Helping a left-handed kid learn to draw?

My preschooler absolutely hates to draw, but he needs to in order to develop the muscles he’ll later use for writing. I suspect that his problem is at least in part because he’s left-handed and most people aren’t. So he needs to form letters and pictures differently than the people who teach him, my husband and me included. So, he gets frustrated when he draws and because he gets frustrated, doesn’t do it very often, so he isn’t terribly good at it, which makes him dislike it even more. Has anyone had any experience with this? If you did, how did you help your kid at least not mind drawing?

So far, I’ve picked up some fun markers and paints that he enjoys. I’ve been sitting down with him when he draws and trying to use my left hand instead of my right (fortunately I was ambidextrous until I was in 2nd or 3rd grade, so it’s not too hard to do). Do any dopers have suggestions on other ways to help? I try really hard not to push him, but his teachers have said it’s important that he take the time to draw when he can. They said he’s improved a bit already from our recent practice, but I’m wondering if there are other ways people have helped their kids in a similar situation.

Wish I knew something could help. My 7-year-old daughter is a lefty, and has drawn on her own from an early age. My 3-year-old son is modeling after her, and draws a lot, too.

Can you teach a small child to enjoy drawing? What activities does your child enjoy when left to his own devices? It sounds odd to me that drawing is seen as a necessary precursor to writing – perhaps grip strength, manual precision, and such can be developed with modeling clay, Legos, and Tinkertoys.

Does drawing/writing on a vertical surface make a difference to him? Is it more fun to draw on the wall or on a chalkboard?

If what he wants to draw doesn’t look enough like what he is internally visualizing, he
may not want to draw because he is frustrated.

My left-handed kid isn’t the artist the right-handed kid is, but I am unconvinced that the dominant hand is the reason for poor artistry.

Try to show your child that there are MANY types of art, and if one type doesn’t fit for him/her, perhaps another type will. Trying to overcome a reluctance will, IME, turn the child off drawing forever.

Are there art classes in your community? My artistic child quite loved art classes at the art gallery here.

an seanchai

I forgot to mention plain ol’ coloring in coloring books. Does that interest your son, overlyverbose? How about using scissors to cut paper? Folding paper, such as making paper airplanes or simple origami?

Those are great suggestions. I did get him a Transformers coloring book. He liked it until he forgot about it, so I guess I’ll encourage him to use it…if he wants to. Like I said, I try really hard not to force.

They do like kids to draw, though, because it apparently teaches them the proper grip, helps them get the feel for holding a pen or pencil and makes it easier when they move on to letters.

And thanks for the recommendation about art classes, seanchai. I think I’ll look into that.

My son does like drawing more when he gets funky-tipped markers. He also really likes water colors, so I’ve been focusing more on those rather than handing him crayons (which really frustrate him - so much so that he’ll hold on and, before he’s touched it to paper, declare himself done drawing). I also try to respect him if it’s obvious he isn’t interested, though sometimes he’ll paint or draw something quick for me.

So my question would be, is he in general a perfectionist-type that gets frustrated when he doesn’t do something well?

I didn’t care for coloring/drawing as a kid, because I would get upset that it didn’t look right (colored outside the lines or didn’t look like what I was drawing/what other people had done). I was right-handed tending towards ambidextrous, so it had nothing to do with that. And I did the same thing in other areas, e.g., wouldn’t do things that I didn’t do well.

If that’s the case, I would work on that tendency in general. Maybe do silly games of coloring messily or drawing badly on purpose, or something like that. I remember reading about some art teacher (for adults) who had the class draw pictures with their eyes closed, to loosen them up and stop worrying about being perfect.

If he leans towards perfectionist, learning the skill of turning that off would be a huge blessing in general. It will save him loads of trouble and a lot of missed fun.

One thing I really enjoyed doing when I was a kid was using a pencil or biro to scribble in a circular then zigzag fashion all over a piece of paper, then I’d colour in each ‘section’ that had been formed. It ended up a lovely colourful page. Maybe something more abstract like that would be satisfying for your child?

As a lefty, I never got frustrated with drawing. And I don’t think my drawings as a kid were that great, but I still liked to do it. This was even as a first grader, whose teacher tried to make me switch the hand I was writing with from left to right. This stopped after my mom, told her it was okay for me to write left handed as my dad was left handed. The biggest downside to drawing or writing left handed is that you end up dragging your left hand through what you just drew when moving left to right. You end up with left side of your left hand covered in pencil, crayon, etc.

Just be encouraging, no matter what his art looks like. Kids really like praise.

Have you tried giving him all different sizes of crayons and pencils? They make standard crayons but they also have the giant ones. He might like the way those fit his hand.

I’m a lefty, in a world of righties. The biggest mistake you are probably making (at least, what all my parents/teachers made) is either trying to hold something in *your *left hand and modeling the behavior (incorrectly), or sitting next to him and doing it right-handed and having him swap the image in his mind (which just confuses).

Sit *across *from him. Have him model how your holding it like he’s looking in a mirror. Work on symmetrical shapes like circles and squares (NOT letters). When you move on to letters, you’ll need to go back next to him (so that he’s not modeling mirror-image right-to-left movement).

Good posting.

There are different shapes, too – for example, triangular “CrayAngles” and little crayon “bricks” (popular in Europe).

Good points. I’ll try sitting across rather than next to him.

I don’t know if you’re premise is correct. I have never before heard that it is necessary, or even beneficial, to learn to draw in order to learn handwriting. I can kind of see that it might be the case, but I have never heard anyone make such a claim.

Does your child really need to draw, or do you just want your child to be able to draw and enjoy drawing?

Kids develop motor skills at different rates. There is a range that is normal. I don’t see any lasting benefit to making preschoolers practice drawing and writing before they’re ready. They just get frustrated, and learn to dislike the activity. He’ll write and draw when his eyes, hands, and brain have developed a bit more, and it won’t be so unnecessarily difficult. His brain and body probably have more pressing developmental drives now.

Preschools really push this kind of “skill practice” nowadays. The kids will learn to write and cut with scissors just fine in elementary school, even if you do nothing now. I would tell the preschool to relax, and let the kid develop naturally.

As Chicken Fingers noted, my son’s preschool is strongly encouraging drawing, as is my parent educator (we participate in Parents as Teachers) to help with writing. Personally, I didn’t really notice whether he liked to draw or not until it was called to my attention that it might be a problem. I’ve always made drawing materials available, and if I draw he usually wants to, but I’ve never made a point of encouraging it until just recently.

It made sense to me that he would need to at least scribble a bit to develop a good grip for writing later on, but I’m willing to cop to possibly being more concerned than necessary.

In addition to the above suggestions, I’ll mention a sort of game we’d play when the kids were small. The focus was not on the mechanics of drawing, but it was sometimes interesting to see where their creativity would go.

We simply took turns adding shapes (or other elements, as they got older) on a page. If I started with a circle, maybe they added eyes. Or if they started with a rectangle, I added windows or a triangle roof. Sometimes our drawings were simple, sometimes we added lots and lots of elements. It got to be great fun when one of us would surprise the other with something unexpected.

Point out what he gets right as well as what he gets wrong.

The Nephew is his father’s son. Middlebro only likes two colors: black and white, and that’s only because any drawings you did with only one of them would be invisible, and he would refuse to draw the rows of dots they made them draw in kindergarten claiming that when he was a grownup he’d have a “dots assistant” to draw them for him. He’s now a Mechanical Engineer, works as a Construction Foreman and one of his best points is the ability to detect and correct draftsmanship errors stare.

Teach him how to recognize when he’s tired and strategies to cope with it. At home, he can stop drawing, but not so much at school. Shake your wrist; if you’ve been drawing detail, go to drawing big (or vice versa); move from drawing to coloring and from coloring to drawing. When coloring, it’s a good strategy to color just inside the line first (so you’re basically re-drawing that line, really) and then color the rest of the inside; this makes it less easy to go out of the line.