scribble drawings and markers

Connection during COVID-19: Scribble Drawing Game

Hello and happy April! (Click here to jump to the scribble drawing game)

As we find ourselves in continued social isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my role as an art therapist feels in flux. I can’t meet with my clients in the art room. We can’t connect and co-create in our usual hands-on, screen-free way. While I am temporarily offering virtual art therapy services through video conferencing, this might not be the best fit for every client.

spray painted stencil of surgical mask and the word "COVID-19"
Photo by Adam Niescioruk

I have been reflecting a lot on what else I can offer that might be helpful for the families I work with.

Based on my own experience, as well as conversations with friends, family and colleagues, I imagine that many families could use:

  • Ideas for things to do together at home using materials we already have on hand
  • Opportunities to have fun together (since a lot about our current situation is not very fun!)
  • A space to name and acknowledge emotions, since we are collectively having ALL the feelings (or is that just me?)
  • A way to feel connected to the things we have temporarily lost, while we continue to stay home

My hope is to meet these needs by sharing a weekly invitation for 10 minutes of connection with your child. It is my feeling that after safety, connection is the number one thing we all need right now.

woman and child hugging
Photo by Bruno Nascimento

These invitations will be interactive activities that don’t require many materials or much set up. If your child has come to any in-person art therapy sessions, then these are probably familiar activities, since they are some of my clients’ favourites.

This is a unique opportunity for your child to be the expert, and to maybe teach YOU something about how they like to do the activity or play the game. It might be a neat way for them to share a little bit about their experience with art therapy. It might also be a way for them to feel connected to art therapy while we can’t meet in person.

The activities themselves are not “art therapy.” They’re just playful, strengths-based activities that encourage connection and emotional expression. But I will also include a section for caregivers with my rationale for choosing the activity, the themes it might bring up, and some discussion prompts for chatting during or after the activity, if you would like to take things a little deeper with your kiddo.

So, are you ready for your first invitation?

Scribble Drawing Game

Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Several sheets of paper (printer paper is great!)
  2. Two different markers

Here’s what you do:

There are two roles in the game: the scribbler, and the drawer. Decide who will play each role to begin.

The scribbler starts by choosing a marker, and then after taking a deep breath, makes a scribble in the middle of the paper. In the art room, we often make the scribble with our eyes closed. This allows us to stop worrying about what it will look like and instead make a random, loose, silly mark. Just put the marker down once, move it around for a while, and then lift it up again. That’s it! The scribbler’s job is done.

Next, the drawer chooses a different marker. The drawer takes the paper and turns it around, looking at the scribble from all different angles. When a part of the scribble reminds the drawer of something, the drawer uses the scribble as the base of their own drawing. The drawer uses their marker to trace over parts of the scribble, and transform it into an object or a picture. The drawer is free to use only a few lines in the scribble, and can add their own lines too.

drawing of a bunny on top of a scribble, and two markers

Voila! You now have a silly, unexpected, co-created piece of artwork.

Repeat these steps as many times as you like, taking turns being the scribbler and the drawer.

Watch this video to see the steps in action!


  1. If you would like to include your partner, or your child’s siblings, you could take turns being the scribbler and drawer, and all play together.
  2. Sometimes it’s fun to invite the scribbler to guess what the drawer is drawing, kind of like Pictionary. This could also be a third role in the game, as another way to include a partner or a sibling.
  3. Choose a theme for the drawings. You might draw “food,” or “animals” (that was the theme of my game in the example!) Choosing a theme might be helpful if finding an image in the scribble feels a bit overwhelming.
  4. Play this game several times, all on one big sheet of paper. Create an “art gallery” collection of co-created artwork.

Rationale (here’s why I love this activity):

The act of scribbling lets out physical energy, which is helpful while we are staying inside and have temporarily lost some of our other physical outlets.

Scribbling taps into the abstract, emotional right brain. It allows us to feel and express without thinking too much, and for that reason it can be a great way to release some frustration or anxiety.

The scribble is unpredictable and out of our control. It gives expression to everything we can’t control about our current situation.

The drawer brings some order and control to the scribble. It stops the scribble from feeling too overwhelming. The act of looking for an image in the scribble invites our analytical, rational, thinking left brain to the table.

We are the most creative and resourceful when we use our left and right brains together. By taking turns playing each role, we are exercising both parts of our brains.

It’s also a great way to practice perspective-taking and build empathy. We each see different things in the scribble. You might not draw the image that your child sees. They can watch you bring your image to life and appreciate your perspective. They can also show you how they interpreted the scribble and what they would have drawn. It’s kind of like finding images in clouds. (“I see a dragon, here’s the head’ … “Oh, I see a horse, but it’s upside down from the dragon”…)

Some things you might talk about:

  • We can’t control what’s happening in the world right now. But we CAN choose to look for meaning. We can find some order in the chaos.
  • When we look at things from a new perspective (i.e. turning the page around and looking at the scribble from all angles), we might see things differently.
  • There are lots of ways to look at and interpret any event or experience (you and your child will probably see different images in the scribble). Everyone’s perspective is valid.
  • The story we tell ourselves about what’s happening is where our power lies. It’s what we CAN control right now. We get to choose our own story and our own meaning. (In therapy, this is called “reframing.” If you’re interested in this idea, here’s a link to an article about the science behind reframing, and some ideas for how to use it to help us live our best lives during the pandemic:
man and child washing hands at kitchen sink
You can talk about these things while washing hands, cleaning up, or doing other tasks around the house! (Photo by CDC on Unsplash)

Questions? Feedback? Suggestions for how I can support you? I would love to hear from you. The best way to reach me right now is email:

Happy scribbling! See you next week.

Written by Rubi Garyfalakis, DTATI, RP, RCAT

Pinterest graphic with title of blog post and photo of scribble drawings


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