Tag Archives: drawing

Wait for it…


As a parent educator, I often tell my students: we can’t make our children do something before they’re developmentally ready. We can encourage them, provide opportunities to try a new skill, model behavior, try praise and punishment to motivate them, and create an environment that encourages them to master that skill. But sometimes, we just have to wait for them to be ready.

Sometimes when it comes to raising my own kids, the advice I give to other parents just flies out of my head…

Just 4 weeks ago, I was despairing that my child would ever want to write or draw anything. He is five years old, and was about to start kindergarten. Yet, I could count on one hand the number of times he’d attempted to draw a picture. The only time he would write was if we made him do it to earn something. “Want a chocolate Kiss? OK, write the word kiss and you can have it.” His grandma started paying him a penny for every letter he writes for her, and despite that, he didn’t write much.

This is in stark contrast to my older kids, but especially to my daughter who started drawing and trying to write when she was less than 18 months! And in contrast to one of his buddies, Jelly Bean, who sent him a lovely card covered with flowers and butterflies she had drawn when she was 3 and he was 4 and didn’t want to draw a straight line.

Any time your child seems developmentally behind where you feel he should be, or behind other children, it’s always worth checking into. Look up developmental newsletters and checklists to check whether your expectations are reasonable. It could be you’re expecting too much, too early. If he’s not meeting the exact questions on a checklist, ask yourself whether he is doing other tasks which show that same developmental capability.

For example, with my son, he was generally right on track developmentally. When it came to writing, I knew that the issue wasn’t that he didn’t understand letters, or the power of the written word. He was an early reader – beginning to read words at age 3, and reading chapter books by age 5. The issue wasn’t small motor skills – he could easily manipulate small lego pieces and small pieces in “experiments” he was working on. He just truly had no internal motivation to draw or write or paint.

From time to time I’d suggest it. I would show him the fully stocked cabinet of art supplies, and he would walk away and do something else. He even took an arts enrichment class, called Creative Development Lab for a full year, and managed to never paint or draw a thing.

So, there we were, on the brink of starting kindergarten and wondering if he’d even be willing to write his name.

Then, overnight, for no external reason, he started drawing. And writing. A lot! And talking about how exciting it was that he had his own “art studio” (the art supply cabinet). And producing drawing after drawing. We went to the meet-the-teacher session at kindergarten and she asked him to draw a picture of himself. My husband and I looked at each other with doubt – what would he do? He happily sat down, drew a stick figure drawing (his first!) and wrote his full name next to it. Now, one week into kindergarten, every day he brings home pictures he’s drawn, coloring pages he’s completed (mostly coloring inside of the lines when he chooses to do so), worksheets where he’s traced every letter carefully and well, and craft projects where he’s easily mimicked the teacher’s sample project.


Over and over, we wondered whether he’d ever be willing to write or draw. But then, when he was ready, he leaped right into the deep end of non-stop creative work. It reminds me of the validity of the advice… sometimes you just have to wait for a child to be developmentally ready to make that leap in skills.

Inspiring children who are resistant to writing or drawing

yodaSome children LOVE to write and draw. And some don’t. My middle child was passionate about it, and was competent with pencil, marker and crayon by about 18 months. (Part of that interest was probably due to having a sibling who was 3.5 years older, and was working a lot on writing and drawing skills.)

Our youngest shows no desire at all to write or to draw, which is not uncommon amongst boys. (And honestly part of this may be due to environment. He virtually never sees the people around him write anything. We type on our laptops and phones and mobile devices, but rarely put pen to paper.)

We’ve found three ways to motivate him. First, follow his interests. Since he’s wild about Star Wars, it’s easy to engage him with things like “Hey, you want to learn how to draw Yoda?” (See above.)

Second, make writing a powerful tool for getting what you want. If he wants something that I don’t care whether he has or not, I make him do a written request. The first one was “Kiss” when he wanted a Hershey’s kiss. Later on, he was begging for white cheddar cheez-its. We found him a picture of the box online, and he had to copy all the words down before we gave him any crackers. We’ve made writing worth while.

[Note: I work with parents of toddlers. Sometimes a parent will voice concern to me that their child is slow to learn to speak. The same principles apply: follow their interest – talk about what they are looking at or doing, not about what YOU are interested in at the moment. Make language powerful. If they point at juice, don’t give it to them. Say “Do you want milk or juice?” You’ve just given them the words they need, but they need to SAY juice to get juice.]

Third, offer interesting media / sensory experiences. You can pour flour or salt into a dark-colored dish, and let them write and scribble in there. You can give them a stick and encourage them to draw in sand or dirt. Offer bath tub crayons at bath time. Or finger paint anytime. Or a paint brush and water to write on the sidewalk on a hot day. If your child likes to use apps on your mobile device, most allow them to use their finger to draw with – but you can also purchase a stylus for them to use to practice holding a pen.