Teaching visual arts

Understanding the stages of development in children’s art

Patterns of development are discernible in children’s art up to the end of primary schooling. They are most evident in children’s imagery and they provide a broad outline of typical progress. They begin with mark-making and so-called ’scribble pictures’ and may develop to where realistic representation is the main concern. A personal set of symbols (their own visual interpretations) will typically evolve for familiar objects and figures, such as a person, a tree or a house. The development of a ’scheme’ (schema) for expressing ideas may result and may be used in their story-telling.

As they progress, it is important to help them develop beyond symbols which are used with little variation. They should also be encouraged to use drawing to plan their art activities, for example if the theme is to be carried out in another medium. An understanding of the stages or patterns of development in children’s art is crucial to the objective assessment of children’s visual expression, and to planning.