It’s magical when a child first learns that they can make their drawings look 3D on paper! Even at a young age children can learn some simple drawing techniques to keep them interested in learning.
I can remember the day the girl who lived across the street from me showed me how to make letters three-dimensional. It was magic back then and it still is today!
Perspective Art for kids
One of the simplest concepts a child can learn is that objects can be drawn smaller when depicting objects farther away. This is actually one of the fundamental principles in all forms of perspective.
How do you explain perspective drawing to a child?
The cat graphic shown above is a great way to introduce perspective drawing to a child. Before they get into perspective lines and vanishing points, simply identifying the simple concept that objects are drawn smaller when they are exhibited farther away is a core concept.
Perspective drawing for children can be that simple when learning the basics. In fact, a perspective drawing for kindergarten aged children might have to be that simple. Expecting a very young child to reposition a ruler to maintain proper lines that connect to a vanishing point might be a bit overwhelming.
It’s also important to get our youngest artists to be able to draw overlapping shapes. Just recognizing that a square can be in front of another square is a really important concept!
Once a child recognizes these spatial principles the next step is getting them to demonstrate this in their own drawings.
One Point Perspective for Kids
The following demonstrates a few simple lessons you can teach kids and get them introduced to perspective drawing. You have to dramatically shift your expectations depending on the developmental age of the child. Keep in mind that for all of these drawings the point of view is that of one looking straight ahead at the subject matter. This is what one point perspective is used for.
What is a vanishing point?
As an adult you are probably well aware of the many forms of point perspective used in art. If the child you are teaching is old enough you can introduce them to one point perspective, but you’d be best advised to keep it simple.
The illustration above demonstrates to a child how a single vanishing point can transform a drawing into something that looks real, solid and three dimensional!
It’s easy to go overboard with concepts and just confuse them altogether. You don’t even have to call it a vanishing point. Simply have them draw a point or a small “x” in the middle of their paper. Next have them see how connect the corners of a square to the point will make the square turn into a box. This is where the magic of drawing realistically on paper begins! That magical point makes things seem so real!
Perspective Art Examples for Kids
This has become somewhat of a classic perspective example but a good one nonetheless.
Here’s some markup indicating how the photograph of train tracks contain perspective elements.
In this next example we’ll get a bit more specific with the various line types and parts used in one point perspective:
- Horizon Line
- Vanishing Point
- Perspective Lines
- Vertical Lines
- Horizontal Lines
You can have a child locate where the vanishing point and horizon line would be for this highway road.
Next we can figure out some of the important line types that are used in a one point perspective drawing. Notice how the vertical poles (outlined here in purple) get shorter as they recede from our vision. Same thing for the dashes in the middle of the road.
The previous photos plainly show perspective at work in our everyday world but if you ask a very young child to create a street scene they might feel a bit overwhelmed and a bit bored to be honest.
I’ll provide the highway and train track examples in a printable format at the bottom of this page so you can use them with your own students.
A great way to get a young child hooked on perspective drawing is simply to have them design their name as 3-D letters.
How to draw 3-dimensional letters that look like solid letters?
Here’s a great way to introduce a beginner to one point perspective.
You begin by drawing a horizon line. Next you draw a vanishing point on the horizon line. In the illustration below I am using an “X” to represent the vanishing point.
The next two steps are a bit optional but the letters will surely come out more even if a small amount of time is spent calculating rectangular placeholders for each letter.
Up next I’m lightly sketching out each letter.
Before I get into the perspective, I’m going to add some lightly sketched background elements. I’m choosing to draw simply mountains and a sky, but this is a great opportunity for a child to personalize their own drawing.
Now that the drawing is sketched out lightly in pencil I can start inking the lines in a thin marker or a black pen. I’ll begin by connecting the corners of the letters back to the vanishing point.
Adding a different color to each side of the these 3D letters will look great! See how I’m using some lighter yellows and darker orange colors to make each letter look solid!
Next up, I’m simply inking the background elements. After things are inked you can erase the pencil sketch, which was just some temporary pencil drawing to get ideas down on paper.
Finally we can color in all of the background elements surrounding the 3D name!
The previous lesson will work great for young kids! Kids love making artwork that involves their name. Perspective drawing for kindergarten aged learners can range wildly depending on their spacial intelligence and ability to focus. Keep things fun and creative for these youngest students.
Perspective Boxes (the 8 positions)
A one point perspective drawing for kids that makes a really great exercise is to draw cubes in 8 positions around a single vanishing point. This type of drawing is more advanced than the perspective name drawing above because each learner is challenged to draw “cut offs” to each box within the perspective drawing, rather than allow each form to extend forever to the vanishing point. This can seem simple to someone experienced in perspective drawing but kids have a really hard time with this concept.
First start by establishing a horizon line and a vanishing point near the center of your paper.
Next you draw the 3 cube positions above the horizon line. It’s a good idea to do this in pencil lightly. This way things can easily be corrected. Once all 8 boxes look proper the lines can be darkened, inked and cleaned up in any way you wish.
The 2 eye-level positioned cubes are interesting to see. Noticed how we cannot see the top nor the bottom of either of these boxes!
Finally sketch in the 3 cubes below the horizon line. Make sure you are using a ruler for this type of drawing or things will look quite bad very quickly.
Once each the perspective cubes look accurate you can darken your lines. Continue to use a ruler or all of that precision drawing will have gone to waste!
Now simply erase the lines you don’t need.
The previous exercise which demonstrates how to draw 8 perspective boxes is incredibly important. It demonstrates the 8 different positions you’ll encounter when working on more complex one point perspective drawings. Notice how each of the 8 boxes is unique and which sides are shown and which are hidden.
Note: there is a 9th position which exists directly over the vanishing point. I generally don’t teach this position because there will be no resulting perspective lines for any solid cube drawing in that position.
From Boxes to Buildings
Once kids understand how to draw proper cubes they can then start turning the cubes into lots of fun things. The 3 cubes that are drawn below the vanishing point make a really great place to start.
Let’s take those 3 cubes and turn them into buildings…
What a great opportunity to draw a town or cityscape. You can ask the child to design some buildings based on their own neighborhood or interests!
Of course this neighborhood drawing wouldn’t be complete without some background elements. It’s fun to add some landscape elements into the composition.
Just because we are drawing mostly straight lines with a ruler doesn’t mean some more organic subject matter cannot be easily added. Let’s draw some mountains and foliage into this perspective scene.
Teaching perspective to kids can be challenging but important nonetheless. Because perspective is a structured form of drawing it is closely linked to mathematics and helps challenge and develop a child’s spatial intelligence.
What does perspective in Art mean for kids? It really depends on the developmental level of each child. You’ll get an immediate sense of what is within reach of child when you try some of these various drawing lessons with them.
In fact, I believe you can learn a lot about a child’s spatial intelligence by teaching them how to draw using one of the mentioned perspective methods on this page and then seeing how well they understand it.
But remember, drawing should be fun for a child so don’t make it too boring or be overly critical about the child’s artwork.
Perspective Drawing for Kids PDF
The following is a pdf student guide you can print or download. It contains the 5 road and train track perspective examples used near the start of these article.