How to Use Charcoal for Children's Art

Updated July 20, 2017

Charcoal is made from thoroughly dried wood with the bark removed. It is then heated on a flame, not unlike a barbecue. It is covered and no oxygen is allowed to enter into the process, so that eventually all that is left is the charred wood or charcoal. The artist's material known as compressed charcoal is a great medium for children to use because it forms a variety of shapes and shadows with very little technical skill or any type of training. Allow your artist-in-training to begin a masterpiece with little more than charcoal, painter's tape and paper.

Place an apron or a large old shirt over the child's clothing to protect clothes from being damaged. If you are doing this with a class, send a note home a week before doing the project to make sure that all the students have an apron or smock-type covering.

Tape a piece of plain white paper to the whiteboard, hold up a piece of charcoal and explain to the children what the charcoal can do. Make swirls and lines showing the shading capacity of the charcoal. If you are doing this at home or with a small group, lay the paper on a table.

Give each child a piece of plain white paper and tell them to tear the paper into different sizes and shapes. Tell them each to pick their favourite five or six pieces of the torn paper.

Rip the painter's tape and tape the pieces of the ripped paper onto the card stock, placing the tape on the corner of the ripped pieces. The card stock will act as a backdrop so the completed painting can be hung on a wall. If the pieces seem to be too small, ask the child to choose a few more pieces of paper and tape them in place on the card stock.

Give each child a stick of charcoal and show them how to rub the stick along the taped paper. Then show them how to rub the charcoal from the taped paper onto the card stock with their fingers, assuring them that the charcoal will come off when their hands are washed.

Remove the tape when the children are finished and show them how they created a drawing using the ripped pieces of paper and the charcoal. Use the coloured paper or matting paper as an additional touch to the budding artist's creation by centring the drawing and using white glue on the underside of the drawing to attach it to the paper.


If the children are 6 years old or older, let them use the white glue and some glitter to make a "frame" around the drawing.


Write each child's name on the card stock before even starting.

Things You'll Need

  • Apron or old shirt to cover clothing
  • Whiteboard (optional)
  • Tape (optional)
  • Compressed artist's charcoal in sticks
  • Painter's tape
  • Plain white paper
  • Heavy card stock
  • Coloured card stock or matting paper
  • White glue
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About the Author

Based in Pennsylvania, Peter Anema has been writing computer and technology articles since 1997. His work has appeared in “Mac World” magazine and “Extreme PC” magazine. Anema received the George M. Lilly Literary Award in 2001. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in public relations from Harding University.