Top nav Berkeley Child Art Studio Gallery Communal Learning Alternative Learning Environments Deep Development Across Cultures Play Based Learning
Age 3 to 5 Years

Between the ages of 3 and 4 toddlers discover an infinite number of forms while drawing as they develop their visual “vocabularies”. As they begin to grasp and repeat these early lines and forms they are first of all practicing the meaning of the form itself, letting one form stand for many things. At this point most of the line and shape “things” are embedded in many other lines and shapes, and it takes a while before the young art maker isolates a single form to represent a single object. “A snail lives inside the line” a little girl said of her spiraling line.

boy drawing circleThe circle is the first truly symmetrical shape to delight the eye of the young artist. Children’s satisfaction in the perfect symmetry of their circle, with all parts matching, is obvious in their repeated drawing of the shape once they have discovered it. The circle is practiced over and over, sometimes being more oval shape than symmetrical. A period of trial and error leads up to this moment. Scribbling freely, spontaneously and enthusiastically helps the child develop the hand and eye coordination for increased control of the drawing tool. Scribbling is superseded by the satisfaction of control, drawing controlled early forms, mostly enclosures. It is because equal sided forms have high recognition for the infant that the child first begins to make circles repeatedly, responding to the pleasant visual stimuli of the round shape.

Perfecting the round shape is one important step in finding the first combination of lines and circles that will represent the human person. Suns with radial lines (straight lines) extending from the center of the circle, crossing the circumference to extend beyond in a many rayed sun generally precedes the drawing of the first human person. Once the sun is practiced repeatedly, the symmetry of the human appears with the drawing of just two radials to stand for arms, two radials to represent legs and two radials to represent hair. These universal initial pictorials of humans represent emerging visual concepts of symmetry and balance on the page, of top, bottom, left, right which are necessary before a child can draw a human that has a top, a bottom, a left and a right, or arms, legs, and hair.

drawing linesThe visual concept of up, down, left and right in the drawing space is important in prepictorial drawing as it will serve as an organizing compositional element. The concept begins to be expressed with the repetition of two lines intersecting. This happens around the age of two. The intersecting vertical and horizontal lines, that form a cross, help the child grasp the concepts of top, bottom, left, right, in the division of the page. Rudolf Arenheim called these visual concepts, “visual thinking” that help serve to arrange pictorial elements in harmonious symmetrical patterns on the page. The cross will serve as the organizing spacial principal of beginning compositions throughout early childhood — until approximately the age of seven.

A Greek cross represents "The Bean Stalk," and a horizon line in this 4 year olds painting.
Toby, Age 2 1/2