Written by Kate from Picklebums.

At around the age of 15-18 months young toddlers stop putting absolutely everything in their mouths and begin to explore their world in new ways. They are more able to control their hands and their fine motor skills are developing rapidly. It is around this time that they may become interested in drawing.



Early Stages of Drawing and Pencil Grasp

In these early days, drawing is all about cause and effect. The pure joy of moving their arm and hand and making marks on the paper is what drawing is all about and even colours are not important at this stage. Young toddlers usually hold the crayon or marker with a ‘fisted grasp’ using their whole hand with their thumb up. As they get older, a toddlers’ scribbles become more controlled as they develop better control of the muscles in their hand, increased eye-hand co-ordination and better understand that they control the marks on the paper. In this stage they often make purposeful lines, shapes and patterns on the page. They still hold the crayon or marker with their whole hand, but now with the thumb down in a ‘digital pronate grasp’ At around 2 ½ - 3 years of age toddlers begin to understand that drawings can convey meaning and they begin to refine their scribbles and patterns and label them. Later they begin to draw recognisable images as their imagination and skills increase. At this stage they begin to use their thumb and fingers to control the crayon or marker in a four finger grasp which later develops into the refined pincer grasp for writing.

Tips for Drawing with Toddlers

Watching our children develop and interest and love of drawing is a magical time and there are many simple ways we can encourage our toddlers to draw and create. Offer toddlers large crayons or markers to draw with. The early start chunky markers are perfect for very young drawers as they are thick and easy to hold, they have strong tips that can cope with the force of toddler scribbles and they may strong vibrant marks on the paper with little effort! Older toddlers can manage thinner markers but again, offer markers with a strong, ‘sink-proof’ tip to avoid tears and frustration. Make sure whatever drawing tool you choose is non-toxic and safe, just in case your toddler still has to occasional impulse to put things in their mouth. Be prepared for markers to end up in places other than the paper. Supervise toddlers when they are drawing and remind them with a gentle ‘keep the drawing on the paper’ if they stray, and choose washable markers, just in case! Offer LARGE pieces of paper. A general rule is, the smaller the child, the larger the paper! For beginning drawers taping the paper to the table can help ease frustration and let them concentrate on making marks rather than controlling the paper. Older toddlers will probably want to do a LOT of drawings, so be prepared with a good supply of paper!

How to entice the 'reluctant' ones:

Offering new and fun items for mark making like stampers may entice a reluctant drawer, or try offering something other than regular paper to draw on. Tape some paper to an easel, try a loooong strip of paper on the floor, or how about a bumpy surface to draw on?

They don't need to be taught

Young children don’t need to be ‘taught’ to draw, so just offer your toddlers safe materials and lots of time and space for drawing. Don’t worry about the finished product or ask what it is, instead focus on the process of drawing. Talk to your child about the lines they are making, the colours they are using and how much they seem to be enjoying drawing and watch as your child’s creativity and skills grow.
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