book cover

Drawing Projects For Children by Paula Briggs.

Black Dog Publishing.

Reviewed by Julianne Negri


How would you like a drawing book that encourages risk taking in art? A book that emphasises process over product? A book that encourages experimentation within guidance? A book that is full of messy-get-your-hands-dirty drawing projects? In short, a book with smudgy fingerprints all over it? Well if these things tick your boxes like they tick mine, Paula Briggs’, Drawing Projects for Children published by Black Dog Publishing is the art book for you.

Paula Briggs has not only created a beautiful object with this book. She has created a welcome antidote to a world (wide web) full of outcome based children’s activities that seem to be all about the photo opportunity to display on whatever platform – blog/insta/facebook/twitter – a parent chooses. She says in the section aimed at the facilitator:

“For children to get the most out of drawing, they need to be encouraged to push beyond what they consider ‘safe’ (‘safe’ drawings are those in which we know what the outcome is going to be before we have even started making them) and to take risks. By doing so they will widen their concept of what drawing is and what they are capable of achieving.”

DP4K-JN- Review pic1

This is very much a gorgeous(smudgy) hands on book, divided into two sections – warm up drawing exercises and more in depth projects. So the only real way to review this book was to try it out. First – rustle up some children (fortunately not a challenge for me). Here are two I prepared earlier. Pepper and Wanda are active creative 7-almost-8-year-olds.

pepper and wanda final

The book is firmly aimed at children but without any dumbing down of language or “fun speak” or the sort of cutesy Dr Suess sort of language you often find with this target audience. For example:

“All of the projects in this book also use a huge range of drawing materials from inks and watercolours to graphite and pastels. Remember, great drawing experiences are not always about the outcome, but often about the things you learn when you experiment. So get ready to try out some new techniques, and make some wonderful creations!”

This tone generates respect for the child artist, for the materials being used and for the activity being undertaken. I read sections aloud to the kids first and we discussed some of the concepts – risk taking, process, not worrying about “mistakes”, no rubbing out etc. These are hugely neglected concepts in the world of a 7-almost-8-year old’s art practice. They are at an age where they lose the earlier wildness of creativity and have been firmly indoctrinated into school ideas of right and wrong and drawing like the person next to you, with a seemingly strong preoccupation on getting eyes and noses especially “right”!

While Paula Briggs suggests this book is aimed to be used independently by children, I found it does benefit from focused facilitating. And for kids this age? Fairly strong facilitation is required. Fortunately I had a background in art and understood the materials and requirements of the tasks, but it is written with point by point instructions, a colour coded idea of levels of intensity and a material list like a recipe and is therefore very accessible. For preparation we made a trip to the local art shop with a list in hand – lots of newsprint paper, various pencils, charcoals and pastels and some ink – and we were ready.


We began with some warm ups which were wonderfully fun and challenging. Just look at the concentration on these faces.


This “continuous line drawing” warm up was a terrific way to display process over outcome. Pens, paper, still life and go. The kids had to look at the object and draw it while not lifting their pen from the page. They were happy to keep trying this for ages!

drawing warm up final

Our second warm up was “backwards-forwards sketching”. This was a good way to focus on looking and observing while slowing down the hand and creating texture.



My kids are very physical and these drawing ideas are also very physical – hand-eye coordination, large gestural mark making and sustained concentration. We interspersed the activities with kicking the footy in the back yard to freshen up.

We enjoyed perusing all the projects in the book and the kids have ear-marked many they want to try asap. But the obvious “project” to undertake right away was the “Autumn Floor Drawing”. We ran around the house and street collecting leaves, seed husks, plants and all things Autumnal.

autumn box final


I found myself joining in and rediscovering the joys of charcoal and of delicate lines and shading in a way I hadn’t indulged in years. It was so relaxing, for me and for the kids, to play with the materials without any pressure on the result.

autumn3 final

Drawing Projects For Children, while not completely independently accessible to younger children, actually benefits from involving a facilitator as well as the child. I found that Paula Briggs language and ideas generate an inspirational and stimulating practical art experience. Through warm ups and projects she extends children’s idea of mark making and drawing into a new realm. It challenges children (and teachers and parents) to explore, take artistic risks and to discover the fun inherent in drawing when there is no pressure for the outcome. It is a book we will return to and from just one day of experimenting it has already inspired these two kids to observe things a little differently and to think more about how to represent their world through art.

Drawing Projects for Children is highly recommended for those who love messy art. For those who want to encourage careful observation, thoughtful mark making and inspire artistic processes. For those who understand that experimentation and sustained exploration of a medium is more important than a quick simple art activity that results in a picture perfect photo opportunity. Go get the book, some supplies, some kids and get your fingers dirty.





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For more kids craft, creative ideas and activities go to the Action Pack website

I am very happy to be participating in the Imagine Childhood blog tour. For my stop on the tour I asked Sarah a few questions about her philosophy and the book:

Imagine Childhood: Exploring the World through Nature, Imagination, and Play – 25 Projects that spark curiosity and adventure by Sarah Olmsted. Roost Books; (October 16, 2012).

1. You discuss in your book the magic of childhood — Can you explain a little about how you ‘build’ your world of wonder? How you create that magical world for children and how the children you know respond to that world?

I don’t think it is so much about “building” a world of wonder as it is about opening yourself up to the one that we are already living in. Experiencing magic can be as simple as a subtle shift in your perspective or actions. Taking the time to notice the birds in your neighborhood, the intricate patterns of a spider web, the clouds in the sky, can instantly create a sense of wonder wherever you are. The same principles are true in regards to creating a magical world for children. The space that children naturally inhabit is an enchanted one. Every object or interaction has as much potential to be magical as mundane. All that is needed to put the focus on the fantastic is a willingness to jump into that world with them, to chase fairies through the park, to look for magic stones at the beach… to see the world through a child’s eyes and join them on their journey.

Perhaps one of the most heartening aspects of writing this book was seeing just how close children (and adults for that matter) keep the world of magic and how quickly and wholeheartedly they will engage with it. I have worked with, or designed for, children for the better part of my life, but still, the power of a few sticks, some string, and a healthy dose of imagination never ceases to amaze me. When given the space to explore the universe of their imagination, children engage the world with openness and see it for all of its limitless potential.

2. The projects in your book are built upon layers of experimentation and innovation, each project is a guide with lots of tangents of possibility, can you tell us about this trial and error approach to your projects for children?

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn”
~ Benjamin Franklin

The trial and error framework for many of the projects in this book is based on a sentiment very similar to the quote above.  That in order to really learn something,  you have to engage with it, and nothing is more engaging than experimentation. The fluid structure of experimentation allows children to experience moments of discovery in whatever they happen to be working with and it encourages them to follow those discoveries wherever they may lead. This sort of open ended approach can be fun because it allows children to come back to projects or activities again and again without ever repeating the same experience. Since the focus is on the process rather than the end result, innovations and tangential explorations can be just as important and fruitful as the original activity.

3. You use a lot of natural materials in your projects — and if you are not directly using them then you are inspired by them. Can you tell us how this connection with nature is important for your inspiration and for children’s play?

When you really look into it, most of the materials that we use on a daily basis have a root in the natural world. Whether it is a pigment made from plants or minerals, or a steel cable inspired by the strength found in spider silk, the origin of nearly everything we touch can be connected with nature in some way. I think I am attracted to natural materials for exactly this reason. They are the building blocks of the world we live in, from mountains to skyscrapers, color wheels to computers.

My emphasis on using simple natural materials with children follows a similar logic. That by starting out with the fundamentals children can learn how to build the world of their dreams, one stick raft, one tree fort at a time. Also, procuring natural material means engaging with nature, which is never a bad thing in my opinion.

Thank you Kathreen for sharing your wonderful space with me today!

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For more kids craft, creative ideas and activities go to the Action Pack website

daddy quilt tutorial

by kath_red on 03/12/2010

in Quilting

Kelley from the Pioneer Quilter created a quilt for her husband featuring their children’s artwork. Great idea for personal giftmaking and making a permanent home for the kiddos special pictures. There is a tutorial here.


This is so adorable. Link to refashion, thanks Kirst.


Super sweet tutorial from CurlyPops. Link to tutorial.

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For more kids craft, creative ideas and activities go to the Action Pack website