How to Teach Children to Draw Big

3 Ways to Help Children Draw Big

Have you ever had a student draw an image so small that they can’t even fit the paint inside when they finish? Chances are, if you teach art to students, you’ve likely struggled with students who draw microscopic images on their paper. But how do you encourage students to begin to draw big enough to fill their paper?

I’m going to share with you three strategies that worked in my classroom to help students to draw large and make use of their entire paper.

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The first step in getting students to draw larger is to get ride of your pencils. Pencils, with their tiny sharp leads almost instinctively encourages students to draw tiny details, which in turn, lead to small drawings.

How to Teach Children to Draw Big

Instead of pencils for drawing, try using black oil pastels. The tip on an oil pastel is much thicker than a pencil, which will force students to draw their images larger in order to draw a specific subject. They won’t be focused on the little details, and will instead be more inclined to draw big shapes that go all the way across their paper.

If you don’t like the bold look of black oil pastel, you can always use yellow or blue, or any other color that works for you.


Using a hand or fingers as a placement tool can be very effective and easily accessible for students.

How to Teach Children to Draw Big

Try beginning a drawing by having students measure two finger widths from the top of their paper, then have them make a dot as a guide for where the top of the head should be. Or try using a full hand width, with the thumb at the bottom of the paper to measure how close to the bottom of the page the drawing should come, marking with a dot at the pinky.

By giving students indicators for the placement of certain parts of a drawing, you are giving them a visual cue to fill the page with their drawing.

Also, consider using directional terms when you teach like; bottom of the paper, top of the paper, left side and right side to help students to see the paper as a whole.


Templates can be a helpful jumping off point for students of any age. Whether it’s a plastic life or a shape cut out of cardboard for students to trace, beginning a drawing with a template will help to encourage the rest of a student’s drawing to match the size of the template.

How to Teach Children to Draw Big

Try using a large crown template to start a royal portrait. When students trace the crown, then add the portrait underneath, they are forced to draw their portrait on a large scale that matches the size of the original traced template. This would often not be the case if you had students draw the portrait first using no template.


Here’s a bonus tip for you; instead of a pencil or oil pastel, try giving students a small paintbrush and black tempera paint to draw with. The brush won’t allow them to draw small and they will be forced to use larger hand movements to make bigger shapes.

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For more on helping students learn to draw big, check out my other blog post, How to Get Children to Draw Big, and download a free classroom teachers toolkit to use in your classroom.

How to Teach Children to Draw Big

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  • Janelle Andrus

    I love the IDEA of having kids draw with an oil pastel, or something other than the pencil. But I work in an inner city school, and spent several years arguing with kids over starting over, and have discovered that they will just melt down if they can’t erase. Any advice?

    • Hannah

      Hi Janelle! The point of this process is teaching them that they CAN paint over the underdrawing, if they don’t love their drawing– they can use the paints to correct it. Making an underdrawing is a process that many great artists use. Remind them that even master artists make mistakes ?

      -Hannah (Team Sparkle)

    • Kate

      Also: model, model, model! Have the students watch you make mistakes and how you react to them. “Oops! I don’t like where that line is. I’ll draw one over here instead and then later, when I paint, I’ll just paint over that spot. No big deal!”

  • Sherry

    Good tips.
    I actually used templates in the past with K and first grade classes, something I had forgotten about. The students enjoyed using them.

    • Hannah

      Hi Sherry,
      I’m glad to hear that! Templates are a wonderful way to show students proportion, and get them to feel confident in making the right shapes!
      Thank you for reading!

      -Hannah (Team Sparkle)

  • Gail

    Love this. Brilliant tips.

  • Candi

    Love these suggestions. Something we all know, but gets lost in the back of our mind.

  • Nancy Henry

    Thanks so much as always!
    I think the directional and hand placement are vital!

  • Nina

    How to draw big

  • Josiane Pacheco

    Gostei muito!!!!Parabéns pelo trabalho!!!!!!Muito interessante.

  • Connie Gluth

    You always have the best, creative, simple reminders.
    Love avoiding the pencil, first and creating with oil pastels. Bravo!

  • Donna Freeman

    I absolutely love this! I never thought of using template guides. Thank you so much!

  • Esther

    Thanks. These tips are practical
    And useful.

  • margie

    love it

  • Traci Leach

    Very helpful. I would like to have a copy of the 3 tips to get kids to draw big for my records

  • Jo Shaw

    Thank you for the awesome tips for drawing big. Templates look like a simple and effective way to get kids moving in the right direction.

  • Michelle

    Great tips!

  • Christine

    I would love to learn about templates! I am a new Kindergarten Art Teacher.

  • Lilly

    Thank you for this video. Great tips in getting kids to draw big. I teach a free community art class and I can have 4-16 year Olds attend. I sometimes struggle getting everyone engaged in the lesson as they are all at different levels. I am hoping to join this group and create some sort of continuity in my classes that all kids will be able to take something from.

  • Katy Clark

    I love your projects! They’re fun and manageable and they don’t look like cookie cutter projects.

  • Sherry Gilson

    Thank you so much, I am starting to do drawing classes again after over 10 years retirement. I use to teach with Young Rembrandts to elementary and I want start up again in my new home in Tennessee.

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