, the beauty of your kids doing drawing activities at home, rather than at school is they are not under pressure to finish in a fixed time frame. If they can only draw for 40 minutes, that's fine, they can always re-visit the next day and add more detail.

Art is subjective: This means, there is no right or wrong, especially when kids are developing their own style, they should feel free to express themselves, without being overly criticised and feeling too self-conscious.

Practice makes perfect: Build up confidence by practising and trying out different techniques, some may work better than others.

Learn by your mistakes: Mistakes are part of learning and without the mistakes, you can't improve, so if you're not happy with what you have drawn, that's fine just rub it out or start again.

Observational Drawing For Kids

Different Techniques

Even the most professional artists use observational drawings to help improve their technique.

Cross Hatching

This is an artistic technique used to create tonal shading, lines are placed as an angle to one another. This can be used by varying the length and angle, using the pencil.


Be aware, real objects don't have bold, dark lines around them, so try and avoid this.

Observational Drawing For Kids

How to best support your kids with still life art

Be encouraging, and try not to be too critical as this will only knock their confidence.

Ask your child how they think their picture can be improved, share ideas. If the drawing looks "made up" it won't be realistic and so point out what makes the object what it is, look at the details, it could be the small crack in the bowl, the tiny dents in the orange, the pips in the tomato.

Observational drawing is a wonderful way to get kids to focus and wind down, particularly beneficial for children who may be anxious or have problems concentrating.

Learning how to draw shouldn't be a chore, it should be a  pleasure, so make ensure the timing is right and your child is relaxed and in the right mind frame.

You don't need to spend a fortune on expensive art materials, an A4 piece of paper, pencils, crayons and paints are all you need, hopefully, items you already have around the house.

Giving gentle suggestions will help your child learn and build upon the drawing skills, they already know.

Hold an Exhibition

Host an art exhibition and share your new art skills with your child's family and friends.

Give your child's best artwork to a grandparent, elderly relative or neighbour to cheer them up, a unique, personal gift they can put on their wall.

Don't forget to get your child to sign their masterpiece, it might be worth a fortune one day!



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