Dare to Doodle: 10 Unconventional Drawing Books for Kids
by Denise Schipani
My father, who filled sketchbooks with WWII planes and ships as a child and is now a watercolorist, tried his darnedest to teach me things like perspective and shading … but I just didn’t get it. If there’s an art gene, it skipped over me and landed hard on my younger son, who compulsively doodles — stick figures with personality, robots, monsters — on just about every piece of paper he finds, from math homework to store receipts.
Maybe it’s the graphic novels he’s partial to (chiefly the Wimpy Kid books) or his discovery a few years back of Calvin & Hobbes, but he’s decided he’ll be a cartoonist and has begun filling his own notebooks with cartoon creations. So naturally, I’m eagle-eyed when it comes to searching out books about drawing. What I’ve been looking for lately, though, are less conventional drawing books and more books that inspire kids to draw without rules or steps (or only a few rules!).
Here, a handful I’ve found that straddle the line between drawing books and books about how to draw:
Kids that love keeping a sketchbook or journal will adore this fun doodle book. Inside, you’ll find more than 100 ideas, creative prompts, and instructions that teach kids how to draw their favorite things. They’ll be filling up their journal with adorable doodles in no time!
Let's Make Comics!
Any child that obsesses over Captain Underpants and Dog Man will want to try their hand at making comics, and this book shows them how. From developing characters to planning out your panels, kids will learn what it takes to create this popular art form.
All the Things: How to Draw Books for Kids
Perfect for any budding artist, Alli Koch walks kids through 42 easy to follow projects that will help them build their drawing skills and confidence! Each mini drawing lesson offers a step-by-step guide but also encourages artists to explore their own style. At the end of this book your child will be able to draw so many fun things from cupcakes, to unicorns, to baseball caps, to castles, and so much more.
The Imagine and Draw Activity Book
The Imagine and Draw Activity Book is a great way to jump-start your child’s creativity. Filled with open-ended drawing activities, kids are encouraged to turn each page into a new adventure. Plus, the book includes three double-sided markers so kids can get started on all the fun right away!
(On sale: 5/23/2023)
Mightier Than the Sword
Prepare to save Astorya from the evil Queen Rulette in this wildly fun and interactive adventure book. In this entirely fictional world, the reader is pulled into the action and able to shape the story. Filled with Mad Lib-style activities, wacky mazes, word scrambles, and drawings to complete, young artists will want to keep their pencils sharp as they write, draw, and scribble their way to the end of the story.
Draw Your Day for Kids!
Encourage your child to draw every day with this fun and colorful book from Instagram artist Samantha Dion Baker. Drawing is relaxing and fun, and doing it daily can help you improve quickly. Kids will love tracking their progress as they fill the pages of this keepsake drawing journal.
Turn letters and numbers into animals, creatures, and crazy cartoons with this unique drawing book. It’s perfect for young artists who want some fun and easy drawing activities that they can do with just a piece of paper and a pencil. If your child likes this book, make sure to check out the companion book, Draw AlphaBeasts.
Invitation to Draw
This unique drawing book doesn’t have any step-by-step instructions. Instead, you’ll find dozens of drawing prompts — doodles that the author started and that your child must complete. So whether they’re designing a robot or adding their favorite fruit to a tree, kids will have a fantastic time thinking up fun and silly solutions to these half-finished drawings.
Uni the Unicorn Dream & Draw Activity Book
The fun never stops with this book based on the New York Times bestselling series. Everyone’s favorite unicorn–Uni–is ready to go on an adventure in this deluxe activity book. Not only is this engaging book filled with drawing prompts, games, and puzzles, but it also includes a punch-out unicorn, stickers, and a poster that your little one can color and add to their bedroom wall!
Random Acts of Drawness!
When Brady Smith and his family found themselves quarantined at home in the spring of 2020, the artist decided to release some creative energy by launching a series of live, daily Instagram drawing challenges. Over 100 days, Brady asked viewers for suggestions of something wacky and random to draw in 30 seconds. The show was an instant hit and inspired Brady to create Random Acts of Drawness!, an activity book that would allow kids to make their own silly, random creations at home. Filled with wacky and weird drawing prompts, this book is unbridled creativity at its best.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2016 and updated in 2023.