Do You Know What Children’s Drawings Are Saying? Free Directed Drawing Activity

children's drawings

Children’s drawings can say a lot about their development as they progress through a series of sequential stages in the same way as their writing development. When children arrive at these stages will very much depend on the experiences that children are offered and the way in which they are supported through them. Some children will pass through them more quickly than others. It is useful to know what to look out for in order to encourage the right experiences and the next steps.

Children’s Drawings – Stage 1: Scribbling

When children first start scribbling they usually don’t realise that they can make the marks do what they want.

In a relatively short time children recognise the relationship between their movements and the marks on the paper. As this discovery unfolds, children begin to control their scribbles by varying their motions and by repeating certain lines that give them enjoyment.

As children gain control of the marks on the page, they start to name their scribbles and engage in imaginative play when drawing. A child may announce what he or she is going to draw before beginning or may look at the marks on the page afterwards and say, “This is mummy.”

Children’s Drawings – Stage 2: Pre-Symbolism

children's drawings

During this stage, figures will start to appear in children’s drawings as they begin to realise that they can combine different shapes to make representations. Quite often, we see bodyless people and people with arms and legs coming out of their head.

Children’s Drawings – Stage 3: Symbolism

children's drawings

In this stage children have a set of symbols they use to represent different objects, including people. Figures will have all of the main body parts depicted in the correct places as well as an increasing amount of detail e.g. fingers, clothes, teeth etc.

children's drawings

Finding Out About Children’s Drawings

mark making

Talking to children about the process and not just the end product will not only encourage communication but will also allow children to verbalise and think about what they have done which will impact on future drawings.

Open ended questions such as “Tell me about your picture”, “How did you make them dance?”, “How could you add more detail to the hands?” “Why did you put their arms in the air?” etc. will have much more impact than closed questions e.g. “What colour is the body?”, “What shape are the feet?”. Thinking about the next stage of drawing will suggest the type of questions that need to be asked in order to support progress.

Mark Making Experiences

It is important to encourage children’s drawing through a range of mark making experiences, some of which are listed below:

· Use finger paints to make patterns or decorate a shower curtain hanging outside.

· Offer small plastic buckets of water and brushes or sponges for outdoor painting on walls, doors and paving stones.

· Drip water from fingers and hands onto shallow trays of dry sand, flour or powder paint.

· Offer chalk for pattern and line making outside on walls and paths.

· Provide different types of paper e.g. tracing, wallpaper, coloured paper circles, strips, triangles etc. and a variety of writing materials.

· Provide shaving foam and encourage the children to play and make patterns.

· Squeezy boottles with water and paint outside.

· Offer plastic droppers and coloured water for dripping and dropping onto paper towels.

· Offer fine felt pens as well as thicker ones.

· Colour gloop and foam with paint or food colouring and use with simple tools e.g. straws, card combs, small brushes.

· Provide clipboards and whiteboards so children can use mark making everywhere.

· Paint on wallpaper rolls, big cardboard boxes.

· Stick a piece of paper on the under side of a covered table for children to draw and scribble on.

· Use toy cars to make tracks and patterns on paper, card, fabric or in gloop, paint, rolled out dough etc.

· Introduce small, hand-held sprays with paint or coloured water.

The possibilities are endless and Nursery World go into more detail about what can be offered along with the practitioner’s role in all of it, while Mark Making Matters is an old but still very relevant and useful document with even more information.

Development Matters 2021

Development Matters 2021 says that children should:

  • Create closed shapes with continuous lines, and begin to use these shapes to represent objects.
  • Draw with increasing complexity and detail, such as representing a face with a circle and including details.
  • Use drawing to represent ideas like movement or loud noises.
  • Show different emotions in their drawings and paintings, like happiness, sadness, fear etc.
  • Explore colour and colour-mixing.
  • Show different emotions in their drawings – happiness, sadness, fear etc.

This should be supported in the following ways:

  • Help children to develop their drawing and model-making. Encourage them to develop their own creative ideas. Spend sustained time alongside them. Show interest in the meanings children give to their drawings and models. Talk together about these meanings.
  • Encourage children to draw from their imagination and observation.
  • Help children to add details to their drawings by selecting interesting objects to draw, and by pointing out key features to children and discussing them.
  • Talk to children about the differences between colours. Help them to explore and refine their colour-mixing – for example: “How does blue become green?”
  • Introduce children to the work of artists from across times and cultures. Help them to notice where features of artists’ work overlap with the children’s, for example in details, colour, movement or line.

Lots of the activities above will support children in achieving these outcomes while also having fun. Another activity that I’ve not yet mentioned but one that can be very beneficial is directed drawing where children are taken step by step to draw a picture either on paper or through the use of video. Done regularly, you will see great progress in children’s ability to draw as they make links between shapes and previous drawings.

Use the free directed drawing power point to demonstrate drawing faces, a fish, cat and a pig.

Accompany them with the free worksheets to see big improvements in your children’s drawings.

Have fun drawing with your children and don’t forget to visit my teachers pay teachers store or my tes store for activities and worksheets.

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