5 Lessons About Sketching I Learned From Kids

I love sketching with my kids. They don’t have the hangups that we adults have. They love to express their thoughts visually and will just start sketching without any hesitation. As a designer, I get inspired by their approach to sketching. 

Recently, I was sketching ideas for a blog post. Upon seeing me sketching, my son felt inspired and grabbed a post-it note, a sharpie, and just started sketching. After a few minutes, he showed me the sketch below. 

Needless to say, I was floored. Upon careful examination of the post-it note, I realized he had sketched 11 dinosaurs, the Jurassic Park logo, a gyrosphere, and Owen Grady from Jurassic World. I can barely fit a single dinosaur on a post-it note using a pencil and he managed to sketch all those images using a sharpie. This was a cue for my imposter syndrome to kick in. 

This experience made me wonder what are the lessons us adults can learn from the way children approach sketching?

Here are some lessons I have learned from seeing kids sketch:

1. Don’t let the tools hold you back

Give a kid a dull crayon and they will start sketching. They don’t worry about the perfect pen or pencil or having the right weight of paper. Sketching can be done with a dull pencil, an old ballpoint pen, a crayon. You can sketch on copier paper, a brown bag, or even a used piece of paper. Next time you are about to sketch, just squash the voice that tells you to buy the perfect pen or pencil or even the sketchbook.

2. Don’t overthink it

Kids jump into sketching. They don’t question their sketching skills and they don’t worry what others will think about their sketches. This is where a lot of people get stuck. They worry too much about the what ifs. Just start sketching. The value is in your ideas and not in the beauty of your sketch.

3. Focus on the task

Kids will complete what they start. They don’t have notifications from apps distracting them. They don’t have FOMO. When start sketching try to focus on the task and complete your sketches in one sitting. Time box your sessions so your mind doesn’t wander off. 

4. Constraints breed creativity

Looking at Sketch A above, the post-it note was a constraint but that wasn’t used as an excuse to not sketch. Kids will use whatever materials you put in front of them (most of the times…yes there are exceptions). When we adults get constraints we panic and want to run the other way. We should embrace constraints and use them to our advantage. Time-boxing our sketching sessions, the size of paper we have to work with, the type of pen or pencil at hand, and most importantly the constraints in the problem we are trying to solve are all opportunities for us to focus deliver our best work. 


5. It’s about the idea

Kids don’t worry about the neatness of their sketches. They will explain what their idea was to help you understand it. When you’re sharing your ideas you can use this approach as well. Sketch out your idea quickly and then have a conversation about it. Explain what your thinking was. If your idea isn’t working then start over. Throwing away a sketch doesn’t hurt because you haven’t invested a lot of time in it. Starting over is fine because, in the end, it is all about the idea and not the sketch.

These are just a few of the valuable lessons we can learn from the way children approach sketching. See them sketch is very inspiring because they don’t over think it, they just start sketching. As adults we need to stop judging ourselves and remove the self-editing habit that holds us back from reaching our true potential. Remember, it is about the idea and not the physical artifact of the sketch. 

So the next time you need to sketch, you can channel your inner child and just start sketching without any hesitations. 

Until next time. Keep on sketching!

Do you have any sketching tips? Share them in the comments below.