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When do children start drawing people? + What it means + Links for more info.

Toddler drawing people at How we Montessori Otto 34 months

Has your toddler started to draw people? A few months ago Otto started to draw circles, then he started to draw circles within circles and then he started to draw faces with two eyes and a mouth. On Sunday night (at two years, 10 months) he started to draw people with legs and arms. I had been patiently waiting for the moment to happen and it did not disappoint. He has been drawing these 'tadpole' (or potato people) ever since, and lots of them. They are adorable! 

Here are a few notes that I've made about this stage from Children Draw: A guide to why, when and how children make art

  • Children's drawings start to reflect their growing awareness of the world, from around three and a half years.
  • First realistic drawing is an odd-looking human figure - known as a 'tadpole' person.
  • To begin with the tadpole person is often rendered as one circular shape for the head, with two vertical lines for the legs, sometimes a few dots or lines are added for facial features.
  • Tadpole people often float on the page or might be joined by other scribbled elements.
  • The tadpole person is a flexible symbol that is constantly changing. 
  • Children add lines for arms, often originating directly from the head, especially when they are needed to represent a specific action like holding a balloon.
  • Then come fingers and toes. Elements such as hair, clothing and other details are generally seen later on in this stage. 
  • While not always evident in their drawings, it is believed children are usually aware of different body parts and how they fit together. 
  • Tadpole people may be a quick and easy shortcut for young children to convey the idea of a human figure. 
  • Parents and caregivers can encourage children to talk about their human figure drawings, the child may surprise parents by pointing out details that are not readily apparent to anyone by the child him/herself. 
  • At this stage there is no conscious attempt at design or composition. 
  • There is no baseline representing the ground, objects seem to float randomly around the page.
  • Some children will turn or rotate the paper while they are drawing. 
  • Sizes of different elements are distorted and they are not necessarily in proportion to each other. 
  • The people and things that are portrayed in the same drawing may not be conceptually related to one another. 

Toddler drawing people at How we Montessori Otto 34 months

Otto has started to change his grip here, this is good to see he is moving away from the cylindrical grasp. Both grasps are completely age appropriate.

Toddler drawing people at How we Montessori Otto 34 months

His people have legs, arms, hair and the eyes have pupils. Occasionally, like on the very top picture, Otto will make sure to add and point out the feet. Even when I'm not next to him he says the body part as he draws it. All of this is also age appropriate. I love this stage!!

Otto drawing person with scibble at How we Montessori at 34 months Sydney

Recommended reading includes:

You may also like my previous article Understanding Children's Drawings & Stages of Development.

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