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Drawing & Literacy

Dear Elizabeth,
My 3-year-old loves to draw but his scribbles don’t look like anything I recognize. Should I encourage him to draw things that look more realistic?
Jennifer Reyes
Elizabeth's Tips
Elizabeth Sanchez
Elizabeth Sanchez
  • Provide unlined paper & drawing materials
  • Encourage kids to tell stories about their drawings
  • Display drawings
Expert Advice
Tisha Rivera
Tisha Rivera
Early education instructor
You should not encourage children to draw things which look realistic. Drawings have to make sense from the child’s point of view – not our own. Scribbles are a stepping stone toward early writing and reading skills. Children need to practice this newfound talent of scribbling and be encouraged to experiment.

Children Enjoy Drawing
There are many reasons why drawing is so enjoyable for young children. Through their drawings children are expressing themselves; their emotions, ideas, and experiences are being given a creative outlet. They are also gaining a sense of self and autonomy (independence). They feel great pride in their accomplishment when they can see a finished product that they created themselves. They are in complete control and there is no wrong way of drawing and no one to tell them which direction to go next.

Encourage Kids to Talk
In talking about their drawings, children learn the print-to-speech relationship. Talking about their drawings also leads to literacy, storytelling, expression, self-esteem, creativity, and concept development. In addition, it helps them to remember past experiences, events, and activities. Drawing provides a way to talk about children’s learning and understanding of the world and to build on that knowledge.

Helps Kids Learn to Hold Writing Utensils
Holding a writing utensil is difficult for young children because they still do not have a lot of strength in their fingers and hands. Thus, it is important for them to learn gradually with a lot of practice. If they draw with a variety of media (pencils, markers, crayons, paints, chalk, etc.), they gain practice and strength which will in turn prepare them to be ready to write once they are in kindergarten.

Lined versus Unlined Paper
It is important to provide choices to encourage creativity of expression. We should provide choices in paper also (different textures, sizes, shapes, colors). However, the paper we provide should be UNLINED. Unlined paper promotes self-expression and creativity with no limits or wrong answers. Tracing and copying and coloring pre-printed pages are not appropriate activities for young children. These types of activities send the message to children that there is only one right way to do something and stifle their learning and creativity.

Display Kids’ Artwork
It’s important to prominently display your child’s drawings because it makes children feel validated and important. It increases their self-esteem, pride, sense of accomplishment, recognition, and sense of initiative. It shows them that we value them. It reminds them of their learning and storytelling. They will be encouraged to continue drawing and subsequently build on their knowledge.
Child Care Provider Comments
Jennifer Irish
Jennifer Irish
Mother of two
My daughter really likes to draw. She’s three-years-old and right now she is very abstract. I don’t know what she’s drawn most of the time, so I encourage her to tell me. She seems to naturally love to tell me stories related to her drawings. I learned earlier that it’s not good to just say, “Good job,” but to ask her questions. If I’ve noticed that she is using a different or interesting color, I will ask her to her explain to me why she chose that particular color. It just spurs more conversation while she’s doing her drawings.
Janis Sanders
Janis Sanders
Grandmother of four
My grandchildren love drawing. My grandson likes drawing Superman and his mom and dad. I have him tell me all about his drawings. He’s very verbal and he has a huge imagination.

My four-year-old granddaughter loves to draw, too. She seems to be more into the writing. We made Valentine’s Day cards this year with pictures and hearts. She wrote a really sweet note to her dad. I believe that drawing gets kids interested in writing. It teaches children how to hold writing instruments and how to get used to the movements. When they are finished drawing, I will display their artwork. I’ll frame them or I tack them onto the refrigerator.
Eve Del Real
Eve Del Real
Child Care Provider for 3 years
Drawing is an activity that is always available to the kids. We have a creative curriculum. We do an activity called “What is a line?” which teaches children how to write their name. We put a big piece of paper outside and we check for a shadow and have the kids trace the shadow. The lines turn into different things. This activity is a different tool to incorporate into drawing.

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Sculpture Storybooks
Drawing & Literacy Featured Video:
Drawing & Literacy
Topic: Early Learning Areas
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