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What does a 3-4 year old's drawing normally look like?

post #1 of 50
Thread Starter 

Ds and I were rewriting his chore list today and I encouraged him to draw a picture of each item on the list as a way of decorating it. He is almost 3.5, will be 4 in December, and every one of his drawings looked like his 1yo sister's scribbles. He was very upset about his drawing, and he rarely wants to draw anymore.


He is already in occupational therapy, and I do the "prescribed" activities with him every day, but they haven't said anything about drawing. It's been a while since I taught 3 yo preschool so I was wondering if you all have a 3 or young 4, or remember what your child could do at that age, and if you taught them how to draw simple things, how?


He can draw a circle, a straight line, the letters A, B, E, X and T, and that is after many, many dedicated "lessons" showing him how because he wanted to be able to do it. He knows how to write his name but just can't seem to manage it without hand over hand assistance. He knows what letter goes next, and can tell me how to form the letter (I have little sayings for each letter) but he can't do it. He can't copy at all.


I feel bad for him because today he broke his crayon because it wouldn't "go the right way and make things look nice."


I always hang up his drawings on the fridge and let him know *I* like his art. But he knows they look like scribbles and so he won't draw anymore for me. I just feel so bad for him. greensad.gif

post #2 of 50

Poor guy! :( Well my 4 year old DD is really good at drawing, but she always has been(she is just an artistic creative child in general though). I think boys and girls develop at different rates for things like drawing. My friends DS is 4 as well, but he can hardly draw much that resembles what it is supposed to. He excels in other areas though that my DD doesn't.

post #3 of 50

My daughter is 3 and she still scribbles. She is not interested in following instruction. I think she is capable of drawing a circle if she wants to, but she doesnt want to. She feigns interest and then scribbles. She will scribble over anything I draw. I dont think she is behind, but I dont know that drawing is a milestone. I am not going to worry about it until she is kindergarten age.


Sorry I am not much help.

post #4 of 50

DS will be 3 in July and doesn't show much interest in drawing or coloring, but when he does it is all scribbles.

post #5 of 50
My older two had really good fine motor skills and were drawing very good, recognizable pictures at that age, and could write any letter, as long as they could see an example (not always neatly or small - but recognizable). DS2 is 5.5 and only now drawing things that are recognizable - people are still big circles for the body and head together with sick legs and arms coming off at weird angles.
post #6 of 50

My dd was still mostly scribbling at 3 with am line or a circle thrown in. I remember the developmental things at her pediatrician asked at that age if they could draw straight lines and circles. My ds is 2.5 and they just came to evaluate him after a year of EI and he came ahead in fine motor and he can't really draw anything yet just circles and lines. It is good he can do a few letters already. I know some kids are drawing pictures at 3 but not all are.

post #7 of 50
Well my just turned four yo girl can draw detailed (but funny looking) people and animals and things, but my mom (who's taken a lot of early child dev courses and works with kids) says that what's average is one feature per year. So a three year old draws people with three features, head, eyes, mouth maybe. And a four year old might add legs onto the head, making those little squat figures that most kids make.

I would ask at OT about the drawing if you are going anyway but i agree that it can vary a lot especially for boys.
post #8 of 50

It's average for kids to not start drawing representationally until they are 4.  So I'd expect a 3 yo to make spirals, X, and O.  Sure, some are drawing nice stick figure type people but half of the kids that age are not.  Preschool really turned my ds off from any drawing or writing.  It was a shame because he had just turned 4 and was just starting to draw letters and people.  That all stopped for a full year and he never warmed up to it.  But he's a sensitive perfectionist which is a contributing factor.


Your ds might prefer markers to crayons.  Crayons require a lot of pressure and the marks still don't look nice.  What worked best for my ds was a chalk board or a dry erase board so he could rub out any lines he didn't like and redo them.  If you have a camera, you can then take a picture if you want to preserve any drawings.

post #9 of 50

My 3.5 year old drew this.  It is him and his little sister.  He was wearing a winter hat with long straps when he drew it, so that is what is coming out of his head lol.  i took a pic of it because usually his drawing is a lot different, like lines and stuff.  He likes to make snakes and spiders.


post #10 of 50

DD is 3.5 and draws just like the above poster - she draws our family...and she draws monsters a lot! She will draw a huge face with four eyes and a huge mouth and go "look momma a four eyed monster!" so we have a ton of those around (she started doing those maybe a few months before the more detailed people) 

post #11 of 50

since your son wants to learn and is frustrated i would say try different mediums. pens and pencils and paper is hard for them at that age.


try dry erase board, chocolate pudding, chalk outside, those magnetic toy writers, shaving foam, on windows, crayons on big boxes. also try different forms of art. painting with brush, sponge.


take photographs and print and put them on your fridge.


at that age dd dd amazing things - crayons in hte bathtub, dry erase boards, painting with her feet and hands on 4x6 paper - never really on paper and pen.

post #12 of 50
From the age of about 2 to 4.5, all ds2 would draw were circular scribbles all over pages. When he finally started talking, he told me it was spaghetti. No amount of effort or suggestion on anyone's part could get him to draw anything but spaghetti.
post #13 of 50

I teach 3 yr old preschool.


We just did assessments for the state--- the goal for our kiddos (had to be 3 by sept 1st) was to do circles  and vertical lines. Our of our 12 kiddos  11 can do this. So I would say that by age 3.5 (which the kiddos are by this point in the year) circles and lines would be a 'milestone'.  Also, being able to 'string' large beads (think large pasta noodles) and to cut a ragged line with scissors are considered skills to master by age 4.


Again-- our of 12 kids 10 can cut a ragged line, 11 could string large noodles. The 12th kiddo is our youngest at 'not' quite 3.5 (he will remain in our class again next year since he is the only student that did not make the cut off date- he is a winter Bday).


In perspective-- 2/12 can write their names, 6/12 can draw a person with body/arms/legs/face, 10/12 can string beads. Kids age range from 3.4 to 4.6. It is a  solid middle class preschool. The kiddos that could 'not' do these activities are all not yet 4. All my 4 yr olds could do these skills.



By age 4- if a child is still 'fisting' ( grabbing writing tool with a full hand instead of a tripod grasp of any kind), can only do 'open' circles ( circular shape, but more of a squiggle instead of a closed shape), can not manipulate small shapes, cant use scissors in a basic way (think able to open close them), or string large beads- I would look into some fine motor activities.  After a few months if you see no improvement in fine motor abilities, I would ask for an OT evaluation.



Some kiddos have perfect fine motor skills, but no interest in drawing so circles, people, name, etc come later. Other kids 'want' to do these things- but are physcially unable due to fine motor control. OT is more appropriate for the kids that really have a fine motor concern, vs lack of interest.


At just 3.5-- I would keep doing your OT activities and allow for a lot of fine motor play (play doug, sand, large blocks, etc).  Often - there is a large burst of development between 3.5 and 4- if you see no improvement talk to your OT some more.

post #14 of 50

Aidan wll be 4 in July and doesn't really draw anything more elaborate than a circle.  Lots of scribbles.  He does have fine motor problems--still 1/2 way fisting crayons/pencils.  Also--my 6 yr old--he is just NOW getting better at drawing.  I think my kids just have no artistic ability/interest in drawing.

post #15 of 50



In perspective-- 2/12 can write their names,



Isn't it 3.5?


post #16 of 50
Originally Posted by serenbat View Post





Isn't it 3.5?


I think she meant 2 out of 12 of the kids in her class
post #17 of 50

errr.  My 3 - will be 4 in december kid can barely scribble.  He has *zero* interest in writing/coloring.  


post #18 of 50
Ds turns 4 at the end of the month. He is into drawing, taught himself to draw the whole alpahaber at around 3.2 y (I walked over one day and he had drawn his name), can draw animals, people with torsos/heads/limbs/faces and loves to draw monsters. The magna doodle was a big part of his success. Something about it is very freeing vs writing on paper. You can change your mind. No evidence. He usually does it on th potty. : ).

Also better quality art supplies might help. Stockman crayons are fancy, in a tin, and don't break. Sort of lends a sense of excitement to drawing. Also really big paper. Also good quality colored pencil a like lyra ferby short ones are really easy to move across paper. We have a cute little holder.

And just wait... About half the kids at our (fancy, privleged, play based) preschool still scribble their names. And pretty much the kids who couldnt do it at the begining ofmthe year still cant do it. No change.
post #19 of 50
Thread Starter 

Maybe I need to read this thread to ds! lol.gif


I'm glad to hear that he has plenty of company in the scribbling department! There are some really great suggestions here....we do have a magna doodle (have had one since ds was 1-ish) and both of my kids like to draw on it. This is part of the problem....dd appears to pick things up very quickly and was scribbling with crayons before her 1st birthday. She does put them in her mouth sometimes, but she really, really likes to draw. I have a picture from her and picture from ds up next to each other on the fridge and they look exactly the same except that ds had scribbled a hole into his. DP at a glance, thought they were both dd's, which really ticked ds off.


It seems like this, at least for ds, is one of those things that he just can't rush or be taught, no matter how much he might like to be a little Picasso. It's developmental, kind of like peeing the bed at night, which is another sore spot in our house. After all, I have worked with him (or given him opportunity to be creative) with drawing shapes, writing and tracing since he was very young, like 1 year old, pretty much every day, and he still can't draw a square, even though I know he first started tracing squares & triangles (and loving it) when he was about 20 months.


I feel bad seeing him be so hard on himself. He loves to be creative, but he has a perfectionist streak and wants things just perfect, or not at all (like me!). I will try putting the crayons up for awhile and maybe doing some fingerpainting and cut and paste activities instead this week. I think, though, that I still need to try to help him understand that mistakes are ok, that art is just for fun, and no matter how it comes out, if you had fun in the process, it's all good. Maybe I should show him the stuff I've been producing on my new sewing machine that I haven't yet got the hang of. lol.

post #20 of 50

I've worked as a preschool teacher and then an early childhood education specialist. I would lay off the hand over hand writing unless HE is the one who wants to do it. Writing is really something that needs to come from within the child. I'd also avoid "teaching" him to write using a particular method. Most little kids learn to form letters themselves, and the mechanics of formal lettering can get in the way of that.


Put away the crayons if they are frustrating for him for now. Using his finger to draw/write in wet sand or shaving cream is a great activity.

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