Younger children’s artwork often makes us smile, but are there reasons for what they’re doing? You bet! Although every young child develops at their own pace, there are a number of milestones that children reach when creating their artwork. Here are four to look out for:
1. Meaningful Scribbles (16 months to 3 year)
Young children love to make marks (even in places they shouldn’t!). Give a child a pencil or marker and the next thing you know the walls of the house are covered
in lines and circles. The drawings may not look like much to us, but your child is quickly learning about cause and effect, and the power of creating images that are solely theirs. At this stage, children are improving their fine motor skills, hand eye co-ordination and practicing the ability to hold a crayon or pencil well enough to create general shapes. By the time they’re three, they’ll be associating their drawings with things in their environment such as people, pets, toys and creating images of home. You may not be able to recognize anything in their drawings, but they sure will!
2. Tad Pole People (Ages 2 to 4)
As their skills progress, children start to record their world around them, including important people like parents and family members. They’ll often represent these people as circles or ovals with stick arms and legs, and simple features for the
eyes and mouth. As they’re still learning about the human body and haven’t really observed the details, they don’t include the neck or feet. Sound familiar? These drawings are often the first representational drawings that children create, but you’ll notice they don’t include a background - typically the image floats freely in space.
3. Drawing bigger than life (Ages 3 to 5)
Have you ever wondered why people in children’s drawings are often as big or bigger than the houses they stand beside? When you think about how important
adults are to a young child, it makes sense that they should represent them as being as big as a house. Children at this stage start to include an environment for their subjects adding a sky, a sun and a ground. They tend to tell stories that go along with their pictures and they pick and choose their favorite colours to use.
4. Imaginative Places and Things (ages 5 and up)
As children become increasingly more comfortable with the world around them, they turn to imaginative play more easily. At this stage, children become more
inventive with the characters and places they represent. Still developing stories, they draw upon imaginative worlds that they can transport themselves to and often become part of the storyline. Children will begin creating detailed imagery, learning more about proportion & perspective and often choose colours that represent the real world, such as green grass, yellow sun, grey cement. This level of observation is a normal part of their development, but it can also be a difficult time for some children if they feel their drawing doesn’t represent the world in a realistic way. If you have a creative child that struggles with making the perfect drawing, encourage them to create an abstract painting. It will allow them to have fun with shape and colour without the worry of creating something perfect.
Regardless of their age, the benefits of art on a child’s development are tremendous. From motor skills, language development, observation of the world around them to decision making, confidence, inventiveness - the list goes on! So relax, your child’s drawing may not be what you think it should be, but rest assured your little one is learning important developmental skills along the way…so spend some quality time with your young artist and enjoy those portraits of you towering over your home!
If you’re looking for creative ideas for your younger artist why not try the Pip & Vix Layered Painting Art Kit for hours of relaxing fun! Looking for other age groups then explore our art boxes! All of Pip & Vix Art kits are designed specifically for the age category and promote creative development, art history and most importantly loads of hands on art fun!
About the Author
Philippa Glossop, B.F.A, M.Ed, is an artist, art advocate and educator who has been teaching visual art to children for over twenty years. She teaches in a number of school districts, art galleries, community art centers, and from her own art studio. Philippa’s passion is creating innovative art kits to stimulate and encourage kids of all ages to explore and develop their creative thinking and expression. More about Philippa