Stages of drawing
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Stages of Drawing for Children: From Scribbles to Masterpieces

In this post you will learn about the stages of drawing development in children and how you can help your child at each age and stage.

Drawing is one of the earliest and simplest forms of self-expression for kids. Aside from allowing them to explore their feelings, it also enables them to bring their boundless creativity and imaginative ideas to life on paper. 

Knowing the developmental stages of drawing children go through can be extremely insightful to parents. So, in this article, I’ll take you on a joyful tour of the four major different stages and what to expect at each one!

5 Reasons Why Children Should Draw

Most kids enjoy drawing from an early age, but there’s more to it than that. Participating in this kind of artistic activity comes with significant benefits. That’s why I’ve decided to kick off this article with a few examples to show why every parent should encourage it:

1. Develops Fine Motor Skills

During our kids’ developmental stages, it’s critical we help them build motor skills. These skills are now helping us as adults carry out our daily tasks by managing and controlling our movements. 

There are two types of motor skills: fine motor skills and gross motor skills. Drawing is an excellent activity for helping your kiddo develop fine motor skills. These are the ones that require using small muscles to perform precise movements.

By holding crayons and moving them across the paper with their tiny fingers, children unknowingly train themselves to have more control over their hand and wrist muscles.

Most importantly, fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination go hand in hand, so improving one usually means strengthening the other. 

You see, activities developing these skills usually necessitate using both hands and sight simultaneously. Think of drawing or playdough activities, where children move their hands in accordance with the outcome they see.

2. Stimulates Imagination and Creativity

Drawing is undoubtedly one of these activities that spark children’s creativity and unleashes their imagination. 

Consequently, I always advise parents not to show their children how to draw and instead let them do their thing. You’ll notice they’ll start experimenting with new ideas, colors, and shapes on their own. 

Allowing them to have an open mind and be curious about new concepts work wonders for establishing their creative thinking patterns.

3. Facilitates Writing

Although kids don’t write until a certain age, drawing has been shown to be an effective way to improve literacy. Dr. Noella Mackenzie’s book, Understanding and Supporting Young Writers from Birth to 8, was instrumental in helping me realize this. 

Dr. Mackenzie explains how drawing is a child’s first communication mode before speaking or writing. Thus, kids encouraged to draw are more likely to pass the writing milestone with ease and confidence. This is similar to how we encourage their babbling to get them to speak.

4. Mirrors Thoughts and Emotions

As your little ones grow, you’ll notice a lot of their drawings shifting toward what’s going through their minds. 

Sometimes they’ll just draw a sun, and other times you’ll find a drawing explaining why they’ve been sad for the last few days. It’s critical for children to correctly identify their emotions, which is why discussing their drawings with them is essential.

On a related note, I came across an intriguing study that shows how drawing helps kids regulate their emotions and improve their moods!

5. Boosts Self-Confidence

In general, exposing our young ones to arts activities play a major role in building their self-esteem. I suggest you read the study published in the New York Academy of Sciences that goes into detail about this relationship. 

Drawing allows children to create original artwork and feel a sense of accomplishment when it’s finished. The more we encourage and support them in this, the more confidence they’ll gain.

4 Major Drawing Stages for Children

Each child is unique, so the rate at which their drawings progress varies. That said, there are four main drawing stages observed in kids, which are largely dependent on their age:

15 Months – 2 Years: The Scribbler

Around 15 months, babies experiment with their hand movements as they draw. They’ll hold the drawing tool with their entire hand as if they’re making a fist. Their drawing will have no purpose; they’ll simply enjoy “the pleasure of being a cause,” as Psychologist Karl Groos once said. 

For context, babies learn the cause-and-effect concept as early as the first year of their lives. That is, realizing that a simple action causes something to happen or change. 

As children grow, their coordination and fine motor skills improve, allowing them to get a better grip on the tool. By the age of 2, they’ll have a sense of understanding of the connection between their hand movement and drawings.

scribbles stages of drawing

What to Expect

Nothing more than scribbles. Your little Picasso will start his artistic journey with scattered lines and markings. But, as kids grow, their scribbles become more defined as a result of better tool handling.

3 – 4 Years: The Explorer

At around 3 years old, kids should be working on their tripod grasp, and by 4 years old, they should be proficient. This grip is when you hold the drawing tool with your thumb, index, and middle finger. 

During this stage, your kiddo will start drawing with more focus and intent. It may not seem like it at first, but they were planning on drawing something, and let’s just say things got out of hand!

the explorer stages of drawing

What to Expect

Children aged 3 to 4 will begin to explore shapes and how to put them together. They’ll start by sketching simple geometric shapes like circles, squares, triangles, and so on. Then they’ll take it a little further, where they’ll attempt to draw people by combining lines and shapes.

5 Years: The Imaginative

Your child’s drawing will make a breakthrough around the age of 5. At this age, they have excellent control over the drawing tool and feel more comfortable incorporating creative ideas as well as various color schemes into their artwork. 

They also start creating drawings that more closely resemble what they’re imagining or observing than before.

Imaginative stages of drawing

What to Expect

At this point, there’s a chance you’ll see the first family portrait! You’ll also notice your child drawing familiar animals or objects such as trees, houses, toys, and more. 

It’s possible that the drawings show you a glimpse of your kid’s perspective on things or people. For example, you might find children drawing themselves happy doing an activity or with a specific friend while being sad in another involving something or someone they dislike.

6 – 7 Years: The Expressive

By now, you should be making room on the fridge because some serious masterpieces are in the works! 

Between the ages of 6 and 7, your little one’s visual perception is nearly equal to that of an adult, and it reaches maturity at 10 years old. As a result, they’ll be able to express what they have in mind through their drawings more elaborately and realistically.

the expressive stages of drawing

What to Expect

This stage will include wholesome drawings with more realistic details. You’ll notice your child drawing people and objects in their appropriate sizes. So, a house will appear larger than a cat, you’ll appear taller than your child, and so on. 

You’ll also find their coloring highly relevant; for example, they’ll color the grass green and the sun yellow.

Effective Ways to Encourage Children to Draw

Kids won’t just start their drawing journey on their own, especially at a young age. Learn the following two tips by heart to help you get your little ones into drawing and reap the benefits of this activity:

Include Drawing in Their Routine

Gradually incorporate drawing into your kids’ daily routine until it grows on them. The trick here is to do whatever it takes to keep it interesting because once something becomes boring, it’s a no-go for them. 

Make sure to provide them with diverse materials to work with. For instance, drawing tools can vary between:

  • Chalk
  • Markers
  • Crayons
  • Paintbrushes

The following are some examples of things they can draw on:

  • Cardboard
  • Old T-shirt
  • Chalk/whiteboard
  • Canvas
stages of drawing

Focus on the Process, Not the Product

This advice is frequently given on this subject, and for good reason—understanding it can make or break your child’s drawing experience. 

When kids draw, they typically follow their natural line of thought and imagination. If they need anything from us during this creative process, it’ll be encouraging observations. 

Don’t try to correct them; the important thing is they’re getting used to drawing, not that they colored the leaves blue. If you do correct them, you risk undermining their self-esteem and making them hesitant to participate in this activity. 

Some of the positive comments you can say are as follows:

  • “I like the colors you’re using; they’re so bright and cheerful!”
  • “I admire how you’re using different shapes and lines to create such a unique drawing.”
  • “Wow, look at that flower!”

Wrapping Up

Congratulations—you’re now fully aware of the fundamental drawing stages your kids will experience!

Just make sure to welcome each stage with open arms, as this will pave the way for the next ones. Designating a wall or space for your children’s artwork is a wonderful way to motivate them; it certainly worked for mine!

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