Tracing can be fun and beneficial for all age groups. While younger children might engage in imaginative play as they draw to communicate a story or idea, older children tend to grow more concerned with the accurate representation of the people and objects. For younger children tracing can help to practice hand-eye coordination as well as fine motor skills to be able to hold a pencil later on and control the lines in order to write. Older children might enjoy the opportunity to draw realistically without having the skills to do so yet.
As older children grow increasingly critical of their drawing abilities they might get frustrated and often end up reluctant to engage in drawing activities later on. A playful tracing activity can lend itself to developing confidence and growing more accurate drawings skills to attain the desired realistic look in their drawings without major frustration or disappointment.
Reading Art Secrets Every Teacher Should Know, A Reggio Inspired Approach by the wonderful Meri Cherry reminded me of the fun I’ve had with tracing drawings as a child. Since then tracing drawings have become popular in my art classes. They can be set up easily, don’t require much explanation and lend themselves perfectly to independent, quiet time play in many classrooms. Early project finishers and most children as young as three year old’s find them engaging and fun!
- Transparency Film
- Sharpies or Chalk Markers
- Mat board for framing (or sturdy watercolor paper to cut your own frame)
- Crayons or oil pastels
- Scrap paper shapes
- School glue stick
Step 1: Trace
Simply provide your children with printouts of animals, Sharpies or the more vibrant Chalk Markers to trace a picture of their choice. Though some children specifically requested tracing coloring pages I’ve found pictures of real animals, buildings etc. work better since they provide more creative freedom to make your own lines and creative choices.
To make sure your tracing doesn’t move, tape down your picture as well as the transparency film on top of your picture and show your children how to trace the image.
Chalk markers have really vibrant colors but smudge and smear easily if you run your hand over them before they’re dry. To reduce smearing use sharpies instead, especially if you’re working with younger children.
When children exclaim that they are done tracing, encourage them to add their own details, patterns, or landscape surrounding their drawings. You could also invite them to use different patterns to create multiple versions of the same image, or they could trace their own drawings.
If you tape a colored paper behind your transparency film, it will make the details of your drawing more visible. It’s fun to try out a variety of colored papers before choosing one. Younger children e.g. often discover that you can’t see yellow lines on yellow paper or that there’s different shades of yellow.
Step 2: Frame
Most of the children really love their drawings and want to frame them. Simply cut out a frame of sturdy watercolor paper, the size of your drawing, and tape your drawing to the back of it. Decorate as you wish. We used crayons and Sharpies to add patterns to our frame and painted right over them with watercolors before glueing some paper scrap shapes onto our frame.
Once done we looked at all our drawings and each child got to share something about what they drew. Since we mainly traced animals this lead to a great discussion about what we know about each animals, where they live and what they eat.
Younger children often invent stories while they draw to communicate an idea or their knowledge, trying to make sense of the world with what they know, filling the gaps using their imagination while their minds still move easily between fantasy and reality. The complexity of their art work always amazes me. While drawing a polar bear a child whimsically explained: ”We can only see polar bears from the airplane because they’re dangerous and the fish must be frozen in the water because polar bears live near the water, but there’s icebergs also, it must be very cold, the polar bear doesn’t have anything to eat now, he is eating the airplane. Well, that’s funny, isn’t it?”.
Aren’t they lovely?
There’s many wonderful approaches to tracing. To learn more about the benefits and different approaches of tracing, follow the links to these inspiring blogs: