How old do kids have to be to learn Zentangle? Well, how old are they now?
You can tangle with kids as soon as they are old enough to hold a pencil. Kids of all ages love it! Children as young as three have tangled with parents and grandparents. They just love to do what you’re doing, so let them take some paper and felt pen, pencil or crayon, and tangle with you.
Youngsters at the Kindergarten level know about holding a pencil or pen and can follow directions if you keep things simple and relaxed. Remember that their fine motor control isn’t fully developed, and they will probably be more comfortable with larger paper or tiles and a slightly thicker pen. Zentangle.com has a line of Apprentice tiles and pens that work well at this age (I carry them also). Apprentice tiles are made from bristol paper, and are 4.5” square, slightly larger than a 3.5″ Zentangle tile. But Strathmore tiles, or some fun, coloured paper are fine, too. A Micron PN pen works as well as the Apprentice pen, as do simple Sharpies. Kids love quality artist materials, but don’t let that stop you from teaching them using whatever’s on hand as long as the materials aren’t causing them stress.
Many Certified Zentangle Teachers (CZTs) work with school-age children, or with teachers who in turn teach the Zentangle Method in their classes. The method is exactly the same, and kids usually have a natural sense of adventure, which means that they often find it easier to let go of preconceived ideas about whether what they are doing is ‘good’ or ‘right’.
In fact, that’s the key to the whole thing. Just as adult beginners are encouraged to remember ‘there are no mistakes in Zentangle’, and that everyone’s version will look unique, it’s important to let kids know the same thing and to let go of your own expectations of what their work will look like. Their version of your basic tile may look nothing like your own; that’s perfectly okay. Did they have fun doing it? Did you notice a quiet focus while they were drawing? Then they did just fine!
You can find Zentangle classes for kids, and often adult classes will be okay for older children if you’re taking the class with them. I’m going to be teaching a week-long Zentangle Summer class for kids 8+ and I’m really looking forward to sharing a variety of Zentangle and Zentangle-Inspired-Art projects with them. But you can also simply tangle with them. Books like “Zentangle for Kids,” by CZT Jane Marbaix, or “Zentangle for Kidz” by CZT Sandy Steen Bartholomew are helpful, but really you can just teach them patterns you know and love. An ideal tangle pattern uses simple elemental strokes and is no more than a few steps, so they should all work!
We talk about how Zentangle can help us as adults. The same goes for kids. Practising mindful creativity like Zentangle can help children with anxiety, it can help develop their fine motor skills, it can help extend their concentration span, and it can provide a positive feel-good experience they will love. If you are tangling with them, they will also see you modelling an activity that gives you pleasure and a quiet mindfulness.
And this makes it a perfect inter-generational activity. I’ve taught classes that included children as young as 7 along with their parents, and the class mosaic is lot of fun! It’s often difficult to pick out a child’s tile among the adults, and this gives them a great sense of belonging in the adult group.
A fellow CZT told me about his experience teaching Zentangle to kids in a campground/resort setting. Middle school aged kids were attending day camp, learning about Zentangle, and then teaching their older siblings and parents. How empowering is that?
So don’t be afraid to start your kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, or students on the Zentangle method. If you’ve taken a Basics class you’ll be able to share the philosophy in age-appropriate language, and remembering to encourage the process – not judge the outcome – will be the key to success for you both.