Raising the next Frida Kahlo or Pablo Picasso

Ditch the arts instruction books! Four ways to understand and nurture your child’s art experiences.

When we are very young, making art is a discovery, an experience, and an expression, explains Rebecca Parlakian in Zero to Three. As parents and adults, we would do well to nurture all three.

Parlakian identifies the basic stages of drawing:

Random scribbling (15 months to 2½ years)

Children enjoy the sensory experience of creating art: the way the crayon, play dough, or finger paint feels and smells (and, sometimes, tastes!).

Controlled Scribbling (2 years to 3 years)

Toddlers may make repeated marks on the page: open circles or diagonal, curved, horizontal, or vertical lines. Toddlers understand their drawings can convey meaning.

“My daughter’s first ‘drawing’ at age 2 ½ was a series of dots on the page,” author Rebecca Parlakian wrote. “She looked up at me with a grin on her face and said, ‘Raining!’”

Pictures of objects or people (3 years to 5 years)

Before this age, children drew and then decided what they drew. Now they decide what to draw first. And they sign the picture too!

Four ways you can nurture early art experiences

  1. Make art a regular part of playtime.
  2. Ditch the instructions. Let your child experiment and explore.
  3. Use a range of “art materials”: cotton balls, sponges, string, chalk, magazines, etc.
  4. Use art to help your child express strong feelings. Having a tantrum, feeling sad, confused? Creative activities can sometimes help children express feelings that are too overwhelming to share in words.
Your Thriving Child
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