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What does a 3-4 year old's drawing normally look like? - Page 2

post #21 of 50

Benjamin drew this when he was 4.5 old.

Sont the clown


It was his first ever recognizable drawing. Before that his drawings were all very chaotic scribbles. He did his best drawings with a variety of colors, and each color represented a different animal or event.  One of my favorites looked like a mess to most people but to him it was a whale spouting a rainbow.  (think a big purple blob on a blue and white background with scribbles of all colors. Now at six he can draw elaborate machines (think Dr Seuss style inventions), and landscapes, all with recognizable shapes.


Boys actually tend to see the world in movement and so their pictures tend to be more chaotic looking for longer.  It is best to praise the energy and the movement in the picture.  Express how you love the motion he creates.  DS was really sensitive too and always asked me to draw for him, especially because his pre-school teachers would give him low marks for coloring outside the lines, struggling with geometric shapes, and choosing the "wrong" color.  I had a talk with them about age appropriate expectations for boys and helped them find ways to encourage his artistic talents.  So far, so good.


His 16 mo sister is already able to hold a pen like an adult and draw some recognizable shapes.  I think girls have notably better fine motor skills at younger ages, but that with time these even out.  DS is now (age 6) one of the best artists in his class.




post #22 of 50

I have a 3 1/2 year old boy. He draws scribble-type figures. I'll see if I can find one. I have drawings from school from December. One is his "writing," which is up and down scribbles in different colors, in a line like writing is. One is circles in different colors. Apparently they asked him what he drew, and although he's a very creative storyteller normally, his answer now was "circles." He does do better with markers, and he loves painting over pencil or crayon. I have a pic from relatively recently when he drew "Daddy walking the dog." Daddy is a little circle with very very very long legs, and arms, one of which runs all the way to the dog (leash I guess). The dog is an oval with many many little legs at the bottom. I think 3.5 may be a big age for frustration with wanting to make more elaborate drawings but not having the ability too. I don't push writing or drawing here, but he's getting frustrated when things don't turn out how he wants them in art and in other parts of life.

post #23 of 50

It breaks my heart when the little ones get so frustrated!  The good news is that his fine motor skills will eventually develop and he'll likely be a great writer/drawer.


Something that worked for us were printable tracing worksheets.  We used the ones with the basic lines at first and then progressed to the ones with curves, loops, etc.  It was pretty easy for my son to just trace the line and then he felt so proud of himself.  So I'm not sure if it was the practice or just the boost of confidence, but after a few weeks with these worksheets, his skills really improved and he started to love drawing again.  


I do think you're doing a great job of displaying his art and telling him how much you love it!  That's so great for his confidence :)

post #24 of 50

My ds was drawing scribbles until about 5. He could do letters and shapes if he really tried but mostly he'd say he was tired after about 2 minutes of trying and would get frustrated and stop. I started to encourage proper grip when holding a pencil/crayon etc. and that did WONDERS. He all of a sudden could spend an hour drawing and writing. He all of a sudden LOVED doing letters and they looked really good. He never liked coulouring books because he'd never stay in the lines so he'd just scribble crazy all over the page. But now it's perfectly in the lines.

I didn't worry about it at 3.5 I just let him hold the pencil with his fist and try as much as he wanted. But at 5, I started watching some youtube videos called Hand writing withour Tears. They had some great ideas about proper grip. I think it made all the difference.

post #25 of 50

My son will be 7 on Sun and his writing is still not the best.   As opposed to his 3 (in Nov) sister who does very well.  It wasn't until recently that his writing is clear and letters formed well.  He's also really gotten into drawing and draws quite well, nicely detailed!   He went thru a I don't want to write or draw, just color pages stage, but now he fills pads up!! 

So I agree w/pp's...it will come, he just needs a break.    

post #26 of 50

I would totally try to help him step away from it a little, or encourage other media as pps have suggested.  The "problem" is definitely not that he can't draw or write these things at his age, but that he is so upset about it.  Where is that coming from?  I mean, frustration is normal, but what happened to make him decide that he ought to be able to do it?  My dd writes her name in an awesome and barely legible way at 4 years old, and she can sort of copy letters, but lots of them don't turn out like what I write at all -- she certainly couldn't at 3yo.


I wouldn't ask the doctor or OT about it -- certainly not in front of your son.  I would try to downplay it and encourage him to enjoy drawing and writing.

post #27 of 50
Thread Starter 

dawncayden, he is doing handwriting without tears right now, in OT. She gives him pages to do at home between sessions and he does seem to like it alright. We have some of those grippy  things, and you're right, they are helpful.


As far as why he's upset, he's used to being good at things. He is smart, wherever we go people tell him he is smart because he knows random facts that sound surprising out of a 3 year old's mouth (facts about the presidents, for example) and he talks a lot and asks a lot of questions and pick things up quickly. He usually leanrs how to do things with very little effort. This, and social skills, are the two things where that is not true. And he has no idea that his social skills stink, lol. So this not getting things perfectly when he expects it is new to him and he doesn't like it.

post #28 of 50

I feel for him! I'm 23, spent four years at a prestigious art school, have exhibited work in galleries in 3 major cities and overseas, and I've always felt that I cannot draw. Then I realized that I can draw - I just draw differently. My creative focus is not in drawing, but it was always kind of this spooky untouchable thing, until I realized that "representation" really isn't necessarily the only way to create gorgeous images.


That's not to say that he won't ever be able to form representations. He will, of course. But that can have very little to do with his identity as a "good artist". He's right where he needs to be for now.


Fortunately for him, he does draw, and will continue developments in his drawing (and writing, btw), his way, in his time.


For creative confidence, I would maybe try giving him a disposable camera (for now) and display his favorite photos in frames. Talk to him about the art of photography, the art of video, the art of music, the art of dance, the art of sculpture, the art of mixed-media, the art of collage. Talk to him about documenting performances. Start looking at (and talking about) his building-block creations as architectural pieces. That's what they are! Start talking about different things that he does in terms of its integrity as art.


Also, scribble with him and love your scribbles.

Edited by habitat - 5/11/11 at 10:19am
post #29 of 50

DS2 was only scribbling until shortly before his 5th birthday. He's going to be six in July, and he's only recently started being able to really draw what he wants to draw at all. He gets very, very frustrated (both his older siblings were, unfortunately for him, early with drawing and such - ds1 drew me a recognizable shark at just under two) with his inability to draw. What I'm seeing, though, is that he got started late on these skills, both in terms of interest (actually, he wanted to draw at about three, but really wanted to be able to slap a paint brush or pencil against paper and produce a Mona Lisa) and ability, and is now developing them at what seems to be a more normal rate.


You've already got your ds seeing an OT, so I think I'd mention this, just as a data point, but it really doesn't sound like anything to worry about.

post #30 of 50


This is an excavator that DS drew a week ago. He is 2y10m. He loves to draw and is really into machines. He drew two control units, because one is for operating the excavator and the other one for sleeping (we just bought a camper :) )

post #31 of 50
Thread Starter 

So today I told ds we were going to draw on a big cardboard box that I had flattened out.


Both of the kidsw had a blast! Ds wanted me to draw, too, so I drew, but then it turned into him drawing and having me label his pictures. He did a frog and a truck this way, and as an added bonus he had a good time sounding out the spelling of each word as I wrote it. (He thinks reading/decoding/phonics/spelling is this really cool puzzle-ish game that we do. It's definitely not work to him.)


This is his picture from 2 days before I posted (his is on the left, his sister's in the one next to it)



And this is what he did today, with the big open space of the box:


I think this is big, because the second one, you can see where he drew circles for wheels,, on the truck, also the frog looks like  rectangle but the two parallel lines were originally legs, then he "closed" them with that other line, telling me it needed a butt.


Habitat, you gave me a great idea. we live near a contemporary art museum. I'm sure there is some abstract work there, and maybe seeing "scribbles" hanging up in a museum would be encouraging to him. We definitely do talk in detail about his block creations and all his artwork. He loves playdough and has the same issue with that...wanting to create things but not having the dexterity to produce what he envisioned.

post #32 of 50

My ds is a couple of months older than your ds and his drawing skills sound pretty much the same.  He generally just scribbles, but can write the letters of his name if I coach him through it, and likewise will draw a person or animal if I coach him through it ("draw a circle for the face.  ok, now he needs two eyes.  and a nose?" etc).  The basic shapes consist of wonky circles and lines.


My dd could write and draw somewhat better at that age (though nothing spectacular).  I chalked it up to fine motor skill development differences between boys and girls.

post #33 of 50

Just wanted to thank everyone for the posts and the pictures.  It's so helpful to see what others are doing.

post #34 of 50

I haven't had a chance to read all of the replies but thought I would quickly chime in. My ds is 5.5 years old and his drawings now are pretty cool...however, he didn't draw anything recognizable until 4.5 years old. All he would do were scribbles. I was actually getting worried about him because he seemed interested in art but never actually drew anything. We decided not to worry about it. We would talk about colour or shape or pattern. We would have fun drawing zigzags or swirls or mixing paint to produce new colours. We would talk about lines - thick, thin, wavy. I also stopped drawing with him. I would sit beside him and play with the elements I just listed but I would never draw a picture of a house or a dog or a person. I found that he would get discouraged seeing how good I was compared to him and he would give up and ask me to draw for him. BTW, I'm not good...but I'm 30 years older than him. ;) Eventually he started doing people on his own and I was secretly so happy and relieved.


By contrast, his little sister has been drawing the most outstanding stick people since she was 2.5 year old.

post #35 of 50

Oh man, that sounds so so much like what my daughter did. Between 3.5 and 4 she would get soooo frustrated because her scribbly drawings/shapes/letters were not turning out like she wanted. Then around 4 yrs she turned some little developmental corner and all of a sudden could draw legible pictures and letters -it was almost an overnight change and it was neat to watch her go through it. Betting your sweet boy is not far off from something like that. Keep up the gentle encouragement, and let him take a break from it for awhile if he wants, cheers! :)

post #36 of 50

My 4 yr. old son is extremely verbally expressive, but his fine motor skills are practically nonexistent.  He could recite his ABC's by a year old but he still can't write them.  At T-Ball the other day everyone on the team was asked to sign a ball, one for each child, and he was upset that he was the only one who can't write his name--although he can read short words pretty much as well as his 6 yr. old brother.  Needless to say his drawings are pretty shaky as well.  I totally don't worry about it, but I did pick up a couple basic tracing books at an education store (to help strenghthen the muscles in his hands) and he really enjoys working on his own "homework."  I just feel like some kids develop faster in some areas and slower in others.

post #37 of 50

As a preschool teacher and mother of a 4.5 DD I would recommend giving him lots of different mediums to choose from, just put art supplies out for him to choose, do some drawing with him, just casually for fun.  Some children have no interest at all in drawing or writing, he will pick it up eventually.  Children develop on many different levels at different time and skills.  Encourage him to just have fun with it, give him examples just by sitting with him and enjoying drawing yourself.  You are his best teacher!!! 

post #38 of 50

My DD has drawn recognizable stuff since she was 2, but we could tell early on that she was "advanced" in that area, I wouldn't call that the expected usual time frame at all.  She has professional artists on both sides of the family (my mom, and DH's grandmother) so it's no big surprise.  What your son is doing sounds pretty normal.  


What's not 'normal' is his being so upset about it.  Most kids love their scribbles and have entire stories based around them, even if we can't make heads or tails out of it lol... It seems that maybe his brain is recognizing the difference but his hands aren't yet able to cooperate enough to do what's in his head.  I wonder if the OT might in part be responsible -- not that I'm saying it's a bad thing (I don't know your reasons for doing it, what his issues are) -- just that the emphasis on specific, regimented, motor activities might be limiting his free exploration and giving him false expectations of what he should be able to do.  It might not be connected at all, but I can't help but wonder.


Since he is doing so much regimented work, I would try to counter that with as much FREE creative work/play as you can muster.  Do painting activities with him where the goal is to create broad swaths of glorious colour, just revel in a whole page of red, then do a page that's half red and half yellow and watch it turn orange where they meet and seep into each other.  Wet-on-wet watercolour is great for this.  Look into Waldorf painting methodologies for the preschool/early elementary set.  The idea is that the goal is larger, freer motions with more abstract results, rather than small, specific, detailed drawings.  And, importantly, do them WITH him -- by which I don't mean "help him make his", I mean "make one of your own alongside his".  Then he sees that this is something legitimate because grownups do it too.



post #39 of 50

Thank you.  This was incredibly helpful (and reassuring) to me.

post #40 of 50


waiting2bmommy - from your cardboard drawing it seems like your son prefers the results of whole arm movement rather than just wrist movement as we see in adults. i think that's an age appropriate thing the reason why kids tend to draw on walls.
does he have that kids easel from Ikea? so he can draw from the shoulder? i recall at 2 dd enjoying that - never with a paper and writing instrument.
i mean he already gets that with his OT. 
do you have a local newspaper in town? you can buy rolls of giant newsprint for v. cheap. turn the cardboard into an easel and then give him all sorts of instruments to draw and paint with. 
and btw i see your son is a perfectionist. start working on that now - in whatever ways that works for him. the only thing i knew that worked for my dd was talking to her. now she says ok mom i am going to take a deep breath and smell the roses. most of the time now at 8 she is able to self regulate her frustrations.   she was the kind of child who wouldnt even attempt it till she was confident she was going to get it. so him being so frustrated and not liking his work, is very, very normal for a perfectionist child. 
also dd is in 3rd grade. she still hates writing. she will do the minimum required. she is not the only one. there are other kids in her class for whom writing does not come easy. while others write pages and pages while dd just writes maybe half a page. the teacher has recognised that and so allows kids to either type or write their projects. dd choses typed so far. 
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