Stages of Artistic Development in Preschoolers and Toddlers

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Stages of Artistic Development in Preschoolers and Toddlers
By Maegan Wong

Art is an important aspect of learning in early childhood education and must be carefully designed to enhance their artistic development and nurture an appreciation for beauty in their world. Art enriches the lives of all preschoolers and toddlers as it provides experiences for them in finding meaning about themselves and the world around them.

“From the moment the child discovers what it looks like and feels like to put lines down on paper, he has found something he will never lose, he has found art” – R. Kellogg 1969.

Rhoda Kellogg has studied 100,000 young children’s drawings drawn with pencil, pen, crayon or brush and this extensive study has helped significantly in our understanding of children’s artistic development. She was particularly interested in the scribbles of young children and she discovered that children progress from making scribbles to drawing pictures by using a built-in, spontaneous method of self-teaching and would continue until the children were 5 years old and only in the later stages of development that children’s artwork can be coached and guided by an adult.

Kellogg also identified various symbols that have been drawn by children across various cultures. The mandala design which is a simple circle or square divided by intersecting lines is produced by children in different parts of the world. Kellogg also discovered that preschoolers and toddlers unlike older children are not concerned about their art pieces looking nice or resembling real things but they move their hands to express a feeling that comes from within them and are delighted in the movement and scribbles they produce. With this knowledge in mind, it is important not to force them to look at physical objects and try to copy it but allow them to experiment, create in their own unique way thus providing them an opportunity to express their own ideas and feelings.

The artistic developmental stages are the scribble stage, basic form stage and the pictorial stage. Although there is a predictable pattern to their development, preschoolers and toddlers move through the levels in different ways and at their own pace. These stages can assist parents or teachers as they work with young children and provide guidelines for planning for a specific group of children.

Kellogg’s developmental stages

1. Scribble stage
These are the earliest drawings of young children. They are simple and random markings, made for the pleasure of drawing scribbles. During this stage, the young children have no concern in trying to draw to represent anything but rather are enjoying the process of making scribbles on the paper.

2. Basic form stage
Children begin to draw simple lines and shapes. Kellogg identified several universal symbols that children use around the world. These include the mandala, sun, ladders, spirals, wavy lines and rainbows. These symbols were being used to communicate and were the beginnings of writing. Children in this stage continue to draw for pleasure.

3. Pictorial stage
During this stage, children use the shapes from stage 2 to draw symbolic representations of real people and things such as houses, tress and windows. They begin to identify their drawings, tell related stories and expand their drawings to include new meanings and understanding.

Positive and appropriate nurture of preschoolers and toddlers beginning artistic efforts can provide a strong foundation for later development and enjoyment of artistic experiences.

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