- Created on May 20, 2013
- Written by Kelsey Fox Bennett, M.Ed.
When your toddler scribbles, it is a vital part of their development. They are starting the journey of making their very own marks not only on the page, but in the world. For this reason it is very important to support this stage in their development as best we can. At first their scribbles will be erratic, but it won't take long for them to become more focused and eventually lead to circles, spirals, faces, bodies and objects. Scribbling is a pre-cursor to writing so the more they are able to develop their skills, the more they are likely to experience ease in the future.
Supportive Developmental Scribble Recommendations:
1. Use Large Paper - When your toddler is just starting to make their marks their movements will be large and often out of control. If you use a fairly large sheet of blank white paper their motions will not be confined and, rather than attempting to see their marks on pre-marked coloring pages, they will clearly see how their movements make marks on the page.
2. Experiment with Utensils - Markers, crayons, creamy crayons, color wands and even frozen paint are all great for scribbling. In fact, each provides different developmental functions. The more textures your toddler is exposed to, the more sensory stimulation their system will process, leading to even more synapses and neural pathways developing in their brain. Markers also provide an opportunity to practice fine motor development and the concept of on / off. In fact, your toddler may be more enraptured by this process than by actually making marks.
3. Meet Them Where They Are - Children learn by our example, but they also must feel like they can actually accomplish the task before them. I recommend that when you scribble with your toddler you encourage them at their level and just a bit above rather than drawing a picture of something they have no chance of reproducing. Otherwise you will lose them even before they have a chance to explore. They will think, I can't do that so you do it and I'll do something else. Instead, begin by drawing lines, dots and spirals. Let them lead by mirroring their marks then add sounds or similar marks to encourage them to continue to create.
4. Take Advantage of Language Learning Opportunities - Every mark is an opportunity for a conversation. Rather than always saying, "Great job," speak to the quality of the marks. For example, "I made a really long line, do you want to make one, too?" or "I like those spirals you are making, such a lovely shade of red, I'm going to make purple ones." When they are just beginning this provides a strong language learning foundation and then later, you can help them build their vocabulary even further by including imaginary discussions as you scribble.
5. Use Both Hands, Make Your Marker Dance… Above All, Play! - Your child can always tell if you are having fun or faking it. You are their most prized role model and if you are having fun, they are more likely to engage and more likely to remember their art making experience. The additional added benefit of using both hands is getting both sides of the brain working at the same time, activating the corpus callosum, and encouraging further brain development. It may all look silly, but it's creating a vital foundation for healthy body and brain function.
Kelsey Fox Bennett, M. Ed., is a licensed Brain Gym® Instructor and Expressive Arts Educator and the founder of Inner Art Creations. She received her Masters of Education in Arts, Community and Education from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. She is the youngest and first licensed Brain Gym Instructor to have received this form of educational kinesiology since toddlerhood. The Expressive Arts and Brain Gym have helped Kelsey heal from Spinal Meningitis at five and a half months old, process watching a friend get hit by a car and die at age nine, and thrive at home, at school and at work. Through simple intentional movements and techniques she helps adults and children of all abilities fulfill their potential.