Stages of Drawing Development

(and why our titles to date are created for children of school age and over)

We get a lot of messages from people asking us what age range our books are written and created for, so here's a little bit about the stages of drawing development and why Picture-This Books™ are written for imaginers aged approximately 5+ years (for now at least).

When I first had the idea for Picture-This Books™, I did a substantial amount of research into child development and children's books in general. I looked at the importance of picture books (which I LOVE), narrative pattern, child-friendly mindfulness strategies, storytelling, imagination, representation, comprehension skills, reading, writing and language development, font size, I even spent a solid month researching and testing paper size, finish and weight. You name it, I researched it. I read all the books, compared studies, watched and listened to a variety of industry experts and child specialists. I wanted to make sure that the idea had legs but I also knew there were things that I'd need to actively include and exclude, whilst writing and designing. I very quickly discovered that having an idea is one thing, product development is a whole other beast.

The stages of drawing development were, and still are, something that fascinates me.

In the 1920s, a very clever chap called Georges-Henri Luquet wrote one of the first books documenting and theorising his findings of drawing development, as acquired during his research into cognitive development. In his work, he described a series of clear drawing development stages. Luquet's work had a massive influence on subsequent research - including that of Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget in the 1950s. Piaget considered the stages of drawing development as a point of reference in gauging a child's cognitive competence. Something which was later supported in part by some, and challenged in part by others.

With 100 years of extensive research and studies into the topic, the following stages are generally recognised and accepted as per the below. However, the overlap in approximate ages is no accident. All children develop in different areas, at different ages. The multiplicity can't be underestimated so please don't worry if your child doesn't yet meet certain criteria.

Stage 1 - age 18 months - 3 years (approx.) - Mark-making - random scribbles - uncontrolled/gradually increased control, purely for enjoyment and curiosity. Stage 1 of drawing development begins when your child first holds a crayon or other drawing tool with any sense of purpose and understanding. You won't have a clue what they have drawn - and they probably don't either (such understanding is cultivated as they progress to the next stage). In Stage 1 of drawing development, your child is simply learning to leave a mark on a page. I say simply but there's really a lot of learning happening at this stage. Stage 1 of drawing development is when children begin to put hand-eye coordination into practice, fine and gross motor skills are emerging and improving as muscles develop and the child's finger dexterity grows, alongside their overall understanding of the world. They are naturally curious, revel in sensory feedback - and as they explore what they can do with their body, so too are they mastering early language skills - naming and labelling objects, and their independence and self-confidence emerge as Stage 1s use their knowledge and experience to independently create something out of nothing on the paper in front of them.

Stage 2 - age 2 - 7 years (approx.) - Pre-Schematic Drawing Development Stage - Children start to use varying geometrical shapes and lines to create a considered approximation of what they want to draw. Stage 2 of drawing development is when a child thinks about what they want to draw and attempts to reproduce that thought on the paper in front of them. In the pre-schematic stage, drawings gradually become more complex but remain unrealistic. Your child will know what they've drawn, but you'll have to ask them! It's that stage. Throughout this pre-schematic drawing stage, your child will defer to favourite colours - or colours that they associate with whatever it is they are drawing. Simple shapes and approximations of objects, subjects drawn independently rather than as part of a scene. At this stage, the child has little to no understanding of space, so objects appear to be floating on the page, a single thing like a house might be drawn differently each time; there is no sense of logic or perspective yet. The child is gradually developing a schema (the visual idea of any given thing) but will tend to draw what they perceive as the most important thing about the subject. Stage 2s are rapidly developing problem-solving skills, observation and critical thought - as well as honing their fine motor skills and concentration.

Stage 3 - age 4 - 11 years (approx.) - Schematic Drawing Development Stage - Children demonstrate a schema for any given item - they know how they want something to look and it will have more or less the same key features (recognisably) in most of their drawings. Proportion, detail, colour, reiteration - they have formed an impression of the world and they are trying to replicate that on the paper in front of them. By Schematic Stage, children are actively looking for familiar imagery in the books they read - and the absence of familiar imagery does not go unnoticed. Cue the importance of representation in children's books! It's at Stage 3 of drawing development that skyline and ground will start to appear in a child's drawings - they are beginning to create a scene, things float a lot less. A schema demonstrates that a child is making some sense out of what they see and experience in their world. Children will now often create stories to go along with their drawings and vice-versa. Pattern, shape, interpretation, and trial and error are now being deployed every time they pick up a drawing tool. Children are building on what they've learned so far and starting to experiment and hone.

Guess what? This is where we come in. But first, let's finish these stages...

Stage 4 - age 9 - 13 years (approx.) - Transitional Drawing Development Stage (sometimes referred to as pre-teen but I'm purposely not going to call it that because this stage can often start much later, well into teenhood). This stage covers the period when a child's drawing skills develop substantially. Children draw as per the standard of an adult's understanding of the world BUT the key thing that separates this stage from the next is that childhood still prevails in the majority of their artwork. Children move from core schematics to more nuanced and unique drawings - there's no longer one standard unwavering impression. Interestingly, it's usually only at this age that a child expresses and defines gender roles in their drawings - which is why our books remain very proudly gender-neutral. In Stage 4 of drawing development, the child or young adult adds detail and spatial perspective as standard. Be warned, it's around this point that a child starts to appreciate the detail in other artwork and may become frustrated and self-critical with their own.

Stage 5 - age 12 years - adulthood (approx.) - Realism and Identity. Their drawings will be improved with practice, knowledge and experience but ultimately, they now have the core expertise to set them on a journey of finding and mastering their own unique drawing style.

So this is why "Picture-This Books™ have been written for imaginers aged 5 and over". Because "written for schematic drawing development stage +" doesn't roll off the tongue so well. The books are best for children who have reached the stage whereby they have established schemas, and beyond. This way, they don't have to overthink the technicals and can instead concentrate on embellishing the story with a sprinkling of their powerful imagination.

Time to mention that I'm working on a pre-schooler edition? For obvious reasons, this can't be rushed.

Shop books 1-5, available HERE.

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