Scribbling Stages

Part 4 of 5 - Basic Forms

8 February 2017


The motor and hand-eye coordination control gained as your child practices their controlled scribbling leads the way to this next stage-- Basic forms! It happens a lot like controlled scribbling did. In another “aha” moment, your child finds a recognized, simple shape in their scribbles. She sees those squiggly lines she makes together and she thinks, hey, this looks like a thing called a circle! So then she draws lines together to make a circle, or oval. A child in the 3 to 4 year age range is usually in the basic forms stage and ovals are usually the first basic forms drawn.

As always, it’s important to remember that there may be an overlap between developmental stages in your child's art. For example, your 3-year-old may combine some controlled scribbles along with their basic forms. It’s also important to remember that these age levels are meant merely as guidelines and not as set limits on age and ability levels. This is not a “should” it’s a guideline. You can check out our Preschool Child Development Guide for more age-- or as we call them-- preschool milestone specifics.

Here are some other things which you may notice about your basic forms scribbler:

  • Their scribbles begin to look more organized. This organized look is made possible by your child’s growing ability to control lines and draw lines in a desired direction and form.
  • Your child can now repeat basic forms at will.
  • Your child starts to hold their tools more like adults do. And they have a growing control over drawing materials themselves.
  • Your child at this stage will start to value their drawings and may even want their name added to them.  

In art development theory, this stage is also referred to as the pre-schematic stage. This means that at this stage, your child makes basic forms in and of themselves. They do not to represent a particular object. You might notice in this stage that your child fills a piece of paper with the same form over and over in a variety of sizes. This is a sign that they are mastering this particular form. It’s important to remember that at this point your child’s circle is not the schema or idea of a sun or flower. It is simply and wonderfully, a controlled drawing of a basic form!

As you watch your basic forms scribbler, comment on what you see, like, “I see lots of circles,” or “You made a big red circle and a small green one,” or “You made an oval and a circle.”  At this stage,  it’s not really the time to start asking your child to tell you what these forms are supposed to be, because it's the making of their shape that's so exciting!

With this improved motor control, in addition to crayons, now is a good time to introduce big, preschool-friendly markers like these and tempera paint too. You can also transition from a big sheet of newspaper to using smaller sized as well as different types of paper for variety. Our One of a Kind T-shirt and Paint and Chalk Mirror Prints provide new ways and materials to explore your little one's basic form stage. And head over to our Preschool Materials Guide for even more suggestions on these materials appropriate for your child's creative growth.

Let us know, what forms does your child draw the most?  What are the differences in how she holds the crayons now versus a few months ago? Tell us what you think-- you can give us your feedback right here.

Up next in the Scribbling Stages series-- hold on to your hats, it's the Later Forms Stage!