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Your Child Today: Toddler

What Scribbles Mean

The first time your toddler sets pencil?or crayon?to paper, the results might not seem like much. But surprisingly, scribbling is an important part of his development. When your little one begins to make fat, purple lines across the paper, he?s actually learning about cause and effect?how his actions bring about an observable change in the environment.

Scribbling is also an important step in learning to communicate. Although those lines might look like nothing more than chaotic markings right now, they eventually lead to drawing, painting and writing.

So, give your toddler lots of opportunities to scribble?and don?t expect much else to happen for a while. A child might make her first marks on paper between 18 and 30 months. Once she starts, you?ll notice progressive changes in her scribbling, such as:

Random scribbling. For about the first six months after your child starts scribbling, her marks have more to do with her growing motor awareness than with her interest in or desire for results. She?s simply enjoying the process of moving her hand back and forth across the paper.

Controlled scribbling. At some point, your child will discover the connection between his movements and the marks he leaves on the paper. Once he becomes aware of this, he?ll realize that he also has control over the size and direction of the marks, leading to more purposeful drawing (although it will still look like scribbling to you!).

Identifiable scribbling. Usually around age 3 1/2, a child begins to connect her scribbling to the world in which she lives. You might not notice much of a change in her scribbles, however, because what has really taken place is a change in her cognitive awareness. Pointing to her efforts and naming familiar objects?Mommy, Daddy, house, tree?is taking a giant step into imaginative thinking. From now on, she?ll see all the marks she puts on paper as a form of communication.

As your child develops, you can encourage growth by providing other artistic activities as well. Brush painting?with really big brushes and really big paper?is a great way to challenge your child?s cognitive development. Clay and Play Doh encourage lots of hand and finger exercises as your child goes through the "scribbling" stages before gaining more control.

You can further encourage your child by hanging his drawings on the refrigerator or bulletin board. Doing so will show him that his efforts are important to you. The next time your toddler draws you a picture, take the time to read between those fat, purple lines.

?Barbara Curtis
Writer, Montessori teacher, mother of 11

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