The Link Between Art and Literacy: the 5 Stages of Scribbling

photo courtesy of Flickr user Inferis

Parents know the magic that a simple coloring book and a pack of crayons can work on a screaming toddler.  But did you know that those random-looking scribbles are an important developmental step along your child's path to reading and writing?  As early as 15 months, children enter the first of what's called the 5 Stages of Scribbling.

Here's the basic breakdown (and please note: every child grows and develops at their own pace.  Ages ranges are general approximations only.)

STAGE 1: RANDOM SCRIBBLING (15 months to 2 1/2 years)

At this early age, children are delighted to figure out how to hold a crayon (those extra jumbo crayons are super handy).  Babies and toddlers will usually hold the crayons in a tight fist and use large motions from their shoulders to produce scribbles.  During this stage, they make the exciting discovery that the object in their hand is producing lines on the paper (and hopefully, not the walls). 

Babies are most interested in the sensory nature of art at this point; the texture of the crayon, it's unique smell.  This is also a great time to introduce young toddlers to clay, play-dough, or finger paint.  [check out this recipe for homemade, non-toxic play-dough]  The different sensations produced by using each medium stimulates their senses and engages their developing minds. 

Helpful Hint: It might help to tape down a large piece of paper for babies and toddlers.  This will prevent the paper from moving or tearing as they draw.

STAGE 2: CONTROLLED SCRIBLLING (2 years to 3 years)

During this stage, children will often transition to holding the crayon between their thumb and pointer finger.  Their scribbles may show more repeated marks or patterns- such as spirals, open circles, curved lines, and straight lines.  As their muscle control develops, toddlers will enjoy experimenting with using a paintbrush, or working with model clay. 

Helpful Hint: Use regular household objects to create art- like using Q-Tips, cotton balls, or old wine corks as applicators.  Use chalk on a sidewalk, or washable paints in the bathtub.

STAGE 3:  LINES AND PATTERNS (2 1/2 years to 3 1/2 years)

At this stage, children begin to understand that writing consists of special lines and curves that repeat in certain patterns.  Very often, children will pretend to write.  While their scribbling may not have any actual letters, you may see some early components that make up the alphabet- such as "S"-like curves, small circles, and sharp lines. 

What is so magical about this stage is that toddlers are beginning to understand that those scribbles can convey meaning!  That when Mommy or Daddy is scribbling, it is a list of what food to buy at the grocery store.  This understanding is a big step on their way towards writing and reading on their own. 

Helpful Hint: Encourage your child's "pretend" writing- and take it seriously!  Ask them to "read" what they've written.  This will teach them the importance and value of words. 

STAGE 4:  PICTURES OF OBJECTS OR PEOPLE (3 years to 5 years)

At some point, your child may hand you a page of scribbles and declare, "It's Grandma!"  At the beginning of this stage, children will often produce unplanned artwork and decide what it is after they are finished. 

Eventually, you may notice your child thinking about what she will draw before committing crayon to paper.  This is an important developmental milestone.  She is now engaged in symbolic thinking!  She understands that her artwork can symbolize objects, people, or events. 

Not long after, children will begin to understand the difference between pictures and writing.  This is particularly important as they get ready to enter preschool and begin to work on letter awareness. 

Helpful Hint: As your child begins to draw pictures, use open, non-judgemental questions to discuss the final product, such as: "Can you tell me about your picture?"  Encourage your child to tell you the "story" of the picture(s).  This story-telling is also an important skill for literacy!

STAGE 5:  LETTER AND WORD PRACTICE (3 to 5 years)

By this stage, children may begin writing "real" letters on their own.  Children usually begin with letters that are familiar to them- such as the first letter of their name.  Children also begin to understand that letters fit together in special ways to make words.  While they may not be able to write words on their own, they do understand that some words are short and some are long.  This may be reflected in their "pretend" writing.  One day, all this pretend practice will morph into the understanding and production of real letters and words!

Helpful Hint:  It's okay that their letters are not technically correct.  It's the process, not the product, that matters.

For more information about the 5 Stages of Scribbling, check out zerotothree.org.

And for more art project ideas for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, check out our collection of Little Hands books.

Dialogic Reading: An Effective Way to Read to Preschoolers

mom reading with daughterPreschoolers have a lot to say!  You can help them explore their vocabulary and language when reading to them.

Dialogic Reading is a very powerful language facilitation method for children.  It is a way of sharing books with your youngster that involves them in the experience and that has tremendous benefits for the child. Instead of just reading a book to the child, engage them in a conversation by talking about what you see in the pictures. 

 

There are 3 simple steps in Dialogic Reading:

  1. Ask "What" questions - point to something in the pictures and say, "What is this?" or "What do you call this?" Make sure to repeat what your child says. They will feel affirmed when you say, "Yes, that is a duck!"
  2. Expand on what you child says. Keep it short and simple. You want to build on their phrases just a little so your child can imitate what you say. The conversation can continue, "What is the duck doing?"  "Yes, he is swimming in the pond!"
  3. Take it a step further and start asking open-ended questions. Make sure your child is comfortable answering the "what" questions because you want to encourage them to use their imaginations. Open-ended questions do not have right or wrong answers, but they will send your child the message that you want to know what they think and give the child a chance to use the vocabulary you have working so hard to build!

The key here is for it to be FUN! So don't labor over it. Maybe try only on a few pages of a book your preschooler is familiar with and then try branching out. Maybe you just alternate pages during your storytime.

Research shows that using Dialogic Reading is effective in accelerating vocabulary development and encourages children to use longer phrases. Children who are read to in this way to better on languages development tests and you will be able to see results in only a few short weeks!

Librarians say, How we read to our children is as important as how often we read to them. Talking about books is just as important as reading the book. Our job is to help our children learn and understand new words. There is a great video online; "Talking about Books" from the Washington Learning Systems is both informational and instructional. If you are unsure about how to do dialogic reading, make sure to take some time to watch it to see (and hear) demonstrations of parents talking about book with their kids.

Not sure where your preschooler is at in her progress toward reading? Try a Reading Checkup for Preschoolers available on the Reading is Fundamental website.

 

Further Reading:

A Parent's Guide to Reading with Your Child - written by the National Center for Family Literacy

Dialogic Reading - Multnomah County Library System

Dialogic Reading: An Effective Way to Read to Preschoolers By: Grover J. (Russ) Whitehurst (1992)

Rhyming Books

Rhyming books...they're fun to read aloud because they read like songs.  In storytime they are some of the most silliest and entertaining reads; my favorites!  I can do all kinds of activities that extend right from the book, making the books interactive.  

Click on the rhyming tag in the catalog to find some rhyming books for toddlers and preschoolers.  Of course, many more books are out there.  So if you come across one of your favorite rhyming books, tag it in the catalog, and it will totally be added!

 

Rhyming books also help with phonological awareness and sensitivity; the ability to hear the breakdown of sounds within words.  Being aware of phonemes as a small child, will help them when they are older and begin to read -- when they need to sound out words for themselves.  The Every Child Ready to Read site has lots of ways we can interact with kids regarding phonological awareness, as well as other emergent literacy skills for babies, toddlers, and pre-readers.  Check it out!

Some fun phological awareness activities:

  • having kids complete the rhyme by leaving off the last part of the sentence.
  • rhyming games such as, this story was about boats...how many other things rhyme with boats. 
  • In storytime, once we've thought of a bunch of words rhyming with boat, I make up a song about it, which turns the room into a giggle fest!  A coat was on a boat, it ran there to get away from that goat that had tried to get past the moat.  That's when maybe a question will come up what a moat is, which gets us talking vocabulary.  It's always fun! 
  • jump and move around to the rhyming parts in a nursery rhyme or song.  In storytime, if we do "hey diddle diddle" we jump on diddle, and fiddle, etc. and then freeze during the non-rhyming parts.

Children's Journal Inspiration

I did a school project with my fifth grade twins this weekend that made me want to share my story!  The project was to make a timeline of the books that were special to them from birth to age 10.  Wow, right?!  Well, it was like looking through a photo album... so many happy memories were conjured up during our trips down memory lane - bedtime reads, books read by the fireplace or at the beach, special series where we would go and get the newest edition on its' release date.  Occasionally, we hit a road block and had to really tax our brains to remember at what age we did what, but what fun we had in the process.  Sooo, while you keep your children's journals, why not jot down their/your favorite books or book series occassionally?  It's another special bond we have with our kids.

  (an early favorite for both children!)

Best Books for Babies

Reading to Your Baby

Your baby loves to hear the sound of your voice. If you look closely, you will see her respond when she hears the voices of her loved ones. Not only is reading to your baby comforting to her, but it is also helping her build her pre-literacy skills.  The more words she hears, the bigger her vocabulary will be when she is finally ready to speak! Research shows that babies who are read to regularly understand 300 - 500 words before they can ever say their first.

When looking for books to read:
• Look for books with clear and simple pictures.
• Choose a good time to read, when you and your child are relaxed and happy.
• Point to pictures. Talk about them in an excited voice.
• Notice what your baby looks at, and then talk about it.
• It is natural for babies to play with books, even to chew or tear them.
• Stop for a while if your baby loses interest or gets upset. A few enjoyable minutes at a time is better than a longer unhappy time together.
• While you read, make your child feel loved and special.
• Share books with your baby every day. Even a few minutes are important.

The Early Literacy Initiative - A partnership among the Public Library Association, the Association for Library Service to Children and the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development

 

book cover Brown Bear...What Do You See by Bill Martin Jr.Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.

Children see a variety of animals, each one a different color, and a teacher looking at them. Gentle rhymes and gorgeous illustrations by the incomparable Eric Carle make this a classic picture book your baby will come to know and love. To liven up your telling, try singing the words to the melody of "Twinkle Twinkle" - by the time your baby is talking, she'll be singing along!

 

 

 

 

book cover Counting Kisses by Karen KatzCounting Kisses by Karen Katz

How many kisses does a tired baby need to change her from crying into sleeping? This is a wonderful book to read to your little one. Use this as a sweet bedtime book to wind down your baby after a long day of playing by snuggling and kissing her goodnight. There is always lots to talk about in Katz's illustrations. Talk about the other figures in the pictures, do you have a kitty? Where is your kitty cat and what does he say? By the time the final kiss is delivered on her "sleepy, dreamy head," the baby is fast asleep. When you're done with this one, grab another book by Karen Katz, we've got lots!

 

 

book cover Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratneyGuess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney

During a bedtime game, every time Little Nutbrown Hare demonstrates how much he loves his father, Big Nutbrown Hare gently shows him that the love is returned even more. A great book for Dad to share with your little one at bedtime! A true classic with a timeless theme.

 

 

book cover Here Comes Mother Goose by Iona Archibald OpieHere Comes Mother Goose by Iona Archibald Opie

Mother Goose rhymes are a great thing to read to your baby! This collection presents more than sixty traditional nursery rhymes, including "Old Mother Hubbard," "I'm a Little Teapot," and "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe," accompanied by illustrations of various animals. Nursery Rhymes are nice and short and this collection has wonderful illustrations to capture your little one's attention.

 

 

 

book cover Black on White by Tana HobanWhite on Black by Tana Hoban

Babies do not see color, but do detect contrast. Choosing books with bold contrast like White on Black is sure to capture their attention. Talk about the images to your baby, what does it feel like, look like, where it can be found. Does it make any noises? The more words you say to your baby, the more sounds of our language he will hear and absorb.

 

 

book cover Whose Chick are You by Nancy TafuriWhose Chick are You? by Nancy Tafuri

Goose, Duck, Hen, Bird and the little chick, itself, cannot tell to whom a new hatchling belongs, but its mother knows. Tafuri's use of simple, repetitive text makes it a great book to read to your baby! As your baby grows older, this book can also be used to help alleviate fears of abandonment.

 

Syndicate content