Drawing Development in Children


Picasso said: “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”


“What the great artist struggles to achieve, the child creates naturally.”—Picasso

Every child develops differently both mentally, physically, and artistically.  One child might have a particular experience that another child may never have. Children’s art work often reflects their personal experiences.  The more knowledge teachers have about children’s development the more they can take it into consideration when putting together an educational curriculum.

A feature that is being taken into consideration and is also being used in many schools today is the concept of a developmentally appropriate practice. According to a textbook entitled Human diversity in education; An integrative approach developmentally appropriate practice “involves providing learning environments, instructional content, and pedagogical practices that are responsive to the major attributes and salient needs and interests that characterize a given life period” (Cushner, McClelland & Safford, 2003, 319).  Why should a school and a teacher be aware of this?  By having knowledge of this practice a teacher can learn three important things.  First, being teachers will gain “knowledge of the social and cultural context in which children live” (Cushner, 2003, 320).  Second, teachers can learn “about the strengths, interests, and needs of each individual child” (Cushner, 2003, 320).  Third, teachers can acquire knowledge about “child development and learning” (Cushner, 2003, 320).  When teachers have access to these skills and bodies of knowledge they can prepare for the needs of their students.


Adapted with permission from Erhardtproducts.


Children engage in art activities for multiple reasons.  Many children will engage in art and art related activities just for their own personal pleasure (Schirrmacher, 1993, 32).  Doing art can help children engage many of their senses especially those of sight and touch.  In addition to the heightening of their senses art makes children more aware of the physical environment in which they live (Day & Hurwitz, 2001, 49).  Art can help further children’s creative, social, and emotional selves (Day, 64). Muscle coordination and motor skills are also developed when children engage in art.  Proof of this is found in the scribbling stage of artistic development.  At the start of the stage, a child grasps a crayon with their whole hand and swings his or her arm back and forth from the elbow.  By the end of this stage a child will grasp a crayon with his or her fingers and drawing is now done by movement of the wrist (Schirrmacher, 98).  SAT scores of student can also be affected by art.  In 2002, The College Entrance Examination Board did a comparative study of the scores that belonged to student who had some form of arts training and those who had none at all.  The study showed that students with arts training scored 57 points higher on the mathematics part of the test and 41 points higher on the verbal part of the test (The National Association for Music Education).  In the United States only 30 states require students to have some course work in the art before graduation (Manzo).

Developmental Stages



The first developmental art stage children go through is called Scribbling.  This stage usually occurs between the ages of two and four years.  The Scribbling stage is divided into three sections called random,controlled, and naming.

In the random section of the stage one of the drawing characteristics often done by children is the holding of a drawing tool with their whole hand while swinging their arm back and forth.  When they are drawing they tend not to look at the paper and often scribble off the page.  When drawing children do not seem to pay any attention to the marks they have already made and draw overtop of previous marks (Schirrmacher, 98).


The next section is called controlled scribbling.  By this time children can usually copy an imperfect circle (Day, 51).  When drawing they tend to stay on the page, repeat particular motions, and often draw around marks that were already made on the page.


The final section of the scribbling stage is called naming.  By this section the drawing utensil used is held with the fingers and children use their wrists to draw.  There is a greater variety of marks on the page and the marks are purposefully placed (Schirrmacher, 99).  A common mark found in most children’s art is called a mandala. A mandala is a circle that is often divided by lines through it (Day, 51).  The marks in the naming section are often given names by the child artist for example jumping, running, and playing (Day, 51).

1 dibujo infantil



The second stage of artistic development in called the Preschematic stage.  This stage usually occurs between the ages of four and seven (Schirrmacher, 99).  During this stage children gain the ability to copy a square and a triangle (Schirrmacher, 99).  The objects that are drawn on a page usually seem to float and are usually not related to one another.  When drawing or doing any form of art children are often seen rotating their paper or getting up and walking around their art (Schirrmacher. 99).  Images of humans often have arms and legs attached to a head, very simple fingers, and simple facial features.  Children in this stage will often choose a color to use that is their favorite, for example Johnny drew a blue dog because blue is his favorite color (Day, 52).









The third stage of artistic development is called the Schematic stage, and it occurs between seven to nine years of age (Schirrmacher, 99).  The art children produce in this stage is often a reflection of the activities they engage themselves in from day to day.  Some key elements to identifying a work of art from this stage are the use of a skyline, baseline, very little overlapping of objects, and human figures often look very geometric in shape (Day, 54).  Art of this stage will show a concept called plan elevation which basically means a child will draw the side of an object, for example the legs of a table, but the top of the table will also be drawn often with object on it (Day, 55).  Another characteristic seen in a lot of art works from this stage is called x-ray drawing (Day, 59).  An example of x-ray drawing would be if a child drew an image of a house and also drew the room inside the house with tables, beds, and perhaps people.  The drawing will basically appear to be see-through.



Gang Age

The fourth stage of art development is called the Gang Age, and this stage occurs between the ages of nine to twelve (Schirrmacher, 99).  Some of the drawing characteristics seen in children’s art at this age are the sky meets the horizon line and objects overlap one another (Day, 63).  In this stage children are sensitive about their works or art (Schirrmacher, 99).  They also pay a lot of attention to details in clothing and the physical environment (Schirrmacher, 99).


The fifth stage is called the Pseudo-Naturalistic stage, and it occurs between the ages of twelve and fourteen (Schirrmacher, 99).  Teenagers at this stage are aware of shadows and highlights on objects (Schirrmacher, 99).  They also attempt linear perspective.  Often sexual characteristics are over emphasized, for example, large muscles on men and big breasts on women (Day, 63).  At this stage art is not often done spontaneously, and they become extremely sensitive and self conscious about their work (Schirrmacher, 99).

Students need to have tools to gain success in their educational careers and perhaps developing a developmentally appropriate practice is appropriate.  “The stages of artistic development are useful norms that can enlighten teachers” (Day, 2001, 50).  The art which children produce, from the earliest scribbles through adulthood, is a window into their likes and dislikes, personal experiences, interests, and minds. [http://portfolio.educ.kent.edu/schneiderj/kids.htm]

For further information

  1. claudiamf25 says:

    It’s wonderful!!! I like a lot the children’s drawing.

  2. I am wondering why you are using my copyrighted drawings of 4 developmental grasp patterns without a citation, and without written permission? You can view them in our poster on our website: http://erhardtproducts.com/prehension_poster.html.

    • rosasadiez says:

      Sorry to hear that. I beg your pardon. I was in a hurry to create my new lesson about drawing development in children and I took the best option I saw.
      I have tried to solve the problem as you can see on my page. Could it be acceptable for you if I leave the image with the written link and the linked photograph? If not, please let me know to look for another solution.

      Thanks in advance and sorry again,


      • Thank you for responding. I think your solution is very acceptable, because your web site seems to be, in my opinion, extremely informative, comprehensive, and professionally executed. The bilingual aspect is excellent. I have two suggestions:

        1. Because you have changed the captions somewhat, I would prefer the link to read “Adapted with permission from ErhardtProducts.com”, instead of “Image belongs to Erhardt Products”.

        2. Your site, although primarily intended for the general public, would have even more credibility for professionals like me if you cited all your information.

        One more thing, on these pages of my website, I offer Spanish translations of two of my assessments: http://erhardtproducts.com/edpa.html (4 paragraphs down), and http://erhardtproducts.com/edva.html (4 paragraphs down),

        Thank, you, Rhoda

      • rosasadiez says:

        Thanks again for your invaluable advice. One day, I hope to have enough time to transform my blog and cite all resources used appropriately. Of course, it is a matter of justice and recognition of a job well done by many people.
        Thanks in advance for all your support and I hope we can keep in touch.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s