When people meet our children, I am often asked how they learned to draw so well. To be honest, I don't really know the answer! All I can tell you is how we have done things since our oldest was very young. There must be some benefit to having your children draw on a regular basis; as the saying goes "practice makes perfect."
Although I am not opposed to crafts that involve glue, glitter, pipe cleaners and such, I tend to stay away from these. Although older children may be able to handle these on their own, they spell disaster for little ones, and a mess for mom to clean up at the end of art time. We always have bins of colored pencils, crayons and washable markers available, along with lots of crisp white paper. These are kept in a drawer that is easily accessible to all of the children. I have found it very helpful to make art binders for the little ones. Simply buy large 3 ring binders and fill with hole-punched paper. Each child can decorate the front of his or her art book. (One of our chores is to replenish the art binders with more paper.) Before we did this, we were constantly fighting the paper monster- art work everywhere! When an art binder is full, the child can start a new one. Of course, we try to stock up on binders and art supplies around August when the back to school sales are going on.
When our oldest, Laina, was still in a high chair, I would give her paper and crayons to play with while I was cooking dinner nearby. I remember the excitement when I first recognized a "real" picture had emerged. You know the funny shaped circle with eyes and a mouth and stick legs and arms protruding out of it? We were so proud of her! I continued this daily "tradition" of having quiet sit down time. Over time she would copy things she saw out of books, and she was soon followed by brother Cort during art time. Laina would come show me what she drew, then Cort would follow shortly afterwards and show me his version of the same picture! He was learning to draw by following her example.
Over the years we have often lived in small living spaces. Usually around dinner time the children would be driving me crazy with their running and loud noises. I would gather them around our large round table, give them paper and pencils and tell them to draw. I would turn on some quiet classical or easy listening music and they would spend an hour or more quietly drawing. (They learned to enjoy classical music at the same time). The transformation was amazing. They seemed to welcome this time of expressing themselves through art. This method has produced in all of our children a love to draw, and it is amazing to see how each one has developed a different gift or interest in both how they draw and what they draw.
If your kids need inspiration or encouragement to begin drawing, you can use books like "Kids Can Draw" or "Draw- Write- Now." These often have step by step explanations for creating a picture. You can also give your children flower or animal books or magazines to help inspire them. My daughter, Rylie, taught herself how to draw people by tracing children from magazines that came in the mail (like Lands' End or Hannah Andersson). After tracing them, she would outline them in pen & ink and color them in. After doing this over and over, she was able to free-hand draw all different kinds of children. It took lots of practice and determination. Cort took a liking to sketching, while Laina has learned to use watercolor in her art.
We have never spent money on fancy art lessons. We have regularly encouraged our ordinary children to express themselves through art and seen extraordinary results (compared to their mom who can't draw for her life!) Many children today aren't given the opportunity to be creative. But I believe that all children can learn to draw if given the time and tools to develop this skill. So get out some paper and pencils, turn on some quiet music, and let the adventure begin...