Pictured below is a self-portrait that was drawn by a three-year-old in preschool. As shown, the child is able to make a recognizable figure. If indeed the child has big eyes and brown hair, he is beginning to show some resemblance of the subject he is drawing here. He is showing the ability to draw straight lines (both horizontal and vertical lines); they are not feathered, too light, or trailing off into being unrecognizable.
Further, he made an attempt at a circle, which is meant to be the subject of the picture. He stops once and has to re-start on the circle, as shown by that jagged edge below the left arm. For a child his age, this drawing is developmentally on track.
However, as the child progresses to kindergarten and certainly by first grade, this figure would need to include more complexity. The child would need to include a neck and body on the figure. The face should be in proportion to the body. The child should be able to include hands and feet.
Now, of course, some of us just aren’t great artists, and nothing is terribly concerning about that. However, if your child is really struggling to make straight lines and recognizable shapes and figures, he may have a relevant problem that requires some support.
Child development drawing stages
2 years: vertical line
2.5 years: horizontal line
3 years: circle
3.5-4 years: cross
4 years: square
4.5 years: diagonal line in both directions
4 years, 11 months: X shape
5 years, 3 months: triangle 
Preschool Child’s Self-Portrait
What do challenges with Drawing look like?
- Coloring outside the lines?
- Bursting into tears as you comment, “Oh, that’s a good mouse” when he intended to draw a dirt-bike?
- Struggling to hold a crayon or pencil?
- Having difficulty copying a shape?
- Scribbling repetitively when classmates are creating recognizable vehicles, houses, animals and figures?
- Hating art class in spite of being engaged in other activities at school?
- Feeling embarrassed when peers refer to her drawings as ‘scribble-scrabble?’
- Rushing through drawing tasks?
Why is Drawing happening?
When children learn to draw, several different skills come into play. They need to be able to see how things are supposed to look (visual perception) and to make their muscles move to produce the shapes and lines (motor skills). The combination and coordination of both visual perception skills and motor skills is called visual motor integration. These skills are all required to make shapes and drawings that are clear and concise enough to convey the meaning. Children with poor visual motor integration will generally struggle with handwriting, art, and other tasks that require precision and focus with a pen, pencil, or paintbrush. This is only cause for concern if your child is very frustrated when drawing or if academic performance is way behind peers.
How can I manage Drawing at home?
If your child can’t seem to draw to save his life, there are a few things you can do.
- First, if this problem is not ‘getting in the way’ of school success or happiness, you can feel fine about doing nothing for now.
- Second, if your child is having some difficulty but not to the level that he or she seems to need intensive intervention, try this list of strategies below. Your child may not be a great artist and that is okay. Try some of these supports at home and if the child’s skills improve, you may be ‘out of the woods.’
- Third, If the problem is significant, you may seek an outside evaluation from a Psychologist or Occupational Therapist, which you would then bring to your school professionals to consider for accommodations and supports.
Activities to practice drawing and coloring include:
- Games involving tongs
- Drawing or coloring on a vertical surface such as taping a coloring sheet to a wall or an easel
- Addressing seated posture while writing
- Performing fine motor activities (e.g., cards, buttons, lacing)
- Popping packing bubbles with thumb, index, and middle finger
- Writing with a MagnaDoodle
- Utilizing broken or short crayons
- Drawing shapes in different textures such as sand, playdoh
- Playing with shaving cream, or a plastic bag filled with pudding or shampoo
- Practicing drawing simple pictures such as houses, flowers and trees
If the difficulties go beyond drawing and into handwriting, more issues may be worthy of consideration. If your child cries or has a tantrum when attempting to learn to write his name or to form simple letters to write a sentence, general fine motor concerns may be present. In that case, it will be necessary to consult with the school and to request supports either from the school psychologist, occupational therapist, or both.
If the concerns are significant, a 504 plan or IEP may be necessary. An excellent program for improving handwriting is Handwriting Without Tears . Children with these challenges often benefit from an opportunity to use a dictation software for writing assignments. Children who type well should be able to type all assignments. If your child’s school does not utilize a program of this nature, perhaps a tutor in your community could offer this support to your child.
How can Clear Child Psychology help with Drawing?
We Help You, Immediately
Our Free Discovery Session is a 20-minute consultation where we can talk one-on-one about the concerns and questions you have about your child.
We Help Determine Next Steps
Our Initial Consultation allows us to get a deeper understanding of your child’s needs and determine if an assessment is appropriate.
We Build a Customized Plan
Our Assessments allow us to determine your child’s specific strengths and challenges. We can use this information to develop a customized support plan which includes: referrals
We Connect you with the Right Professionals
Once we understand your child’s needs, we will help families get connected to the right specialists. No more guesswork, no more wasted time and resources.
We Provide Ongoing Coaching and Support
Our Coaching Packages allow us to continually support families as they continue their journeys. Parental coaching, life-skills practice, and school advocacy are just a few examples of ways we help.