Drawn in Through Drawing: An Invitation

by | Jan 15, 2024 | Invitations

Drawn in through drawing

The drawing invitation was sparked by children:

This drawing invitation grew from a simple observation that replayed before our educator eyes day in and day out. Each day a group of children in the kindergarten program imagined themselves as pets. Some took on supporting roles of pet owners or veterinarians, caring for and problem-solving issues that came up in the lives of these beloved animals.

The children were totally engaged in exploring their relationships with animals they knew best.

Of course, the kindergarten teacher responded with enthusiasm. She started thinking about and planning out how to set up a welcoming veterinarian clinic in one corner of the kindergarten room to support the children’s explorations of these relationships – complete with medical tools for doctoring a variety of stuffed animals, a waiting area for pet owners, and cash register and computer for keeping track of pet health and paying bills.

I wondered:

Could we also extend their exploration of relationships to animals in an alternative way.

  1. Through the eyes of a child, what makes one animal a pet, and another wild?
    • I had seen many young children in beloved relationships with worms, grasshoppers, and ladybugs they discovered on the playground.
  2. What causes humans to appreciate some animals and not others?
    • Does our time spent observing and trying to understand other-than-human creatures change our relationships with them?
  3. Could the feeling of respectful caring relationships with animals be extended to creatures they are less familiar with?

What if we offered children an invitation to look into the eyes (and soul) of various animals pictured without the rest of their body?

  • Would this partial picture of an animal intrigue them?
  • Would this invitation feel like a puzzle to solve – a mystery about which animal had eyes like this?
  • Would an invitation to look closely and draw what they see strengthen the children’s curiosity about, appreciation of, and relationship to these animals in some small way?

Setting up the drawing invitation:


  • Blank 8 ½ x 11 white paper cut into thirds (fat strips of paper)
  • Sharpened pencils
  • Quality coloured pencils that offer children shades of the same colour.
  • Photos of a wide variety of animal eyes
  • A mystery photo page of 4 different reptile eyes for children to share their reasoning with one another about which eyes belong to specific reptiles.

Before they engaged with the materials:

  • Showing the children only one photo of eyes, I ask them what they see. What animal uses eyes like these to see? What makes you think this?
  • Look through the selection of pictures of eyes on the table.
  • When you find a picture that draws you in, take a piece of blank paper and a pencil and sketch what you see or feel.
  • Feel free to use shades of colouring pencils that match the colour tones you see in the photo you’ve selected, or that helps you express what you feel as you look into the eyes of these pets.

During their engagement with the materials:

  • Children browsed the photos.
  • They questioned, discussed, or proclaimed their knowledge of which pets must be the images they found difficult to identify.
  • Then they became silent and focused as they drew. 

What did their engagement with drawing reveal?

The children noticed space, positioning, shapes and contrast.


They used colour to communicate what they found most striking about husky eyes.


They experimented with lines and shades of colour to create the radiating, glassy look inside this cat’s eyes.


They demonstrated perspective-taking by drawing just the one eye seen from the side, instead of drawing what they knew to be true – that iguanas have two eyes.


They looked very closely to show directionality of fur and how lines and colour could be used to create contours around the tabby cat’s eyes.


They imagined their drawings as creatures who became alive and needed to eat!


This drawing invitation set the children’s imagination on new trajectories:

One child attached the wolf eyes he’d drawn to a headband he designed for himself which he then wore throughout the rest of the afternoon.

Another child used her animal drawings as illustrations for a new book she decided to write.


What’s next?

The invitation could be offered with:

  • Watercolour pencils to offer them more expressive options through dry colour and wet paint.
  • Increasing the variety of eyes by adding photos of insects, creatures of the sea or wetlands, for example.
  • Wondering aloud how the eye pictures they’ve drawn might be used by book publishers, actors, scientists, environmentalists, or mathematicians.
  • Mirrors for children to see and draw their own eyes… examining the diversity and uniqueness of one another’s eyes.

I am fascinated with how relationships can be explored through drawing. Mark-making, I believe, is a language infused with more meaning making than many of us adults recognize.

What if we tucked away the colouring sheets, and instead offered children and ourselves the opportunity to be totally drawn in by children’s drawing.

You will find the animal eye photos and mystery photo page used in this invitation at here to download and use.

Drawn in Through Drawing Invitation – Pet Eye Images

Drawn in Through Drawing Invitation – Reptile Eyes