Stages of children learning to draw

Written by jennifer holik
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Stages of children learning to draw
Children learn to draw in stages going from "messy" to "neat" and recognisable drawings. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Children's drawing styles emerge as they grow. What begins with teaching a 1-year-old to hold a chunky crayon and scribble, will over time, develop into more recognisable drawings as a child ages. There are six developmental drawing stages that begin at 2 and progress until the age of 16. Each stage emerges based on the practice the child has had in the prior stage.

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Scribbling Stage

Around age 2, children begin using crayons and pencils to scribble. Those are their drawings. The drawings resemble a blob of circular lines usually but mean something to children. After about six months of practicing scribbling, the lines become more defined and children begin to name their drawings. They begin to tell parents what the picture is or the story behind the drawing.

Preschematic Stage

Between 3 and 4 years of age, children begin moving away from scribbling into creating specific forms. Children usually begin by drawing people that resemble stick figures in one regard. A circle head with two stick legs. As they age, the people resemble something more like a stick figure with a head, two arms and two legs. In this stage children are experimenting with other forms such as a house made out of a square. Experimentation is important as they define and attempt drawing new forms.

Schematic Stage

Around 6 years of age begins to form definitive ways to draw an object. A person resembles a person, a house resembles a house. It is recognisable to almost anyone. This demonstrates a child's knowledge of a subject. The schematic stage also shows the emergence of a baseline, where each object sits along the same plane.

Gang Stage or Realism

By the age of 8, most children are moving into the Gang Stage or the Realism Stage. Drawings are identifiable to anyone viewing them and take on a realistic shape. Lines are sharper, images are clearer, the child is demonstrating his knowledge on a subject. No longer is the baseline solely used, but now forms overlap and some dimension is used. Children begin to take more pride in their drawing ability and also become more critical of themselves in this stage.

Pseudo-naturalistic Stage

Around the 12th year of life, children are moving toward more adult-like naturalistic drawings. These drawings have great dimension and shape. Children add more light, shadows, folds and motion to the drawing making it appear lifelike. Dimensions are fully understood and used, demonstrated by things becoming smaller the farther away they appear in the drawing.

Period of Decision

The final stage occurs around 14 to 16 years of age when the child moves into a period of decision. Children with natural drawing ability should be encouraged to continue practicing and need direction to enhance their dimensional and lifelike drawings. All children are critical of their drawing ability at this stage and will either continue to draw or cease drawing all together. Educators encourage adding other art forms besides drawing to encourage development, such as interior design or crafts.

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