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Drawing is an expressive language that comes naturally to children. Often children will engage with drawing materials with little inhibition, eager to make marks as soon as they are able. Having been exposed to some type of drawing utensil from a very young age, most children are comfortable using these tools. Drawing is an irreplaceable tool to help children express their ideas, thoughts, theories, feelings, and views of the world. Observational drawing can encourage children to more closely observe the world around them. Like all media, the focus of drawing in the early years is focused on exploration however, as children grow more skilled, it is important to keep them engaged and challenged by scaffolding their experiences. Drawing can serve as a tool to help children make a plan for their work or guide direction for artistic explorations. Read on for more information on important drawing materials with children in the early years. For further ideas on drawing invitations, please refer to our Pinterest page or Idea Hub.


Suggested Drawing Instruments (described in more detail below):

Ebony Pencils


Felt Tip Pens

Permanent Drawing Pens



Other Drawing Supports


***Note: Make sure pencils are sharpened and other drawing instruments are in good working condition. Removing these obstacles with help ensure that children remain engaged with their drawing explorations.


While many children love to draw with crayons, colored markers, colored pencils, chalk Pastels, oil pastels, and paint, these are all tools that can be used for adding color to drawings. These materials are discussed in more depth throughout the website in their own subject areas (see coloring instruments and understanding paint).


Ebony Pencils:

A pencil with strong, dark lead is an important tool for young children who are learning pressure and grip as it can help marks show up more effortlessly on the page. Lighter pencils are also fun to explore shades and tones and easier to erase. Some may even suggest lighter pencils to allow children to learn how to use more pressure but, for the sake of art and if budgets only allow for one type of pencil, opting for the darker pencil for mark-making is recommended. For reference, a normal pencil is typically rated 2B or HB on the graphite grading scale; the scale can go up to 10B. Try out some pencils to see for yourself what pencils you enjoy most.



Charcoal can be a fun and messy drawing tool to experiment with on rough, textured paper. Charcoal comes in a variety of forms, most commonly as a vine, stick, or pencil. Vine charcoal and sticks are more delicate that charcoal pencils but allow children to experience the “full effect” of the medium. Also important to note is that charcoal smears easily and it is suggested to use a spray fixative to “set” the drawing once it is finished in order to reduce smudging.


Felt Tip Pens and Permanent Drawing Pens:

Another wonderful tool for the early years art studio is the felt tip pen. Like the dark pencil, these are wonderful instruments for drawing because they make a solid, definitive mark. In general, the felt tip pen is not waterproof (meaning that if you wanted to watercolor over top of the marks and lines, the ink would bleed), however one can find waterproof permanent drawing pens with a quick search (they are a little more expensive but great for the aforementioned reason with watercolor painting). Felt tip and permanent drawing pens come in a variety of colors.



A tool for drawing that dates back centuries is the use of ink, which also comes in many colors. These inks are to be used with a pen, quill, or brush and are often in high concentration so staining is cautioned. Ink is known to make strong, prominent, and lasting marks and are a fun medium to explore with children when they experimenting with drawing instruments.



The type of paper offered is of great significance and should not be overlooked. It is important to note that each chosen drawing instrument may work better on a certain quality and type of paper. This foundation of the mark-making is such an important aspect of art that this will be discussed in itself as a tool further in the artist’s toolbox. To begin, when working with these drawing instruments, both sketching paper, including copy paper and better quality paper, and both smooth or rough/textured paper should be offered in varying sizes and weights to make drawing a successful endeavor for children.

Different Drawing Supports:

Different drawing supports can not only intrigue children to experiment but can also support their understanding of materials. Fun supports for drawing on could include: corrugated cardboard, clear transparencies, sandpaper, paper of different textures (rice paper, linen paper, straw paper, etc.), bubble wrap, metallic paper, and so much more! What else would you add to this list?


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