I remember art being a HUGE part of my life from kindergarten through third grade. When I was eight years old, I answered an About Me assignment with, "I love art, I think I am good at it." Ya, humble for sure. What stands out to me when I read that, is that I was encouraged by others and I thought I was good at something.
Parents can foster a child's love for art by understanding the different stages of art development. This understanding helps us teach our children in ways that develop their art skills, and more importantly, encourages them to love art and creativity.
I've learned while teaching kids art that encouragement should be the focus at an early age, and discouragement can happen all to quickly when the art lessons are not developmentally appropriate.
Although each child is different, there are certain "art" stages that children go through. I call the second art stage Doodler, because around 5-6 years old children are drawing objects that are recognizable. (I call the first stage scribblers, you can read more about them here.)
During the Doodler stage, kids clearly define shapes for the objects they are drawing. In the beginning, objects float in their drawings, however very soon the concept of placement kicks in.
Placement means that objects are placed in certain areas according to the child's understanding. The ground usually becomes the bottom of the page and sky the top. The placement of features on a person are in the correct locations- hair goes on the top of the head and so on. Isn't my child's drawing of Cinderella (I was told her hair is down) is cute with the hair parted down the middle? Kids start noticing stuff like that during this stage.
After mastering placement, space is realized and objects start overlapping and soon a line replaces the bottom of the paper.
Often children in the doodle stage like to draw relationships and things they love. They also like to create artwork that portrays a feeling, tells a message, or what their friends or others around them are drawing. They often draw the same things over and over, practicing their skills.
I had a million drawings of my family during this stage. They were all a little bit different than the last one. One of my children drew a lot of rainbows and the other a lot of "Baba" the monster drawings.
What Art Projects are Appropriate for Doodlers?
Almost all kids in this stage still love art and creating! They think art is fun!
Process art lessons are a great way to incorporate fun and teach art skills by letting kids be creative without a formal lesson.
Kids at this stage also enjoy art lessons to show them how to create with new tools and draw new objects so they can practice those for a while until they are ready to move on to the next thing.
Start with the most basic drawing books/lessons/videos that appeal to children.
I looked for a basic Zentangle drawing book for my kids for a while until the recent "Zentangle for Kids" came out. I was super excited to find one developmentally appropriate for ages 6-8 because my kids love Zentangle. Love for Zentangle started out as an art lesson and soon the kids were hooked, during this stage the opportunity to practice art freely is just as critical as instruction to improve their skills, so I wanted to find a book.
Kids in this stage have a better handle on their fine motor skills and can handle tougher projects. However too tough can be discouraging.
If an art project looks fun, you check if it is appropriate for Doodlers by asking these questions:
1. Is it step-by-step and are the steps easy to understand? Kids at this stage do well with steps to tackle projects and help them understand the process of creating something great has steps in between.
2. Will it take an hour or less? During this stage kids go from 30 minute attention spans to about an hour, and then they need a break.
3. Can I simplify the project to work on mostly 1 skill? Kids in this stage get overwhelmed when the lesson includes too many skills. Like how to draw and how to paint in one project. Focus on one or the other. If your going to focus on drawing give them an easy medium like pencils, markers, or crayons that they are already easily drawing with. If focusing on painting let them trace, or simplify the drawing so they can focus on the painting. Same goes for other art mediums.
So, what can Doodlers do?
The Focus of Art at this Stage should be:
-Learning about other art supplies (besides basics).
-How art is made. Learning art mediums.
-Introduction to the Art Masters.
-Practicing taking care of supplies (may need reminded)
-Learning how to combine lines & shapes to create objects.
-Mastering fine motor skills.
-Learning to mix colors and use color for expression.
-Introduction to basic 3-D art like drawing cubes and basic shadowing.
-How to draw realism, the very basics.
-Learning art based on interests.
-Learning art is awesome!
Changes to Be Aware of During this Stage.
Kids near the end of the Doodler stage begin to admire great works of art, and want to try to create them. It is a wonderful opportunity to teach them about art history and the great masterpieces. However, at some point they begin to realize their artwork doesn't look as great as the more experienced artists. They become more sensitive to their own skills, their self-expression and can be self critical and frustrated when their artwork doesn't come out looking "right."
Emphasizing the amount of time and practice it takes a person to create a great art piece is important during this stage. Most kids don't completely understand that practice and time are required to become better skilled at something.
Their works of art also look different because they are a different person. Letting kids know that it is wonderful to be different and to be themselves helps encourage them with art and to be themselves. See how art can teach so many important things about life.
Art projects are included in many of my great memories of school. Great memories are often associated with creativity, in fact, American Psychological Research says, art helps to improve children's moods and happiness.
I also learned a lot through art projects, and I thought school was fun! Art is a great tool in teaching other subjects, as well as increasing cognitive ability and problem solving capabilities.
I am so glad my children's teacher incorporates a lot of art into the classroom as well as letting my doodler, doodle all over her finished math pages. I really respect that. I hope schools and parents remember that art is an important part of education and the well being of kids.
I hope understanding the Doodler stage helps you better understand art development for your child so you can choose developmentally appropriate projects that will encourage their appreciation for art.
Art has certainly been a large part of my life and gives me so much joy. I hope that all children can experience the same joy.
Part of this site is dedicated to Doodlers, you can find developmentally appropriate projects, supplies, and fun stuff just for them! Come check it out!