Child development – coloring and drawing

January 23rd, 2010

child sketchingTo the casual observer a child who is drawing or coloring in,  is just scribbling. The marks seem to be haphazard, almost meaningless. But there is much more happening in your young child’s mind while s/he engages in the physical act of drawing and coloring.

In fact, examining a child’s drawing may give us important insights into how drawing fits into their overall physical, emotional and cognitive development of the young child. From toddlerhood through primary school, children choose to draw and color, but the process starts much earlier – during toddlerhood.

At around the age of one and a half, toddlers become interested in scribbling. It seems to provide sensory enjoyment, but research has shown that the child is also interested in the marks that are made. The act of scribbling in itself can serve several useful purposes for the young child. Small muscle coordination and control improve with practice, cognitive abilities are exercised, opportunities for social interaction arise, and the physical movements provide emotional release.

Because a toddler’s small muscle control is not fully developed yet, they may approach the coloring sheet by grasping the marker with his or her fist and may have difficulty placing the marks exactly where he or she wants them. Movements are typically large, involving the entire arm with very little finger or wrist control. This is because the pattern of physical development proceeds from the center of the trunk outward.

With practice however, the toddler will naturally improve this – full control, however, will not be achieved until much later. A few toddlers rest the forearm on the drawing surface to give them additional control. A rhythmic, repetitive, scrubbing motion is common among two-year-olds, providing sensory enjoyment and making drawing a very physical act.

By providing children with the materials and opportunities to scribble we can promote physical skills. Just as babbling is a natural way to gain language, scribbling is a natural gateway to muscle control and coordination.

Intellectually, toddlers are concerned with both the process and results of their art. They do not intend to represent particular objects at first. Instead, they are concerned with color and line. However, they may look at the marks and scribbles they have made and, in surprise, recognize a shape and name it. While they may not have intended to draw a dog or tree, the scribbles suggest the shapes. Children interpret, rather than intend. This is referred to as ‘fortuitous realism’ and becomes common as a child approaches three years of age.

As a parent you can encourage your child to draw and color by offering him or her opportunities to do so.  Let them loose on blank sheets of paper or provide them with a coloring book or coloring sheets, many of which  are available online. For example, many little girls love Hello Kitty and at sites like Hello Kitty Coloring Pages you’ll find the best coloring pages.

Remember that toddlers need constant supervision while coloring or taking part in other art and craft projects due to the choking hazard that crayons pose.

Categories: Arts & Crafts

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