Children love to draw. At a very early age, mark-making is one of the first things a toddler will do with a pencil or marker. And this mark-making is the pre-cursor for drawing and writing. When they become preschoolers, they begin to draw their own face and start to notice details that make up all sorts of objects. As elementary schoolers, they become so proud of how they can draw houses and trees and animals and, for my son, sports logos!
Somewhere along the way, children compare too much and start to think they aren’t good at drawing. They turn into adults who think they can’t draw. But drawing is very much something that you can learn. The secret it, you don’t have to draw perfectly. Drawings have so much more interest and soul when they are imperfect.
These books are almost all on my shelves. They range from still-life drawings, open-ended drawing, drawing prompts, doodling, and even more instructional drawing that can help an older child or adult loosen up and get back into drawing again.
Let’s start with…
Open-Ended and Observational Drawing Exploration
Drawing Workshop for Kids by Samara Caughey
Samara has the most amazing blog called Purple Twig, and her Instagram is equally captivating. She recently wrote her first book and it follows in the same tradition of process over product. It’s filled with projects that teach drawing techniques through experimentation and exploration. This allows children to find their own approach, style, and voice which builds creative confidence. Best for ages 7-14.
Water Paper Paint, by Heather Smith Jones
With a blend of creative exercises and more in-depth projects, this book explores the medium of water color but also incorporates drawing, stenciling, and printing. I love this book to use as art journal prompts, too. Best for ages 8-100.
Drawing Prompts and Doodles
Invitation to Draw, by Jean Van’t Hul
Jean’s latest book is filled fun, funny, and quirky drawing prompts that encourage creative thinking. Each page has a starter drawing which then prompts you to embellish. This book is great for those who are a little intimidated by drawing, or who need some prompts to free up their long-forgotten drawing muscles. Jean also has a wonderful blog called The Artful Parent, and has written two other popular children’s art books, The Artful Parent and The Artful Year. Best for ages 8-100.
Fotoplay! by M. J. Bronstein
This is such a fun activity book that blends realism and fantasy. It’s rare to find a book like this that uses photos as prompts to spark the imagination. It’s smart and funny and gets kids to think outside of the lines. Great for road trips or vacation days. (You can also just find pictures from magazines and use them as drawing starters.) Best for age 5 and up.
These two books are the most open-ended with a collection of offbeat and clever drawing prompts, leaving every page blank except for the words: a rolling pin, a robot, a pickle, a water tower, a hammock, a wasp, a safety pin, a kiss. It’s more like a blank journal giving you ideas of what to draw. It’s perfect for that child or teen who loves to draw from memory. Best for ages 4 and up.
Tangle Art & Drawing Games for Kids, by Jeanette Nyberg
My friend, Jeanette, wrote a book that is fun for the whole family! I know that sounds awfully cliché, but it’s just so true I had to say it. The book is filled with games that can be played alone or with a buddy or with a group. Her writing is just so funny and each page has a simple but clever drawing idea. It would be a fantastic book to take on a family vacation. All you need is a pencil! Best for ages 6 and up.
Let’s Make Some Great Fingerprint Art, by Marion Deuchars
I came across this old-school fingerprint book by illustrator Marion Deuchars and it sparked something in me. I loved making fingerprint animals when I was a growing up! Did you? I hope to inspire my teens with this nostalgic way to make little creatures. Best for ages 6 and up.
Ed Emberly Drawing Books, Make a World, Animals, and Faces
I could not make a list of drawing books without including award winner, Ed Emberly. I would spend hours as a kid drawing all the little animals. I still have one of them on my shelf! Using just shapes and lines, these drawings are definitely more prescriptive and instructional, but it’s sometimes worthwhile to give your child a drawing book that reminds them that drawing can be fun. Ed Emberly books are perfect for the reluctant artist. Best for ages 8 and up.
(Ed Emberly Photos via Trula Kids.)
20 Ways to Draw a Tree, by Eloise Renouf
This book is instructional and I’m kind of obsessed with it. Especially the mushroom page. If you need some practice drawing nature, this book is perfect. Once you build your confidence and learn how to draw over 900 different nature objects, you will feel ready to draw these things on your own. It’s the boost some of us need to get back into drawing. Best for ages 8 and up.
I will keep adding as I find more…and leave suggestions in the comments, too!