Stages of Development in Art

Did you know there are five stages of development in art?  Each of the below stages have shown in studies to be sequential in the development of children in relation to visual art.  Your child may be different, and that's ok! Development varies from kid to kid.  Creating art helps kids develop hand-eye coordination, communication skills like narrative storytelling, and develop imagination, which contributes to highly developed problem-solving skills. 

Here is what you may see and how to work with your child during each of these stages:

1. The Scribble Stage; Ages 2-4
The first stage starts with mark-making.  Kids at this stage love to use tools to make a mark on the world!  Dots, lines, squiggles are fun.  Use large, colorful or dark markers, pens, and paint that are easy for little hands to manipulate.  Avoid asking kids at this stage to draw something specific.  Keep it about colors, texture and line.  Avoid coloring books at this stage and stay out of the lines!  Children are using drawing supplies kinetically, which means they need to move their whole bodies as they create.

Ideas: Go outside and find a stick or leaf to dip in paint and paint with.  Pour sand or salt on paint.  Use Elmer's Glue on a thick piece of paper, "draw" with it, let in dry and paint over the relief painting.  Splatter paint outside.  Paint thickly and then scratch into the wet paint.

Make and squeeeeeze that play dough! My friend over at the AMAZING blog Modern Parents Messy Kids hasit covered!  Click to Open Modern Parents Messy Kids.

2. The Pre-Schematic Stage; Ages 3-7
The second stage starts when children start to draw circles, squares, and lines. The shapes change and may start to have some kid of organization.  Kids begin drawing people with circle hands and details like fingers, faces, etc.  The use hierarchical perspective (drawing mommy really big because she is important!) in family portraits and start to represent narrative in the later stages.   Color is not representative of reality- avoid correcting your kids' art! ("Faces aren't blue...")  This is HUGE!  Ask kids who are starting to draw people to make a family portrait and use any colors they like! 

Ideas: Cut out shapes to glue a collage together.  Talk about shapes and colors and how they relate to feelings. Keep using texture.  Create stencils and paint inside the shapes.

3. The Schematic Stage; Ages 6-11
The word "schema" means using the same symbols to represent the same things (ex. drawing a cat with a circle head and triangle ears, stick-like people).  This stage is where some kids stop developing!  The reason for this is they lose confidence, get frustrated by the inability to create realistic art or what they are imagining in their heads.  Try to avoid correcting and criticizing (this is different than teaching) and encourage kids to try new media like printmaking (my class coming soon!) and sculpture. 

3. The Transitional Stage; Ages 9 +
Kids are trying their best to make adult art now!  How cool!  They still have trouble with size, perspective and can get frustrated, so keep encouraging.  Try building something with blocks and drawing it together, adding trees and making in into a cool city.  (I have a perspective drawing class in the works for this age!)

5. The Realism Stage, Ages 12+

This is you, grownups, or some of you, if you got the right lessons and encouragement as a kid.  If not, it isn't too late!  Try just playing around with something new, doodling without thinking, or coloring in a coloring book to get your creativity started again.