Parents & Teachers as Partners™

Stages of Artistic Development

Parent Asks:
What are the normal stages of artistic development in young children?

Educator Answers:
When you marvel at the artwork created by renowned artists, remember… before they drew or painted masterpieces they had to master the developmental stages of scribbling, non-representational art, raw sketches, experimenting with various art mediums, and personal-skill building before this talent emerged.

Children normally go through developmental stages in how they draw and create artwork. Toddlers, from the first time they hold a crayon until around age 3, scribble. They marvel that their movements create marks. Young toddlers are building wrist and hand muscle control, grasping strength, and eye-hand coordination, so their scribbles begin by sprawling all over the page, or being focused in one narrow location, with little interest in the image that results. They progress to more controlled use of lines around age 3.

Between the ages of 3 and 4, preschoolers gain more small muscle control and perceptual abilities and begin to form simple, rudimentary shapes.

Three-year-olds usually master circles, which emerge from controlled scribbling. Circles are the simplest shape to make. Aligning lines and creating corners enables preschoolers to create squares. Most 4 year olds can imitate making cross marks, squares and triangles, then progress to initiating these shapes on their own, with no model to follow.

Around 4 years of age, children begin to combine shapes to make nearly recognizable objects, like a person or house. Prior to age 4, children create "non-representation" artwork, meaning their creations don't "represent" anything, at least not any object others would recognize.
At 5 years of age, children draw pictorial images… their people have limbs and show motion. Their butterflies include colorful sections and details with antennae and wings.

As children mature in age and have more art experiences, they learn how to use line, color, shape/form, and texture to communicate thoughts and feelings, visually. As children learn about the principles of visual organization: unity, variety, balance, repetition, rhythm, pattern, emphasis, proportion, perspective, composition and movement, their artwork becomes more sophisticated.

The development of a young artist is a marvelous sight to behold. Really look at your children's artwork and appreciate whatever stage your child is in!

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