A child's drawing

Children’s communication through art

Most children cannot communicate with vocabulary and written words, so it expresses itself in art. To satisfy children at an early age, this implies that teachers have to use a lot of artistic activities.

One important aspect of human activity is communication. Kids communicate in many various “languages”. Art is one of the some that seems useful and comfortable in expressing their feelings, and ideas. In expressing their feelings and ideas through art, most kids feel satisfied. Studying with various materials such as paints, crayons, and clay, they try to convey many thoughts that cannot be written or said. Therefore, through its artistic symbolism, most children can convey their ideas that they cannot describe in words.


Stages and Development


There is a global acceptance that the characteristics of children’s drawings are developed in stages. Lowenfeld’s study which is considered to have paved the way for the subsequent studies of children’s art gradually examined children’s art from birth till the age of seventeen years. We have four stages of children’s development in art: writing, pre-symbolism, symbolism, and realism. It doesn’t mean that the drawings that kids usually make in the earlier stages are less desirable than the drawings made in the later stages. On the contrary, often some of the more aesthetically attractive pieces are produced by children who have just begun to discover the joys of fine art.
Children’s stages are categorized as Scribbling, Preschematic, Schematic, Dawning Realism, and PseudoNaturalistic. The only difference is in the fifth stage. The final phase, the Pseudo-Naturalistic Phase, begins at eleven or twelve years. This phase is characterized by reasoning and self-criticism where the child becomes aware of his or her natural environment and begins to unconsciously care for proportion and depth and other essential principles of drawing.

Art Begins with Scribbling


All kids love moving a pencil around the surface and leaving a mark. These marks are the first children’s self-initiated contact with art. Kids about one and a half years old usually begin to breathe. Some adults believe that children are engaged in scribbling rather than drawing and that they prefer to enjoy moving their hands and making markings on the surface. Almost a few researchers have challenged this traditional view, showing that young children occasionally experiment with drawings. This new perspective suggests that the earliest child-tagging activities could be more complex than previously thought.


Random skribble
Random skribble


When kids first start scribbling they often scribble randomly by swinging their arms back and forth across the drawing surface and they usually don’t understand they can make the marks do what they want. The lines they make may go off the paper. But, it doesn’t take long for kids to realize the relationship between their actions and the marks on the paper. They may even look away from the page as they work. Kids begin to control their scribbles by changing their motions and by repeating certain lines that give them particular fun. Longitudinal marks in one or more directions may result. Round patterns and geometric shapes begin to develop as children’s perceptual and motor abilities increase. Lines are combined with shapes to form various patterns and forms.

The role of adults


Choosing helpful art materials, tools such as non-toxic markers, ballpoint pens, crayons, and pencils are a very important role for parents and teachers. Watercolor paints are also great for kids but they only require preparation in the form of dirt protection. Kids can work on the floor or any other horizontal surface when scribbling.


As the kid starts naming his or her scribbles, listen to the child’s comments, and use the meanings offered by the child as a source for dialogue. Encouraging the kid to verbalize his or her thoughts, feelings, and experiences individually shows the child that you value what he or she has done.

Pre-Symbolism: The Figure Emerges

Kids about 3 – 4 years old, begin to combine the circle with one or more lines to draw a human figure. These figures typically start out seeming like “tadpoles” or “head feet” symbols. It is not rare for children’s first representations of the figure to be highly unrealistic or to be missing a neck, body, arms, fingers, feet, or toes. Kids may draw two tadpolelike forms to show their mother and father without making visible differences between the two figures.


A family portrait consisting of several tadpole figures
A family portrait consisting of several tadpole figures


We have a few approaches to explain the “tadpole” figure and the reasons why young kids tend to draw unrealistic or incomplete human forms. Some experts suggest that children omit bodily features because of a lack of understanding about the different parts of the human body and how they are formed. Others argue that children don’t look at what they are drawing. However, others believe that children are simply being selective and drawing.


A self-portrait
A self-portrait


Art and Self-image


The sensitive self-portrait shown in the picture was drawn by a four-and-a-half-year-old boy and is typical of the kind of drawings done by youngsters at this stage. The head is drawn larger because of its importance to the child (it’s where eating and talking goes on) and the subject of the drawing is the child himself. Through the act of drawing or painting, a kid may explore some self-possibilities before coming to a satisfying self-image. During this process, art represents a crucial role in the self-defining process.

The Child’s Concept of Space


Things are rarely drawn with one another in position or size. They will typically appear to “float” on the page in the drawings and paintings done by kids of preschool age.

The Age of Symbolism


At the age of 5 or 6, most children have developed a collection symbol for the things in their environment including a house, a tree, a person… These symbols are highly individualized since they result from children’s conceptual understanding rather than observation of the world around them. For example, each child’s symbol for a person will be completely different from any other child’s as shown in the picture.


A family portrait
A family portrait

The Introduction of the Baseline

One of the more recognizable changes that happen in the drawings of kids around the age of 5 or 6 includes the introduction of the baseline to organize objects in space. No longer do objects appear to float all over the page as seen in children’s earlier attempts at representation. Kids are now aware of similarities between the objects that they create and they recognize that these objects have a definite place on the ground.


A typical baseline drawing
A typical baseline drawing


Youngsters may include culturally-derived imagery in their drawings, but the power of popular media is most noticeable with older children. Certainly, one will find many enthusiastic comic-book artists in a typical fifth-grade classroom as well as other children with a strong interest in drawing sports heroes, rock stars, airplanes, and sports cars. While many kids simply copy their favorite superheroes and comic-book characters, some also create their characters and historical plots.


A child's picture
A child’s picture

The Crisis of Realism


At the age of 9 or 10, many children manifest greater visual awareness of the things around them. They become increasingly conscious of details and proportions in what they are drawing. They typically include body parts such as lips, fingernails, hairstyles, and joints in their drawings of people. They also show more interest than before in drawing people in action poses and costumes.


A portrait of a classmate by a twelve-year-old
A portrait of a classmate by a twelve-year-old

The Representation of Three Dimensional Space


This interest in visual description typically emerges around the age of eight or nine as children begin to adopt their culture’s conventions for representing a three-dimensional scene on a two-dimensional surface. They begin to draw objects that overlap one another and that diminish in size. They also begin to use diagonals to show perspective or the recession of planes in space.


Barnyard drawing by a twelve-year-old who used perspective, overlap,and diminishing size to show depth
Barnyard drawing by a twelve-year-old who used perspective, overlap,and diminishing size to show depth


At the point when one outlines the realistic advancement of kids as they progress from preschool to the upper primary school grades, at any rate four particular stages or moves can be watched. In the first place, kids start to write at around a couple of years old. Second, authentic shapes and figures rise around the age of three or four. Third, youngsters create and utilize realistic images for speaking to the things they experience in their condition. Ultimately, around the age of nine or ten, kids endeavor toward optical authenticity in their drawings. Note that these progressions don’t happen suddenly; rather, they are regularly set apart by little sub-stages or focuses on which youngsters may show attributes of two phases in a single drawing.

What youngsters appear to do normally and what they can do are completely various issues. Educators will probably find that understudies inside their study halls are at fluctuated focuses ion their realistic turn of events. A few children have had rich related involvements with craftsmanship, while others, may have had constrained inventive chances. Consequently, instructors ought to maintain a strategic distance from the impulse to put kids at a specific stage just as a result of their age or evaluation level. Give youngsters chances to draw regularly and give them the help and the support they require.


Sources: Young in Art, a developmental look at child art, Craig Roland 1990, 2006

Exploring Children’s CommunicationThrough Art In The Early Years: The Role Of The Teacher

Written by

Irena Canji

I am a teacher in kindergarten. I have been working with children aged from three to seven since 2000. Also, I am a mother of two kids. My son is a teenager and my daughter is going to kindergarten. My main goal through the website is to show that the process is more important than the product. In childhood, kids need to play, have fun, learn through their experience.

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