Let’s Play: Keeping the Childhood Love of Drawing Alive!

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Free Draw for Free Play

For a few years I was experimenting with effective drawing projects and trying to spread a love and excitement for art with college freshman. I asked each new group of students why they came to art school and why they thought friends stopped drawing and making things. Some had never thought about it. It was just what they did. They assumed others felt the same way whether they majored in art or biology or English. It just happened. Once or twice a semester there would be an 18 year old that honestly sought out art. They lived it. They grew up surrounded by art. They went to museums with their families. They read art theory books. They could not imagine life without it in some way. Those were the challenging ones. I had to be ready for them each class. They were beyond the basics of learning perspective and balance. I had to amaze and inspire them. These few were also the most thoughtful about the path that brought them to art school. They remembered a moment or time from childhood that making things became a part of their everyday. Usually at a young age—by third or fourth grade, adults or peers went out of the way to praise their drawing efforts. The book Drawing With Children also mentions this and goes deeper into the how and why. The children without that encouragement stopped and focused on other pursuits. This saddens me that the childhood love of making can easily disappear without peer approval. I am a true believer that anyone can learn to draw with practice. Not everyone will have a solo show in NYC but you can learn to observe and draw a tree in your yard or love to create just for the sake of creating.

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This month I challenge you to keep the childhood love of drawing alive at your house. Get big paper. Tape it down to that end of the table where the papers of life and random toys usually stack up by the end of the week. Clean those off first. Leave the paper there for at least a week. Put out a box of pencils and markers. Make a mark or two if the kids at your house need a jump start. Draw anything. Paste down a photo of grandma’s head and draw her a new crazy body. Give her a lion’s tail or bunny ears. Watch to see what happens. Eliminate judgements on others’ creations. Don’t go crazy with praise or comparisons. Make drawing something you just do at your house—a part of every day. Hopefully with a tiny bit of effort on your part the kids will make it past the third grade wall where many stop the making.

March Collections

  • Big sheets of paper (at least 30×40 inches). Check your local art supply for the good quality heavier weights or pick up a roll of kid easel paper.
  • pencils, crayons, markers, & color pencils.
  • A big, flat surface to leave work out on, such as a spot on the floor or the dining room table.

March Book Resources

The following children’s books by Peter H. Reynolds are some of our favorites. They will bring a new light to your idea of what drawing and painting are about.

March Web Resources


Carrie St. JohnCarrie St. John

Carrie was born, raised and attended university in Michigan. As a child she rode bikes and explored her rural neighborhood freely with siblings and neighbor kids. Mom and Dad never worried. The kids always made it home after hours wading in the creek and climbing trees in the woods. After college she moved to Kyoto, Japan to study traditional Japanese woodblock printing. In 1995, she began a career at a small Chicago firm designing maps and information graphics. Life brought a move to Northampton in 2001. Carrie completed her MFA at UMass in 2004. Her little love, Sophia, was born in 2005. The two live in downtown Northampton where they constantly make things, look forward to morning walks to school and plan each spring for additions to their plot at the community garden. Carrie continues to do freelance work for clients here and in Chicago.

One Comment on “Let’s Play: Keeping the Childhood Love of Drawing Alive!

  1. Yes! Most kids by 4th grade will point to only ONE child in their class as “the artist”. The arts develop creativity in all areas of life and need nurturing to stay alive. Consider creative experiences at local museums/ art schools if you can’t stand the mess at home!

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