During the preschool years children make incredible advances in their ability to create a self or family-portrait. Awareness of self and others, as well as more skillful fine motor development allow children to progress from a controlled scribble to a figure with a head and limbs with details being added as their ideas develop. The following are stages of artistic development to look for in your child’s art work.

We do portraits such as these multiple times per year to see how children’s perceptions and abilities change!

Scribble Stage

  • around the age of 2
  • more demanding lines, angles, zigzags and crosses
  • use of arm, wrist, and finger muscles
  • challenges to perception, memory and co-ordination of hand and eye movement
  • building a store of knowledge about motions and products with varying results
  • can continue alongside gradual increasing skill in formal, recognizable pictures

Beginning of Precision

  • more restricted – doesn’t spread across the page, isolated lines
  • a circular form and line may be named “a flower”

Pre-Schematic Stage

  • around age 3
  • announced by the appearance of circular images and lines which seem to suggest a human or animal figure
  • the schema (visual idea) is developed during this stage
  • drawings show what the child perceives as most important about the subject
  • little understanding of space – objects are placed haphazardly throughout the picture
  • the use of color is more emotional than logical

Two ways toward realism

  • Observation – watching others, copying movements (not the drawings)
  • Experimentation – haphazard, similarity is recognized rather than planned, successes are repeated
  • most children will use a mix of both but have an inclination towards one or the other

Human Figures

  • primitive and tentative, head and body only (tadpole figure)
  • full face
  • parts added as skill and perception increase – feet, noses, eyes, mouth, feet, arms, body, and head
  • animals, particularly pets, may look the same as humans

Symbolism and Schema Stage

  • around age 4
  • regular repetition of schema (this becomes very individual and will make it so adults can tell just who drew that particular sun)
  • circles used for heads and tops of trees
  • use conceptual understanding rather than visual observation
  • close attention to detail, as well as distortion and exaggeration
  • simple geometric forms

Human Figures

  • begin as consistent shapes
  • children will draw hundreds of them
  • eventually the shape will be given a label – self/mother/father/sibling/friend/teacher
  • very individual and may vary considerably
  • figures in the child’s experience which impress will determine the subject matter
  • drawing people is a part of the socializing process
  • lines are used to represent arms and legs







Printing for Preschoolers Pt. 2: Paper Marbling

Here is another simple but exciting art experience for preschoolers that uses every day materials that most people have at home.

You need: paper plates, shaving cream, food coloring, a craft stick (or use a spoon!), and paper for marbling.

First spray a good layer of shaving cream on your paper plate and then add some drops of color.

Use your stick to swirl the colors through the saving cream.

When you like how it looks lay your paper over the top and press it into the shaving cream.

Pull the paper off carefully and you will see your marbling is transferred to the paper.

Use a straight edge, half a paper plate will work, to scrape the shaving cream off the finished print and let it dry.

Here are some of our young artists hard at work and a few few of their creations on display.


Print Making for Preschoolers

This is a great art experience for small hands that you can do at home.

Use a foam roller to spread washable paint on the table or other rigid surface.

Children can create their picture using a cotton swab to make lines in the paint. This is wonderful fine motor control practice for emerging writers.

When the child it ready, place a piece of paper over the top and work together to rub all over the back of the paper.

When you lift the paper the drawing is transferred!

Here are our young artists with their gallery of prints from today’s art making.