Drawing Inside the Box
When working with very
young children and/or
students with special
needs, it is beneficial for teachers to think “outside
the box” in order to preserve and
enhance a child’s natural curiosity.
In an effort to teach young children to control their drawing tools,
they are often presented with coloring book-type pages and instructed
to “stay inside the lines.” As an art
teacher, it has been hard for me to
find any real value in coloring books,
including the controlled movements
Instead, I use other activities,
such as Drawing Inside the Box to
achieve the same purpose, but in a
freer and more exploratory manner.
The children actually draw inside
lids of boxes that have been attached
to large paper, so the sides of the
box lids provide a visual as well as a
physical boundary that says, “stop.”
them to continue with their
Overall benefits included
increased attention span, pre-writing skills, and the use of
receptive and expressive language.
To teach young children to
grade/control their movements while using drawing
tools; to increase attention
develop pre-writing and fine
motor skills; and to build
receptive and expressive language skills.
• Cut a large piece of paper to fit
the top of a table.
• Glue several box lids around on
top of the paper (inside up)—use
plenty of glue and let it dry overnight.
• Provide drawing tools.
• Allow the children to draw inside,
around the box
etc.), and even
directions, depending on a child’s
materials could be used (i.e., colored
pencils, oil pastels, etc.). Also, the
box lids could be secured onto individual desks.
Drawing Inside Box Lids
Very young children and special
needs students enjoy this activity—the children
in my class have
and range in age
months to three
years. They always get excited when
we put out the table-size paper to
color on. When I added box lids,
it was fun to see how their interest was sparked as they moved all
around the table to check out each
lid. Some children colored inside
just one box, while others spent time
drawing around the boxes, or coloring a little in each box lid. And, of
course, our little “collector” enjoyed
gathering the markers and putting
them in and out of the box lids.
This experiential art lesson was
quite a hit with all the children
and also met my goal of guiding
children to make efforts to grade
their movements, yet allowing
Ranella Franklin is an early childhood
special education teacher at KinderFrogs
School, a laboratory school for preschool
children with developmental disabilities,
on the campus of Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas.
The sides of box lids provide
a visual as well as a physical
boundary that says “stop.”
Students use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories.
Young children love to organize
things in containers, so they may
group their drawing materials inside
some of the boxes. This could be
extended to a sorting, matching, or
classification game—all red colors
here and blue over there, all markers
here and crayons there, etc.
This activity could easily be adapted
for older children and/or others with
special needs by varying the sizes of
the box lids (could be decreased or
increased) and/or additional drawing
• large paper to cover the table
• masking tape (optional)
• box lids (e.g., shoebox lids,
lids/bottoms from note cards,
lids from candy boxes, etc.)
• drawing materials
• various sheets of white or
light-colored paper cut to fit
inside the different box lids