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.

Booklists About Firsts for First Five Years

Books to accompany children's milestones; the exciting, the fearful, and the fun firsts!

 

First Steps

 
     
Hold My Hand: Five Stories of Love and Family by Charlotte Zotolow Will You Carry Me? by Heleen Van Rossum Spot's First Walk by Eric Hill Pig Pig Grows Up by David McPhail

 

First Vocab, First Haircut, First Time Potty


 


 
Simms Taback's Book of Words by this Caldecott Award winning author/artist, runs the gammet of vocab words for toddlers and preschoolers.  Looking for easier, or harder?  More titles on this vocab book list No Haircut Today!by Elivia Savadier is about a toddler who does not want a trimming from his hairdresser mom!  More titles on this haircut list. A Potty for Me is a lift the flap storybook.  More fiction titles on this potty list.  Toilet training books (geared towards grownup readers) are here.

 

 

 

First Dentist, First Loose Tooth

 

 

 

 

  Harry and the Dinosaurs Say "Raahh!" is a relatable tale of dentist nervousness.  More titles on this dentist list . Loose Tooth by Lola Schaefer is for those learning how to read, which corresponds to the time we tend to loose teeth!  More titles on this loose tooth list.  

 

Parent Favorite: Classic and Modern FUNNY STORIES (a Booklist)

Did you grow up laughing along with books like Homer Price and Mr. Popper's Penguins?  Check out these modern read-alikes that will have you and your child busting a gut!

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency by Daniel Pinkwater

Stinky: A Toon Book

by Eleanor Davis

 

 

Frindle

by Andrew Clements

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Talented Clementine

by Sara Pennypacker

Double Trouble in Walla Walla

by Andrew Clements

The Legend of Spud Murphy

by Eoin Colfer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For advanced readers with a refined sense of irony, try Richard Peck's The Teachers Funeral and Here Lies the Librarian

GIRL READS: A Booklist for Upper Elementary Girls

 

Click the attachment for the list! 

DIY Halloween Costumes

Make-your-own costumes...what comes to mind?  Sewing, elaborate, taking lots of time?  It doesn't always have to be that way, right?! 

Many costumes can start with a sweatshirt or a box.  My favorite costume was in 4th grade; I was a pair of dice with my friend Kerry.  She and I painted the boxes, pasted on paper dots, and wore tights and a turtleneck.

Some DIY costume links:

A Seattle Times article, that links to FamilyFun and parents.com, so we might as well too!  FamilyFun also has creepy cuisine

A Baltimore Sun article with lots of links

About.com has costumes and family crafts too
 

HGTV has 3 minute video clips that include no-sew costumes and toddler costumes

 

Some DIY costume books for kids and adults:

 

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.

2008 Kids & Family Reading Report

THE 2008 KIDS AND FAMILY READING REPORT2008 Kids & family Reading Report cover - picture of family reading a book together.
CONDUCTED BY YANKELOVICH AND SCHOLASTIC

KIDS AGE 5-17 BELIEVE TECHNOLOGY WILL SUPPLEMENT – NOT REPLACE – BOOK READING AND SAY THEY WILL ALWAYS WANT TO READ BOOKS PRINTED ON PAPER

Tweens and Teens who Participate in Online Activities Are More Likely to Read Books for Fun Daily

A new study released today finds that 75% of kids age 5-17 agree with the statement, “No matter what I can do online, I’ll always want to read books printed on paper,” and 62% of kids surveyed say they prefer to read books printed on paper rather than on a computer or a handheld device. The Kids & Family Reading Report ™, a national survey of children age 5-17 and their parents, also found that kids who go online to extend the reading experience – by going to book or author websites or connecting with other readers – are more likely to read books for fun every day.

 

Download the full report or watch presentations on the report in short sections here.  Parents, you might particularly interested in checking out Section IV; Parents' Roles in Kids' Reading (page 38 of the actual report). In it, they found the "High Frequency reading parents are six times more likely than low frequency reading parents to have high frequency reading children (42% vs. 7%)."  Those "high frequency reading parents" try more tactics to encourage their children to read for pleasure like;

Read the same books as my child so I can talk with him/her about the books.

Reward my child for reading books.

Have my child participate in book clubs or other reading groups that meet in person.

Use movies or TV shows that are based on books to get my child interested in a book.

Encourage my child to go online and exlore a book's website, an author's website or other types of website that exten the reading experience.

 

Those are definitely good ideas! There is a great website called KidsReads.com and they have a TON of information about books, book clubs and authors. It is a good place to start exploring books online!

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