Ages & Stages: Art & Writing


Ages 1 to 2

The Scribbling Stage

Most 2-year-olds are in the random-scribbling stage of making their marks in the world. They take great pleasure in feeling the movement of their arms and the crayon. They often don’t ever look at the page as they create. Eventually, they become aware of the cause and effect of their movements, and the resulting drawings. Two-year-olds may start to label or name their scribbles.

Ages 3 to 4

The Presymbolism Stage

Many 3-year-olds are in the controlled-scribbling stage. Their improved motor control and eye-hand coordination

allow them to explore and manipulate materials with a more purposeful action. Children at this stage enjoy the results of repeating similar actions, and creating shapes such as circles, spirals and lines. By age 4, they may have expanded their shape repertoire to include ovals, squares and rectangles, as well as wiggly and jagged lines. At this stage, their work is more purposeful. They are attempting to represent the human form with simple figures that consist mostly of heads with legs and arms. As children explore basic circles and lines at this stage, they also start experimenting with simple shapes that represent letters to them. They may also make a few familiar letters repeatedly and “read” them to you.

boy and his drawing

Ages 5 to 7

The Symbolism Stage

By age 5, children start experimenting with simple representational drawings. Favorite subjects include self-portraits, their families, houses, pets, vehicles and nature. At this stage, some children will begin to include more detail in their drawings. Now their figures have clothing and expressions and can be placed in a setting that has a “ground” at the bottom of the page. Five- and 6-year-olds have more control over the direction and size of the lines they draw, and pay attention to where they place them. Their art reflects their personalities and relationships. They use art to communicate feelings and ideas. As their drawings become more representational, their writing becomes more recognizably letter based.

Ages 8 to 10

The Gang Stage: The Dawning Realism

Perspective and scale typically start to appear. Drawing and painting can feel harder and less spontaneous as a consequence. Other things happen at this point, too—an increase in a child’s ability to self-appraise, and an increase in the importance of fitting in with peers and following the pack. Sadly, if there hasn’t been much encouragement or appreciation of what they’ve created over the years, this is often the point at which a child decides he or she is not good at creating artwork and loses his or her confidence and enjoyment, at least for a while.