It was an ordinary day in after school day care. I was supervising the main room, talking with a few kids, and doodling. Because we were at the art table, I was surrounded by a group of mostly calm and well-behaved kids. Plus, Toby. I won’t go into too many specifics for privacy reasons, but Toby was one of those kids you have to keep a close eye on. However, when he had a crayon in his hand, he transformed into the sweetest kindergartner in the world! Toby noticed me doodling a cartoony face.

“Who’s that?” he asked, pointing to my picture. He’d been drawing for a while and I could see him growing antsy.

“Nobody real,” I told him, “Just a boy’s face. Toby smiled. “I’m going to draw him on a skateboard.”

“Can I help?” he asked, his eyes as wide as saucers. I realized this would keep him occupied, entertained, and out of trouble for at least ten minutes.
So, I said, “Sure,” and passed him my paper. Toby drew a stick figure body. Then, he added circles at the bottom of the legs.

“I gave him wheels instead of feet,” Toby squealed. “Now he is the skateboard.” I snorted, catching a whiff of that wonderful wax crayon aroma.

“Oh, good idea!” I replied. “Should we give him wheels for hands too?” Toby considered this for a minute.

“No,” he said. “Give him pizza hands!” He gave me the paper back. I did just as he had suggested. We drew together a while longer. Soon, Toby went home. The next day, he ran up to me as soon as he arrived.

“Ms. Rachel! Can we do more jokes?” he begged. From then on collaborative drawings (or as he called them “jokes”) were a part of our daily routine. Toby didn’t know it, but this is a common exercise for art classes. They call it an exquisite corpse. Everyone starts to draw their own picture.

Then, after five or ten minutes, you pass your papers to the next person and continue to draw on their project. You keep passing papers until everyone gets a chance work on every project. With older kids, you do the whole thing without discussing it. If you’re going to try this experiment with younger children, however I recommend talking over what everyone is drawing and making group suggestions more like what I did with Toby.

I promise at least half an hour of fun and excitement will be had if you try out the exquisite corpse exercise with your kids. If you like, feel free to send us your finished drawings or paintings. We love to see your artwork.