Ask Vanessa: How to Stop Drawing Stick Figures? — 26Feb 2013

A parent recently shared with me that his son has been drawing a lot at home, but does not seem to be able to draw properly. I often hear parents passing such comments, but from experience, not being able to draw properly means differently to different parents! How exactly was his son not drawing properly?

In this case, the child was not drawing properly because he has been drawing humans with stick figures! The parent exclaimed that the child has no problems drawing buildings, cars and trees properly. However, when it comes to drawing humans, he could only represent them as stick figures. “Stick figures?” I repeated with raised brows. “Yes! Kung-fu style stick figures!” the parent exploded. We shared a moment of laughter and I heaved a sigh of relief. I assured the parent that this was normal for most pre-school children.

There is a useful technique which I share with parents to encourage their children to go further than just stick figures. It’s easy, fun and a great way for parents to do art with their children!

Don’t stop drawing stick figures – Complete them!

Stick figures are the simplest way to represent the posture of a human, and is usually the first method for children to represent the human body. Instead of allowing your child to stop at that, egg them on to complete their stick figures!

Explain to your child that the stick figure is only a skeleton, and to give life to the human, we have to place flesh onto the body! To do so, draw basic shapes over the stick figure, starting with the torso, followed by the arms, hands, legs, and finally the feet.

Artary How to stop children from drawing stick figures
Draw basic shapes over the stick figure, starting with the torso.

Continue to let the story unfold into one that your child is familiar with, so that you can design costumes and clothes along with your child. Draw in sleeves, fill in shirt buttons, pants, shoes, or any other accessories for decoration! Fill in as much details as possible.

Completing stick figures allows children to recognise that stick figures are the first step to drawing humans. By decorating their characters with costumes and clothes, the image of how a realistic human should look like will strengthen in the minds of the children. Over time, this process will influence the child to not only draw stick figures, but to continue on to compose realistic and meaningful characters of a story!

Try it, and share your results with us!


Ask Vanessa is a new blog series where Vanessa shares insights into children arts education, parents’ questions, best practices and tips. Follow Artary’s Facebook page or our blog for more updates.
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