Ages & Stages of Children’s Art

Ages & Stages of Children's Art

While each child’s creations are unique, there are some typical ages & stages of children’s art that follow a universal pattern of progression

Stage 1: Scribbling

For the first few years of life, children enjoy making marks on whatever surface is available: paper; walls; steamy windows; dirt or sand.

They will use whatever mediums are at hand: pens; pencils; paints; fingers; or sticks to make their creations.

During the scribbling stage, children do not draw ‘objects’, but rather create patterns and visual expressions of their feelings.

Between the ages of three and four years, these patterns begin to take on recognisable shapes. Circular scribbles begin to form as children gain fine motor control and are able to manipulate the pencil with more accuracy.


Stage 2: Symbols

As children gain confidence with repeating shapes and combining them, they begin to draw pictures.

What children know and what is important to them is more important than realistic representation.

Around four years of age, children’s pictures are more recognisable to adults, but are not necessarily ‘correct’.



Stage 3: Beginning Realist

Around the age of eight or nine years, children’s art becomes more realistic.

Objects and people have better proportion, and attention to background and detail become important.

Exaggeration is exchanged for ‘correctness’ and the artist strives to make their creations a true representation of what they see, feel, and think.



How You Can Help

As your child moves through these typical ages & stages of children’s art, you can encourage their creativity in the following ways:

  • Ask your child to tell you their thoughts about their picture. Praise the areas your child feels they have done well. Pay attention to detail.
  • Keep providing materials, and the time to experiment with them.
  • Expose your child to works by professional artists in a variety of mediums.
  • Never tell your child that their picture is wrong. It doesn’t matter that a car doesn’t have four wheels all on one side – what is important to your child is that they know how many wheels a car has.
  • Purple cows, pink suns, and blue trees are a fantastic part of preschool art development. Don’t discourage this.
  • Refrain from adding to or changing your child’s picture.
  • Avoid asking your child what they are drawing. Instead, comment about the colours, or the lines or shapes.
  • Provide a range of materials and different mediums for your child to explore.
  • Avoid using the word ‘scribbling’ in relation to their creations as children can perceive this as a negative term.


“Each child’s art development follows a universal pattern but each child’s creations are unique. When we understand something of the unfolding of this pattern (the stages) we are better able to help and encourage at each stage.” Pennie Brownlee, Magic Places, 1991

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