The traditional journey of child art goes through stages.
1. The Scribble Stage The first stage occurs when the child manipulates a drawing tool and makes random marks, dots, and lines on the drawing surface. The child will scribble and manipulate the drawing tool with little or no concern for the appearance of the marks. By definition, a child in the scribbling stage, usually 2 - 4 years of age, is not drawing symbols for objects. Children like to scribble because it gives them a chance to move their arms around freely. The act of scribbling is purely kinaesthetic and imaginative. Don’t waste money on colouring books, they can actually inhibit children’s creativity.
2. The Pre-Schematic Stage The second stage, is entered when the child produces his first representative symbols for objects in his environment. These symbols are formed with circles, squares, and lines. The symbols change frequently. The pictures have a “floating organisation and the paper may be turned many times while drawing. Later, the symbols may be organised horizontally. Generally from 3 to 7 years of age.
3. The Schematic Stage The main characteristics of this stage are the repetition of symbols for familiar objects, and the use of the base-line. Examples of such symbols are the lollipop tree, the stiff scarecrow-type drawings of people, or a series of houses which are all drawn the same. The figures appear flat and stiff. In general, children reach this stage between 6 and 11 years of age. Without further instruction and practice a few children will reach a plateau during the latter part of this stage.
3. The Transitional Stage This is the stage in which the maturing child, usually 9 years or older, attempts to produce art work that meets adult standards; yet he still produces works which unintentionally contain many characteristics of the schematic stage. For instance, a picture may include a natural looking ground plane with trees of diminishing size going off into the distance. However, the child may include the top view of a swimming pool and place several stiff figures on the edge of the paper. A few children who enter this stage will reach a plateau and not enter the stage of realism.
5. The Realism Stage The stage of realism is entered when the child is producing art work in the manner of adult artists. In general, the child is 12 or older. Considerable control over the medium, content, and organisation is evident. The figures become natural in appearance, or are intentionally stylised. The consistent use of many organisational devices is also quite evident in the art work produced during this stage, such as overlapping, diminishing size, placement on the picture plane, and linear and aerial perspective. It is at this stage that the child becomes most critical and self conscious about their ability to produce realistic artwork.