Expert Contributor: It’s Not Just Scribble Scrabble!

A gallery wall at Philly Art Center features works created by 1-2 year olds in our Art Start Parent/Child Class

Scribbling is a fascinating phenomenon in children’s artistic development. New firsts and discoveries are being made with each mark! As children scribble, they learn cause and effect, develop artistic expressiveness, practice hand/eye coordination, and cultivate imagination. Before a child is even able to draw a recognizable image, they progress through three stages of scribbling development.

1. EXPLORATORY SCRIBBLING

Imagine a child holding a black crayon. Examining it, he hits it against the table. It makes a sound! He does it again…another sound, but wait, there’s a dot! Now, he starts swinging his arm. He’s making marks, but some are off the paper. This child is beginning to explore a world of mark making. He’s engaged in disordered scribbling. At this point, children make marks based on kinesthetic pleasure. They’re movers and shakers! Children often grasp their drawing tool with their whole hand and make large arm movements. Many times, they’ll look away and scribble beyond the paper. In disordered scribbling, children are experiencing their movements and how it may result in lines and dots appearing on their papers.

2. CONTROLLED SCRIBBLING

As children start to understand the cause and effect of their artistic movements, they begin to experiment with controlled scribbling. When children enter this stage of creative development, they become more attentive. Here, we can imagine another child. She’s holding that same black crayon. Rather than simply swinging her arm, this child watches her scribbles, using more of her wrist than her arm, and concentrates on areas of the paper. Her scribbles may have small marks, repeated patterns, and often circles, lines, and loops!

3. NAMED SCRIBBLING

With continued practice, children spend more time on their images, and begin telling stories about their scribbles. Appropriately, this final stage of scribbling is known as named scribbling. Imagine one last child. Again, he’s holding a black crayon, but this time, between his fingers. With his crayon, he purposefully creates a scribble and relates it to the world around him. His association of this image does not stay the same…his scribble is named a dog, then a horse…but that’s okay! At this point, it’s about figuring out ways to connect the sights, sounds, and stories!

Scribbling is a fun and dynamic way for children to learn and develop. At the Philly Art Center, we embrace scribbling in our parent child classes, starting each hour with our little artists making marks with thick black crayon nubs on large paper sketchbooks. It’s exciting for both parents and teachers to watch and wait for these amazing milestones in creative development! So, next time someone dismisses art as “just scribbles”, let them know…it’s so much more!

BIG THANKS TO ABBIEN CROWLEY CIUCCI, ART THERAPIST AND BELOVED ART CENTER TEACHER OF MANY YEARS, FOR AUTHORING THIS ARTICLE!

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