How does art development look like during the preschool years? I remember when I went to pick up my 2.5-year-old from school his teacher was excited to show me his artwork. When I saw the artwork, it looked like a white piece of paper now fully covered in purple paint. At the time, it didn’t mean much to me, but then his teacher said that it’s very impressive for his age. She noted that it took him a lot of focus and control to fully paint every inch of that paper. After she pointed that out, I thought – wow that IS impressive.

When we understand the various stages of art development during the toddler and preschool years, we will be more appreciative and attentive to what our children draw. I hope our children’s art development guide will help you look beyond a “scribble” and into the mind of your 2 or 3-year-old so you can appreciate their creative efforts.

Stages of Art Development

AgeStageExamples
2-3 yearsScribbleUncontrolled (marks on paper)
Controlled (control of eye and hand movement)
2-4 yearsShapesCircles, squares, ovals, triangles, rectangles
3-5 yearsDesignsSuns (oval or square; short lines extending from sun)
Radials (lines radiating out from dot or circle
4-5 yearsHumansMakes a “sun face”
Horizontal line from each side as arms; two long lines from the bottom as legs; may make circle hands and feet
4-5 yearsPictorialAnimals with pointed ears
Houses, cars, trees, flowers
Source: Adapted from Analyzing Children’s Art by R. Kellogg, 1969, Palo Alto, CA: National Press

Oh Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun

Part of art development in toddlers and preschoolers involve drawing basic shapes such as a sun which has a circle and lines for rays
The sun is the most common drawing children start drawing all over the world.

Did you know that the sun is one of the most common designs children all over the world enjoy drawing? What’s fascinating about this, is that the sun evolves into stick figures during the humans drawing stage. Eventually, each “ray” from the sun turns into human arms, legs, and hair. Then, a circle becomes the head, eyes, ears, nose, and/or mouth. Next, I will share a tip to observe your child’s art development.

Firstly, on the back of your child’s artwork, write down the date and what your child drew. It could be one scribbled line, but if your child says it’s a shark, a shark it is! Then, keep the artwork for a period of time for you and your child to see how their drawings have evolved!

How to develop art skills in young children

So, how do you know if you have a budding Picasso on your hands? Since children will only start to create representational drawings (pictorial stage) around the age of 5, only time will tell. But one thing is for certain: children need artistic freedom and acceptance to develop talent in art and that is more crucial than the innate skills they may have been born with.

Check out these free printables to help your child’s art development.