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The Eric Carle Museum
of Picture Book Art
  • 125 West Bay Road
  • Amherst, MA 01002


  • Wednesday-Friday10 am-3 pm
  • Saturday 10am – 4 pm
  • Sunday 12 pm - 4 pm

Closed Monday and Tuesday

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Making Art Together

How Young Children Draw People II

I have a 4 month old at home, so I'm experiencing up close and personally how engaged babies are with faces, especially human faces. My baby is constantly reaching for and touching the face of whomever is holding her. Its no surprise to me then, that "With rare exceptions, children draw people before they draw animals, houses, vehicles, or vegetation... (Rhoda Kellogg, Children's Drawings Children's Minds, 1979, p. 25) 

circle with legs and eyes

Not all early childhood/educational experts agree with Kellogg's theory, but in her opinion "Children teach themselves to draw by a long process that begins when first scribbling movements leave some kind of visual record of interest to the child. The human figures they draw in early childhood are not a first effort to draw a living person. They are an outgrowth of much previous work...But these figures are often the first ones to interest the adult who is unaware of what has gone before (Kellogg, p.1) 

face and body

Her idea is that children move themselves (without instruction) through four stages of drawing. The pattern stage, starting at 2 years or younger, includes Basic Scribbles and Placement Patterns. The shape stage, starting around 2-3 yrs., is followed closely by efforts to combine shapes. Around 3-4 years, the design stage is marked by balanced combinations of lines and shapes such as Mandalas, Suns, and Radials. By about age 5, children are likely to have started creating pictorial work such as humans, animals, plants and buildings. (Analyzing Children's Art, 1969, p. 39) So I'm curious. At what age did your child start scribbling? Did they move through Kellogg's stages of scribbling development? When did they start drawing humans? Did you encourage their scribbling at home? How? The drawings above were left behind by visitors to the studio this week. I didn't meet their creators, but If I had to guess their ages based on Kellogg's theory I think the top one was done by a 3 yr old, and the bottom by a 5 year old.



We enjoy exploring materials and ideas in the Art Studio, and we’re excited to share our process with you! Please consider the following factors when adapting these posts for your learning environment: 

We facilitate a variety of programs within the Art Studio for a wide range of age groups. Please carefully consider the age appropriateness of each individual activity in your own learning environment.

Our projects are always done with adult supervision and proper safety precautions. Be sure all of your projects are overseen by adults who likewise follow proper safety precautions. The adults overseeing your project must also be responsible for handling or assisting with any potentially harmful equipment or materials. 

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is not responsible for any damages, injuries or liabilities that result from any activities contained within this website, and we expressly disclaim any responsibility or liability therefor. From time to time, we reference materials that we have found to be particularly important in our projects. We do not receive any monetary compensation for recommending materials. 



by Meghan Burch

This entry was posted on Saturday, August 20th, 2011 at 1:57 pm and is filed under By Meghan Burch, Drawing, Toddlers, Preschool. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


Sunday, August 8, 2011 - 8:53 pm
Mine is 7 now, and enjoys things that move like airplanes. His pictures have always been about things happening, volcanos, balls, trucks, rockets. There were people in the things, usualy family, but the story was about stuff happening, even when he was younger.His drawings reflected stories we read or toys he imagined in stories. the drawing have evolved as his coordination has grown, the stories have always been wonderfully full of detail even if the drawings were more basic.
Thursday, August 8, 2011 - 12:23 pm
Thanks for sharing, Melissa!

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