4 Drawing Games to Get Your Kids Off Screens

Discover the magic of making something out of nothing — together!

Here are four drawing games that we have used with our three kids (ages 11, 8, and 3) that have proven to get our kids off of screens without complaint. It gets them using their imaginations and pulls us together as we collaborate and laugh together as a family. We have used these games for times in which we have been waiting for things (ie: at restaurants or on car trips) but lately, have been using them as we spend time together at home. These games get siblings playing together AND encourage parents and caregivers to play along. As parents ourselves, we know too well the repercussions of having screen zombies in the house. These games will foster the creative spirit, provide moments of levity, and help kids see the world in a new way.

As you pass the sketch paper between each family member, consider having everyone choose one color to draw with, so you can look back and see what everyone contributed to your family masterpieces!

The Scribble Game

This one is the quickest and most straightforward. Artist A draws a scribble, and then Artist B has to figure out what they see in that scribble. This game encourages creative problem solving — you don’t need to keep the paper in the same orientation in which you are handed it. As your kid rotates the paper, encourage them to verbalize what they might see in the scribble. Kids also revel in creating incredibly complicated scribbles to stump their parents.

Here is a scribble that I handed my kid…
And this is the brilliant response she had to my scribble! I love that she turned the paper on its side and saw a profile! From here, we could begin to ask ourselves who this person is. Maybe there is a story to be written here. The possibilities are endless!

Mix-Up Madness

This game is more commonly known as the Exquisite Corpse. We renamed it Mix-Up Madness because that sounds way less dark and significantly more fun. We hold a piece of paper vertically and fold it into thirds. What we are going to do is create a bizarre character. The first third of the paper will be the character’s head, the second third will be the abdomen and arms, and the last third will be the legs. When Artist A begins draws their contribution, they will add small marks to the next third before they pass along the paper to Artist B. (This way, Artist B knows where to start their lines.) Artist B will add their contribution, and again, make small marks to the next third of the paper. Artist C will then finish the figure in that final third section of the paper. (Now, if you only have two artists, that is AOK, just pass the paper back and forth.) Important to note that this will be way more fun and way sillier if the artists DON’T see what has been drawn before them.

Here, you can see that we had 3 Mix-Up Madness pieces going at the same time.
Here are two of our awesome finished results!

Collaboration Chaos

This game is like drawing improv. And as you may know, the number one tenant of improv is the “Yes, then…” mentality. Meaning, you take what is given to you, and you go with it, you don’t move against what the artist gave you to work with. In this game, Artist A draws anything — a shape, a facial feature — and then Artist B adds to the drawing. You have no idea where the piece will go. It’s exciting and silly. Each artist’s contribution will give the other artist an Ah-ha moment.

Here is the process of playing Collaboration Chaos with my eight-year-old kid.
And here is the end result of our collaboration. A true masterpiece!

Magic Mirror

This final game is a bit more complicated. Take the concept behind Collaboration Chaos but now draw at the exact same time! So as Artist A draws a shape or line, Artist B needs to make that mark on their paper simultaneously. After Artist A is finished, now it is Artist B’s turn to take the lead and make their mark while Artist A attempts to replicate that in real-time. We laugh a lot when we play this one!

My eleven-year-old kid and I play Magic Mirror.
And here is the end result of our creative play! What is it? A turtle bunny? Who knows! And who cares?! We had FUN making it!

I hope that these drawing games encourage creative play in your home! There is something calming about putting marks down on a page and discovering the magic of making something out of nothing.

You can also follow along on my YouTube show — Draw Every Day with JJK. I give practical advice to young artists and encourage family draw time, inviting my kids on to draw with me, playing the games mentioned in this article. This is a show for all ages, so whether you are meeting me for the first time or if your kids know me from my pictures books or my Lunch Lady graphic novels or my young adult graphic memoir Hey, Kiddo — this is a show for everyone. You can find it live every weekday at 2 pm ET or archived in the playlist below. We will have fun making some art together!

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Jarrett J. Krosoczka

📕NY Times bestselling author & illustrator 🥈National Book Award finalist 🎙️🎥scriptwriter / producer / director 🗣TED Speaker 💛Lunch Lady 💬Hey, Kiddo