Stages of Children's Art Development
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CreativeKids | Since 1991, CreativeKids has committed to advance creative development in children and teenagers, bond families and mobilize communities with art, design and architecture programs. Our comprehensive and age-appropriate and award-winning after school art and design programs for youngsters aged 1.5 to 18 are designed to foster flexibility and adaptability to thrive in the ever-changing world of the 21st century. IM Creative, a sub-brand of CreativeKids, is a social enterprise dedicated to making creative art and design education accessible and affordable to the diverse community in Hong Kong, creating positive social changes.It has ignited a creative spirit in the community, collaborated with schools, organizations and corporations, and reached out to families from diverse backgrounds. We have been affirmed as being at the forefront of creative art and design education, engaging ourselves in continual research and development of effective teaching and learning approaches.

“My child is already 5 years old and still draws stick figures. Is there something wrong?”
“My child does not seem too talented in art. Should we stop wasting time in this area?”
“My child scribbles all the time and colours outside of the lines. Should we stop him?”

Parents often have questions and doubts about their child’s involvement in art, but some concerns may be misconceptions that can discourage their natural development in art.


Timeline of Children’s Stages of Art Development

Art is often children’s first language, as they may learn visually before verbally or textually. Each child develops at their own pace. The exhibition timeline shows some of the developmental characteristics of children’s art from toddlers to teens observed by our art mentors over the years. The terminology for the different stages is based on Austrian art educator Viktor Lowenfeld’s research*. The timeline with brief descriptions illustrated by CreativeKids students’ art and design works serve as a reference to help adults understand children’s different stages of art development.


*Adapted from Lowenfeld, V., & Brittain, W., Lambert (Ed.) (1987). Creative and mental growth (8th ed.). New York: London: Macmillan; Collier Macmillan.


Scribbling Stage (Age 1.5 – 3)

Scribbles are records of children’s kinaesthetic arm movements over surfaces. Research* reveals that scribbling is a medium through which children express emotions and experiences with the external world through a process developing from random scribbles (age 1.5) to named scribbles (age 2). Scribbling is more than learning motor control and coordination, but also a tool of communication that transforms into drawings, words, and stories in later stages.


*Longobardi, C., Quaglia, R., & Lotti, N. (2015).”Reconsidering the scribbling stage of drawing: a new perspective on toddlers’ representational processes”. Retrieved February 27, 2018, from


Pre-schematic Stage (Age 4 – 5)

With improved eye-hand coordination, children turn curved lines into conscious creation of forms, providing a tangible record of their thinking process. They discover that a drawn symbol can stand for something in their picture. Extending lines from circles, they draw typical ‘tadpole figures’ to represent humans or animals. Objects and symbols float randomly on paper and change meaning with children’s observation and experiences. At age 4 or 5, children begin to tell stories and work out problems in their drawings. This is a good time to enter their world through ‘listening’ to their pictures.


Schematic Stage (Age 6 – 9)

Children use symbols (known as schemas), to represent their active knowledge of a subject. They use a set of symbols, usually with geometric shapes, to identify familiar physical objects or scenes, typically a landscape. A sense of spatial relationship and hierarchy of importance gradually emerges. Objects are placed on a baseline in order of sizes to symbolize the degree of importance the child places on them. Colours are used relating to the real objects. 


Stage of Transition (Age 9 – 12)

Children find that schematic generalization can no longer adequately express reality and replace it with increased efforts for visual details of objects. Some children experience a ‘Creativity Slump’ when they are discouraged by their artworks not matching up with the expectations of adults and peers. With greater awareness of proportion, form and perspective, drawings become smaller and more rigid. They discover space and depict overlapping objects with a horizontal line, rather than a baseline, defining sky and ground. They struggle with perspective, foreshortening and other spatial issues, and achieving realism is a prized goal. Children’s understanding gradually moves away from the concrete to more abstract concepts.


Period of Naturalism (Age 12 – 18)

The adolescent stage marks the end of art as a spontaneous activity by children. Teenagers focus at achieving adult-like naturalism of drawing objectively what is seen, rather than what is subjectively known. They rapidly develop skills in observation, sketching, painting, designing, sculpting and constructing. Teenagers are critically aware of their inadequacy in art. Those who decide to pursue and persist will develop a degree of mastery over media and techniques in communicating ideas.


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