The first stage is simple scribbling. This is the typical output of a two or three-year old and – no surprises here – this is not really about the result on the page! Instead it’s all about the enjoyment of the process. The more kids scribble, the more fun they have. And if they are using paint, then it’s even more fun. It certainly has been in our house! All the while they are tuning their motor and pen skills, enjoying the process and effect of changing colours and paints, and generally having a ball.
The second stage to spot is the appearance of round shapes – it’s a pleasing and natural mechanical action to create something round on a page, and often kids can spend many proud hours creating these shapes alongside their normal vigorous scribbling and painting.
It is around this time the third stage happens. Kids will often, all of a sudden sometimes, identify in the round or scribbled or painted shapes they are creating a resemblance to something they know. It might be a sun, a house, a rainbow (like this one), or just Mummy or Daddy. Anything really. They’ll tell you what they’ve created. This will be the first time they have put onto paper something they know, and if you can capture this stage it’s a wonderful thing to keep and look back on. Not to say, of course, that right after this they won’t go straight back to having fun – they do. They’re kids. But there is usually a pride and curiosity in having produced something recognizable on the page. Sooner or later.
In the fourth stage, typically around the ages of four or five – faces and people appear. Hilariously for us as parents, pictures of people nearly always start without any body at all – so the arms and legs spring straight out of the head. I can’t get enough of these pictures myself! It’s almost a shame to me when the trunk starts to appear very soon afterwards.
After that, stage five. At ages five, six and seven, pictures start to sit on a baseline and include houses, families, cars, bikes, holidays, flowers, trees – whatever is prominent in the child’s mind at the time. The images are depicted ‘as known’ rather than ‘as seen’ – so there is no perspective or scale involved.