Best children’s art and drawing books

5 wonderful art and drawing activity books for kids, from brilliant illustrators.

As artists and designers, we want the children in our lives – our own, those in our extended family and our friends’ – to enjoy being creative as soon as they can pick up a pencil or dip their finger in pants. Kids’ art and drawing books provide a great way to inspire and shape their creativity – but walk into high-street stores like WH Smith and the children’s art books you’ll find are usually limited to poorly drawn colouring books tied to TV brands.

Thankfully, talented illustrators like Marion Deuchars and Serge Bloch have been commissioned by publishers like Laurence King and Wide-Eyed Editions to create practical activity books that are a lot more considered. As well as featuring a much higher level of artistry, they also have had a lot more thought put into what they will teach children – and encourage them to use their imaginations, rather than just running out their pink pens colouring in petulant pigs.

We'll start with books for younger children and the pick out some favourites for older kids and teenagers too.

3, 2, 1... Draw! by Serge Bloch

Serge Bloch is a natural choice for a kids’ drawing book, as he has a seemingly childlike illustration style (which complements or contrasts with the more grown-up subject matters he regularly illustrates). He’s best known for works that see him drawing over still life photos of day-to-day objects (usually food).

In 3, 2, 1... Draw! he lets kids get in on this, offering 50 sets of simply shot objects accompanied by suggestions of what they could become by being doodled over or within. Alongside the written suggestions, Serge has also drawn his interpretation of the scene – which are rather lovely.

RRP: £9.99/$12.99
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Frida and Bear by Anthony Browne and Hanne Bartholin

The latest book by Gorilla author and illustrator Anthony Browne - working alongside Danish illustrator Hanne Bartholin - is a narrative picture book rather than an art book – but its story introduces an art-based game that both younger and older children can enjoy (with an adult, sibling or friend). For more brilliant illustrated stories, see our guide to the best children's picture books

Elephant Frida and her friend Bear – who's, well, a bear – play the Shape Game. One draws or finds a shape and the other then uses a pen to turn it into a monkey, an elephant or a funny man.

Explaining and demonstrating the game through a story is a great way to inspire children – especially younger ones, or ones who say they don't like drawing – to play the Shape Game. Following along as Frida and Bear play the game will help interest them in the game, and trigger ideas about how they could turn shapes into brilliant creations.

RRP: £11.99/US through import
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Let's Make Some Great Art by Marion Deuchars

There are now three main books in Marion's Let's Make Some Great Art series – inspiring children from five-year-olds to teenagers.

Let's Make Some Great Fingerprint Art is for younger children, providing loads of activities involving getting their fingers inky and then drawing on the results to create animals, people and places.

The first book, Let's Make Some Great Art, is for children aged 8 and above. It introduces many of history's best known artists from Da Vinci to Pollock and offers ideas for how you can recreate their styles – or use them in your own way. It also manages to give step-by-step instructions in a fun and engaging way – thanks to the way Marion's passion for creativity comes through.

This continues in Marion's latest book in this series, Draw Paint Print Like the Great Artists.

Let's Make Some Great Art
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Let's Make Some Great Fingerprint Art
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Draw Paint Print Like the Great Artists
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Illustration School: Let's Draw by Sachiko Umoto

For slightly older children who love cartoons, this book - and accompanying sketchbook - is a wonderful guide to how to draw characters both human and animal. Sachiko reveals how to convey genuine emotion using just a few lines - and the results are adorable.

RRP: £12.99
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Fearless Drawing by Kerry Lemon

This isn't specifically a children's book - it's for anyone put off drawing by a belief that they lack the talent to do so. As Marion Deuchars noted in our interview with her, this often happens to children around the age of 11 - as they attempt realistic drawing and find it more difficult than the free drawing they did before.

Kerry Lemon's Fearless Drawing can help with that. It addresses the reader as an adult - which teenagers especially will find appealing - and provides a series of practical activities to encourage the reader to embrace the imperfections in their art, and experiment with everything from pencils to needles and wire.

RRP: £14.99/$22.99
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Draw Faces in 15 Minutes by Jake Spicer

Aimed at older children, Jake's book has a name that's open to misinterpretation. Children won't spend 15 minutes learning how to draw faces - that's really not possible - but instead learn techniques that, once they master them, will let them quickly capture a likeness of someone.

Starting with the overall shape and layout of the face, this book then takes readers through each of the face's components to detail how you can accurately represent them before your subject, for example, gets bored and wanders off.

The book also includes a series of projects to help you perfect these approaches.

RRP: £9.99/US through import or digital edition
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