Unlock what your child reveals through their artwork

by | Sep 19, 2019 | preschool

A given for many parents is a refrigerator plastered with photos and children’s artwork. You can learn a lot from their drawings.


Children’s art gives us insight into their development – the way they hold a marker, the amount of space they use on a page, the way lines and shapes are formed and repeated and what they say (or don’t say!) about their drawings. All these tell us where they are with cognitive as well as physical development.
From the moment your child picks up his first marker, he begins the first in a series of developmental stages of art that continue into adulthood. All children go through these stages, yet it looks different for everybody. Some go through the stages slower and some faster, depending on their experiences, personality, inclination to sit still and how much opportunity they have to draw.


A few weeks ago, the family was here and Megan said, “Mom, Cadence is drawing some very interesting people these days. You should ask her to draw for you.” So I did!  Here’s a little snippet…

From looking at this drawing, Cadence lets us know that she:

  • Can hold the pen using a three-finger grasp
  • Puts basic shapes together to create what’s she’s thinking about
  • Has motor control – she uses just her hand to draw, not her whole arm
  • Names what she’s drawing, indicating symbolic thinking
  • Draws what researchers call a “humanoid” – a head with arms and legs (no body)
  • Knows body parts and where accessories like watches and glasses belong
  • Thinks booties are hilarious, especially when drawn on daddy’s face!

What’s interesting is that she includes things on the face that are not part of a face… like the brain (depicted by a line across the forehead), a stomach (shown as an oval on the face – looks like a mouth but she called it a stomach) and of course, a booty (a nod to her very developmentally appropriate potty humor!)

Give your child some blank paper and crayons or markers and see what happens.

You can make it really easy for toddlers by taping big paper (like gift wrap or newspaper) on the coffee table and having a box of crayons or markers out. You could even leave it there to make it a little art center right there in the living room. Watch as they use their whole arm initially, then become more and more controlled with how they hold the crayon or marker and the intention of the lines drawn. Sit down and draw alongside them, enjoying the conversation. 

Here’s the stages of scribbling:


Random scribbling (ages 2-3)

Give a very young child a marker and paper and they’ll randomly discover what happens when you bang and move your arm in different ways. Scribbling starts with dots, moves to lines, then zig zags, curved lines and spirals. The duration of this stage depends on how you encourage and allow time for drawing and experimentation.

Controlled scribbling (ages 2-4)

This stage starts with the introduction of geometric shapes like circles, ovals, squares, triangles and crosses. As children begin to have more motor control, they’ll become more intentional with their drawing. You may even begin to see some letter-like forms popping in as they become interested in their written name.

Named scribbling (ages 3-5) 

When your child begins to tell you what he’s drawing, even if YOU don’t recognize what it is, this indicates a shift in thinking. Suns (circles), radials (a circle with rays), mandalas (circle with a cross inside) and other shapes appear as they practice creating what they see in everyday life. 

Pictoral stage (ages 5-7)

Once your child has made the shift towards symbolic thinking, you’ll see this demonstrated in their drawings. They will enlarge, distort, and change an object according to how important it is to them. They’ll move from random shapes to people with arms, legs and facial features. Baselines, like grass on the bottom and sky on the top, will appear and colors used will be more realistic.

So let them draw! It’s fun, free, educational and entertaining. You’re giving your child a head start with handwriting and creative expression which will do wonders for school readiness. Draw alongside your child, doing your own thing and let your inner artist emerge. Even if you never really drawn much, giving yourself time and permission to put pen to blank paper is good for the soul.

Enjoy your babies! They sense it when you do and it fills their little love tank.

You’ve got this parenting thing. 😍

Interested in learning more about doing art at home with your child? Read this! Meaningful Art Projects Parents Can Fit Into a Busy Day


Meet Ann

I'm a child development specialist, parent coach and teacher trainer. I've cared for countless babies in child development programs, plus 3 kids, 3 grand babies and 5 foster babies! I LOVE babies and would come hold yours if I could. ❤️

Take the Quiz!

How Much do YOU Know About Baby’s Development?

Get Social

on the blog