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2 Year Old Drawing Milestones | Stages of Artistic Development

Updated: Dec 11, 2022

Adults involved with 2-3 years old children^ generally used to experience that toddlers at this age are paying more and more attention to scribbling^ with different tools on different surfaces.

^Rhoda Kellogg, a psychologist and a nursery school educator, studied young children art development by collecting one million toddlers and kids drawings. She called the earliest drawings of toddler (2 years old) is scribble stage. They are simple and random characters. Her investigation is also known as Kellogg's stages of artistic development.

If there are different options of tools it’s very possible that the kids will choose bright colored chalk or brush and watercolor or ink to draw with.

Of course in such cases an adult has to give them some instructions how to use this tools properly.

  • But is there any more regarding to drawing that adults should teach to them at 2-3 years old?

  • Or what should adults teach to kids about drawing in first 3 years of their lives?

  • And what about the coloring books at this age group?

These are crucial questions because unfortunately a false action of an adult toward these showing up abilities can lead to damage instead of improve.

There are many suggestions and advices what adults should do or not to do in situations like this. Here are my personal experiences that I gained during my art teacher career and please find attached some practical advices that can help you to take the right option in similar situation.

About to teach drawing

First of all I’d like to clarify what the verb ‘to teach’ means in this case. It is an action between an adult and one or more children in order to get a pattern passed over the kids to make them able to achieve a well defined target. For example when a child is taught how to draw a horse.

Using the term ‘to teach’ like this I must say that toddlers shouldn’t be taught to draw at all. Because once the child got a ready made pattern that seems to them like being perfect they never ever will try to create their own pattern. They will repeat the got pattern and will get more and more experienced in it. That means that teaching’ small children to draw is very damaging to their creativity.

Another failed action is if a particular drawing of the kid is over praised. That can lead to the repeating of the same pattern by the over praised child in order to get the similar ‘success’ again and again.

Coloring books is not suggested for toddlers

The coloring books are very popular but I must say absolutely NO at least until 5 years old.

Toddlers and young kids like them because they can get a spectacular result fast and without too much effort.

Adults like them because the fine motor skills can be developed by them plus children find them attractive.

But unfortunately being ready made patterns they are harmful to the children’s own imagery.

Color book is not good in kids creativity development (Photo by Pixabay from Pexels)

Encourage toddlers to express themselves

So what drawing children need at young age? They need to be encouraged to express themselves visually by patient guidance.

In practice that would mean that children in first 2 years of their lives should be let to explore and discover by themselves. They should be supervised and technically guided by an adult but without getting any advice about their drawing or painting.

When your toddler is at 2 years old, the intervention of an adult is welcomed as a cooperative partner in a game called drawing, painting or any other creative activity. This game should have a few “rules” that should be easy to overcome by the children by their own creativity.

As a listener and guide

Most likely at this age the children will try to reflect the concrete shape of an object. But actually their art works are still very abstract filled with higgledy-piggledy lines and spots. Having much more developed fantasy than drawing skills, toddlers at 2-3 years will attach a story to their drawing or painting.

In this case the role of adults as listener is very important. They should listen to the children’s narration carefully without judging any possible gap between the drawing and the story or asking for any further argument or without complaining if the story variates all the time when it’s told. And once again it’s very important not to give any advice to children how they should improve their drawing.

About 3 years old children may request for concrete help, like ‘how to draw a human’ or ‘how to get pink color’ or ‘what will be the result if I mix the yellow and red colors’.

In these situation the adult has to give an answer but never giving a concrete reply.

For example if the question ‘how to draw a human’ comes one of the possible answers can be ‘I’ll tell you while you’re drawing. First of all a human has a head. It seems to an egg …’ and so on all the parts of a human body.

Listening and guiding young kids in art development (Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels)

If the kids are sticked to get an image that they can watch while drawing than the adult can search for a good quality photography occasionally to analyze together. Rather then to show a drawing or painting as a template. But above of all adults never should draw any shape on children’s working surface.

Another example is when the child is asking for the ‘recipe’ of a color. Like ‘how to get pink color’. This time the adult should explain that the pink in fact is the light shade of red. It’s very possible that a 3 years old child will be able to recognize how to create the light shade of any color by mixing it with white by their previous experience. If the child would like to get the answer to the question ‘what will be the result if I mix the yellow and red colors’ before trying to mix them the obvious answer is ‘let’s see’.

Children at 3 years old need to be encouraged and challenged to get knowledge by exploring and discovering while they show a tendency to get the answer without trying to find it out by themselves. Being challenged consistently to discover can help them to become more self-confident.

Learn from failures

By the other hand there is a risk for the children to get to failure which can lead to their stalling regarding to drawing for a while.

Some adults may feel like they should protect the kid from failure. I don’t believe so. I think it is a good chance for children to learn the principle ‘there is no rose without a thorn’. I mean the failures are the stairs to the success.

Failures are the stairs to success in kids art development (Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels)

Finally drawing, painting or any creative activity shouldn’t be considered as a ‘talent’ at 2 years old toddler. For the most of children it is the best way to express their vision about their circumstances as well their feelings and emotions. Once they get involved in the much more exciting world of reading and writing they will lose some of their interest for art activities.

If not and there’s a possibility I would advice to parents to find a person or institution specialized in fine arts for their children.

Partnership with drawing children

But there’s no doubt about the fact that children’s drawing of any age should be taken with seriousness, care and responsibility by any adult trying to keep the boundaries of an understanding partnership with the drawing children. Sometimes it’s not an easy task but the result worth any effort.

If you find this article is helpful and you want to help others too, just share it in any social media (such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest)

About the author:

Bela Simon is a professional fine artist/painter/graphic designer and an experienced art teacher. He has taught art for twelve years in a high school for fine arts, working with students of various ages, both in primary and secondary education. His experience also involves exam preparation courses and private tutoring. Bela holds B.A. in Professional Fine Artist at University for Fine Arts and Design Cluj-Napoc, Romania.

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1 commento

26 mar 2020

Thanks Bela. You share many valuable tips to parents about guiding through developing their kids artistic interests. Very helpful!

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