I Spy

At Portland Children’s Museum, we are always looking for new ways to explore the world around us. As the seasons change, we find new plants, animals, and everyday objects to inspire wonder in our Outdoor Adventure exhibit. This outdoor area has inspired many of our artists in residence to draw, paint and create. This project encourages slowing down and looking closely as a great way to build focus and observational skills. We’ve also found it to be helpful with literacy building as children label, catalogue, and create stories about the items that are important to them.


  • Sharpened pencils with erasers
  • Watercolor paper
  • Waterproof, black, fine-tipped pen, such as a fine-tipped Sharpie
  • Watercolors or watercolor pencils
  • Something to observe — small items like flowers, pinecones, rocks or shells are good options, but anything will work.
  • Optional: magnifying glass, binoculars or other tools to help you look closely


1. Gather and arrange what you want to draw. Keep it simple. Start with just one item the first time, so you can be sure you are taking your time and looking very closely.

2. Look. Very often both adults and children will draw an item how they think it should be drawn, rather than slowing down and really looking at it. Before you pick up your pencil ask yourself some questions.

3. Draw! Take your time and draw with pencil what you really see. Keep looking at back your item to make sure you are still asking yourself those questions.

4. Use your waterproof pen to trace over the lines of your finished pencil drawing. If you are working with very young children it is a good idea to cover tables or other surfaces that you want to keep free of pen lines.


5. Color! We love watercolor pencils and watercolor paints for this project because you can blend colors and even come back to add more details on a different day if you like.

6. Talk about and write about your artwork with friends and family. This is a great way to encourage literacy and strengthen focus in children of any age.

• What shapes can I see in this?

• Do the shapes repeat?

• If so, how many times?

• How are the parts connected?

• Are there any details I can see?

• What else can I notice?

Jess Graff
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