In this post you will learn about the scribbling stage of drawing for children. What you can expect and how to help their artistic journey!
Drawing is one of the many ways your growing child learns to express their emotions and thoughts. In an almost universal way, children go through the same stages in developing their drawing skills, which always include a scribbling stage.
Scribbling is the first thing a child does once they know how to hold a crayon. It then develops as their sensory and motor skills become more refined to turn into drawing and writing.
When should you look for these developments? How can you support your toddler while learning how to express their artistic side? Read on to learn more.
What Are the Scribbling Stages of Child Drawing?
All children go through several stages in their development where they learn how to use their bodies to accomplish tasks. Scribbling is one of them, but it’s also subdivided into smaller stages.
It’s important to keep in mind that the milestones your child goes through before they’ve mastered the skills of writing and drawing aren’t set in stone. They could develop earlier or later than the given ranges, and they overlap for a while before the child moves on to the next stage. You can read more about the developmental stages of drawing for children here.
Stage 1: Random Scribbling (15 Months – 30 Months)
Your baby starts their drawing journey by making wider-range movements using their shoulder while holding a large crayon with their fist. This marks the first stage of their scribbling art; random shapes and lines on the drawing medium that correspond with their movements.
At this stage, the scribbling isn’t done intentionally. Your child is still figuring out that their arm and hand movements result in the lines and shapes on the paper. Once they understand they’re making these drawings, they should start manipulating their medium more.
The first stage of scribbling is mainly focused on the sensory experience your baby gets from the process of messy play, not the end result. Think of it as your little human finally making their mark on the world around them, one crayon stroke at a time.
That said, not all children appreciate the experience of playing with finger paint and crayons. Some of them might be too overwhelmed by the sensory stimuli and come around to the “fun” aspect of it later on.
Your job at this stage is to provide the drawing medium and art supplies and let them experience the scribbling sensation for the first time.
Stage 2: Controlled Scribbling (24 Months – 36 Months)
Once your toddler understands how their scribbles work, they’ll try to control the shapes they’re making. Expect to see circles…so many circles!
Since circles are some of the easier, more natural shapes a hand makes, your toddler will usually try them out first. Lines are also a big thing at this stage, with their different orientations (vertical, horizontal, and diagonal), thicknesses, and curvatures (straight, curved, and zig-zag).
Your toddler should also be honing in on the shapes they’ve mastered as their fine motor skills develop. They’ll likely practice the same shapes over and over again, so it’s no cause for concern if they’re not exploring new ways to scribble.
Stage 3: Pattern Scribbling (30 Months – 42 Months)
This stage closely ties in with the previous one, where your toddler should identify the shapes they’re making and how they come together to form patterns. Complex shapes formed of different types of lines should also emerge in this stage.
Your child might also start “writing” by imitating the shapes of letters and words. They might not understand what they’re scribbling, but the idea of writing should become simpler to understand as they see words are made up of curves and straight lines.
Putting together the shape of a letter or word, your toddler might quiz you on what they just wrote down. Encourage them to sound out what they write down, as this can help them develop reading and writing skills in the future.
Stage 4: Named Scribbling (3 Years – 5 Years)
The ability to memorize the shape of an item, draw it from memory, and understand its relation to the real item is an abstract thinking skill that takes time and effort to develop. We’re certainly not born with it!
Your child should understand that what they scribble can mean more than just a few lines on paper and is a symbol for something else. Then, they might start naming their drawing after they’re done with it.
The next step would be following simple patterns as your child starts drawing elements from the environment in the way they perceive it. Then, choosing shapes and patterns they’ve already mastered, they can depict them in a simplified manner.
Your face could be just a circle with two smaller circles for eyes, a vertical line for a nose, and a horizontal line for a mouth. The sun could be a circle with small “rays” sticking out of it.
Later on, they’ll show a desire to draw a cat, a dog, or a baby sibling and try to get it as close to reality as they can. The step of naming what they want to draw before they set out to do it is another developmental milestone that shows intentionality.
To support your toddler at this stage, try not to guess what they’re drawing. Encourage them to explain to you by asking leading questions. Say things like “That’s a nice drawing! Can you tell me what it is?” instead of “Is that your baby sister?”
The scribbling stage is a huge part of your child’s path to drawing, reading, and writing. As they grow, they’ll develop from random scribbling to controlled scribbling to pattern-making and naming their creations.
Your job as a parent is to make room and time for scribbling and drawing. Provide crayons and colored washable markers, cover surfaces with cut-up paper shopping bags, and make an apron out of an old T-shirt for your child to mess up as they please.
Lastly, always keep your outlook positive when it comes to your child’s messy play, as it’s a huge part of your child’s development.