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!
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.
Halloween is Here and Now!
(Sing to "farmer in the dell." March and jump as you please!)
Halloween is here and now, Halloween is here and now, We'll all have lots of fun, Oh Halloween is here and now
We'll all give a cheer, wow! We'll all give a cheer, wow! We'll all have lots of fun, Oh Halloween is here and now
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.