Melissa and Doug Preschool Art Supplies

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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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Creating Learning Centers For Preschoolers

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Preschool Learning Centers


Many early childhood preschool classrooms are set up in a very particular way.  Learning centers or corners are areas in the room that represent a particular component of the curriculum.  There are many different types of learning centers and to keep children interested these should be changed and even rotated periodically.  Here are some ideas for learning centers.  If you only have space for 2 or 3 centers then just change them around periodically. This will keep the children very interested in exploring new centers. These can even be created in the child’s home with some creativity on the parents’ part. 


These special learning centers are important for so many developmental reasons as you will read below but the best part is that during free play time the children can feel independent and will have something fun to do. They will gravitate to an area of interest for them.  Some kids love science while others may love the pretend play area and yet others may feel musically inclined on a given day.  Another child may just want to curl up with a pillow and a favorite book.  As teachers of preschoolers it is reassuring to know that the children are busy and safe while you tend to a sick child, feed a baby, prepare snack or do some necessary paperwork.  



Free play time is invaluable to children. It allows them freedom of choice and independence.  They can interact with their peers and verbalize and express themselves – say what they are thinking and feeling. They learn to compromise and negotiate and gain a respect for others ideas.  They also take on roles of follower and leader. Socialization does not just come naturally to children – they must practice it over and over and learning centers are the best place to do just that!


Using all of these interest areas in your weekly or monthly them creates what is called a ‘whole language’ experience. On the preschool level it simply means integrating literacy into other areas of the curriculum, especially math, science, and social studies.  For example if your theme is “Apples’ you can have something related to apples in several of the centers.  In Science Corner you can have apple seeds glued to an index card and labeled or a basket with 4 different varieties of apples to compare;  in math corner there can be more apple seeds to count or a basket of fresh apples that will be used for snack or a baking project after counting and making groups with first; in the Art Center you can have red paint and apples cut in half to make star-print paintings or make apple prints with an apple shaped cookie cutter; in Reading Corner you can read the story of Johnny Appleseed, Snow White or How Apple Trees Grow, etc…

This area is ever changing with the seasons.  You can fill this learning center with an unending variety of things related to science and nature.  Books related to weather, insects, seasons, flowers and plants, seeds, animals, rocks, age-appropriate experiments, etc… are important in this center.  Small containers and jars to hold collections of items that the children may find outside should be available for things like rocks, leaves, pinecones, seeds, flowers and plants, some stuffed animals,  ladybugs and other insects (real or rubber toys).  Tools such as magnifying glasses, binoculars, eye-droppers, microscopes and kaleidoscopes, mirrors and magnets, as well as paper and pencils help children explore.


 If you have space some real plants or live pets might be included such as a butterfly garden in springtime or a real lizard or hamster.  As you change themes you can change items each month or week.  Surprising the children is most fun in this area – for instance they can suddenly discover a new pet goldfish or a bowl filled with dirt and real worms or a Ziploc bag filled with ice cubes!  This is the real curiosity corner !


Math Corner: 

This corner could be combined with the Science Corner or remain separate.  Some things to include would be calculators, large numbers to finger trace, rulers, tape measures, coins, beads or plastic chips (like poker chips) to count (be careful of toddlers trying to put them in their mouths), small scales, plastic measuring cups and spoons,  and things to weigh.  Counting books and paper and pencils and child-safe scissors again are important for children to use as they wish. 


Housekeeping or Dress-Up Corner: 

Children will spend much of their free time playing in this center.  This is where they practice and pretend to be whatever they want to be.  Play-acting and role-playing are a very important part of child’s play.  Here children practice their social skills and “try on” a variety of different roles that help them make sense of their world.  This will be your largest center and will need lots of props.  Some of the larger items may be a child-sized table and chair set, a pretend kitchen with dishes, pots and pans, a shopping cart and toy cash register with play money, a baby stroller, dolls,  a tool workshop, mirrors, telephones, and such.  Dress-up clothing can include anything from commercially purchased costumes of community helpers to homemade items such as aprons, all types of hats, shoes and props.  Children love to play with real life size props just as much as children’s pretend ones so mixing it up will work great.  Thrift stores and second hand clothing shops are filled with all kinds of wonderful items to add to your housekeeping corner. Ask for donations from parents as well as check out the local yard sales for bargains. 


Art Center: 

Art for Preschoolers allows for expression of artistic creativity. This center can be very colorful and bright, filled with art work, color posters and art supplies.   Some items to include and rotate out are a variety of paper (construction, tracing, newsprint, scraps, etc.), markers, children’s scissors crayons, water paint sets, glue, popsicle sticks, glitter, an Easel, art smocks (or old adult sized T-shirts) to protect clothing, water cups and paint brushes.  A fun thing to have in the art center is a basket or shoe box filled with a variety of collage materials that the children can use anytime to create or add on to their creations.  Some items to include are feathers, pom-poms, old buttons and beads, rick-rack, streamers, foil, wax paper, pieces of fabric, toilet paper tubes, pipe cleaners, tissue paper, coffee filters, strings and ribbons, color samples from the paint store, etc.  Not all supplies should be accessible to the children as some require supervision but the basics should be there for free-art activities. 


Manipulative Center (or Block Corner): 

This area is important for building small or fine motor skills and should includes blocks, games, puzzles and things that children need to use their fingers with.   Learn-to-dress boards that have zippers, shoelaces, buttons and snaps are great as well as items of clothing with this type of closure.  Include lacing cards and all sizes of beads or pasta noodles like ziti to string. 


Music Corner or Center: 

This is a fun corner too!  You can fill it with all kinds of toy band instruments such as drums, horns, maracas, keyboards, flutes, whistles, xylophones, band leader hats and batons and more.  Children love to explore rhythm and sounds and although it may just sound like noise it does teach and serve a purpose. Rhythm is a difficult skill to master and helps build coordination.   In this corner you can also have a CD player with a microphone and a library of music the children can sing and dance to or just listen to during an art activity.  


Reading Corner: 

(This one is my favorite!)  This is the area where your treasured books are.  Children that are exposed to books at an early age become readers for life.  You can build a very nice preschool library over time.  Scholastic Book Clubs has a club just for preschoolers so you could sign up for that online and get free books from each order you place.  How it works:  You give each family a monthly flyer and they order books through your club.  You can place the group order online or mail it in.  Each month Scholastic will give you free books that you earn from your groups order.  They also offer very inexpensive books as low as $1.  Scholastic has books for every theme in your preschool curriculum.  You can find books at yard sales, eBay, thrift shops and library sales.  Always check the clearance center at your local bookstore too. Some other props to place in this area might be a rocking chair and some floor pillows and be sure that it is well lit.  A recording device and a flannel board are great tools for storytelling and re-telling.  Asking children to re-tell a story is a great way to build literacy skills such as sequencing, memory and detail observation. You can bring props in from other corners to highlight a story you are reading.  For example: use a mirror, a witch hat and an apple when reading ‘Snow White. 


So, as you see this is a great way to create a fun learning environment for preschoolers.  It can be ever-changing to reflect your themes, the seasons or holidays as well as everyday play. Have fun creating your own curiosity corners!

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Pass The Ice Cube – Game

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A fun winter ‘Circle Time’ game: Pass the Ice Cube (or Snowball).

Have your group sit in a circle. Give each child a paper towel to dry their hands off as they play. Pass the ice cube or snowball around the circle allowing each child about 30  seconds to hold it.


Encourage the children to rub it on their arm or face or neck and experience how it feels.

(SENSORY: Cold, wet , slippery, etc….)

Ask children to use words to describe it.Is it big or small? What color is it? What is it made of?


As the ice cube or snowball melts and gets smaller and smaller discuss what is happening and why.  The temperature in the room and of their hands may have something to do with it?  


When it has disappeared and is gone ask the questions: Who has the ice cube? Where did it go? How did it feel? How did it disappear?


You’ll surely think of more questions as the children do! Please share your results here!!!! The children will think it is magic! This game is great anytime of the year! Preschoolers may welcome the cool touch of ice in the hot summer months too!



You can extend the ice theme by having the children paint with colored ice cubes that you have prepared ahead of time by using food coloring.  A fun abc kids game would be to write letters and numbers with colored ice! This can lead into a lesson on color recognition and an art lesson on mixing colors.  The older children will be able to grasp the concept of primary colors (red, blue and yellow) and secondary colors that are created by mixing two primary colors together (orange, green and purple). 





Rainy Day PreK !

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Scribbles Masterpiece – Art Activities for 2 Year Olds

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Finger Painting Toddler

Art for toddlers (ages 12-36 months) and young preschoolers is an often misunderstood concept. Can the scribbles that two year old children create really be called art? Absolutely! Allowing a two year old to explore art materials and create something unique is an important part of child development. It is important to plan some age appropriate art activities for 2 year olds into the daily schedule. At around age 2, your child is beginning to gain greater muscle control so fine motor skills are more targeted. Also, eye-hand coordination is improving which helps the child to be more focused on the art project. Attention span is also improving.

So, although the child’s art looks like scribbles and splatters – much more paint or crayon is making it to the paper rather than on the child and table. The child is able to make some repetitive shapes like circles or ovals or a series of lines – still not very discernable but a definite improvement over last year’s skills (even just last season’s skills!) They will begin to show greater control over the markers, crayons or paint brushes which will reflect in the finished art work. Scribbling can be hard work too – strengthening the muscles in the hand as the child holds tightly while scribbling.

From birth to age three, a child’s physical control over the body improves greatly month by month. Each small skill and effort at coordination becomes more refined and fine tuned. And so will the results of his art activities. Between the age of two and three the child will begin to make the connection that pictures represent something that is in real life – this is called ‘representational thinking’. They may begin to name the shapes in the drawings. At this age, art activities for 2 year olds are all about exploring and manipulating the medium whether it is paints, pudding or peanut butter!

Sensory perception is the way toddlers and preschoolers learn about their world. It is through sight, sound, hearing and especially taste and touch that they can internalize and eventually understand what the world is made of. Adult supervision must be keen because this age group still experiments by touching, smelling and tasting objects so if the play-doh smells like cherries you can bet they may try to taste and eat it! Incorporating art activities for 2 year olds into your daily preschool curriculum will enhance their development and provide rich learning experiences.

Celebrate their success with praise, stickers and a special place to hang their masterpiece for all to see.

From Rainy Day PreK !

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