Why Isn’t My Child Scribbling or Drawing?

Ask Kytka Archives: January 4, 2003

“My daughter is nearly three and while she has scribbled a bit in the past, shows no true interest in it. I’ve tried all types of crayons in all types of settings, even covering my coffee table with white paper thinking a big flat surface would be appealing. Nothing. She seems otherwise pretty happy, curious, affectionate and well-adjusted, likes books, outdoor play, play dough and finger painting. But will not deal with crayons. What’s this about and should I be worried?”

I wouldn’t worry at all. Your daughter sounds like a wonderful little girl. All children eventually find their own path to drawing. My children tend to want to hold crayons before they can even walk but for example, my sisters girls (both) who are each only about 1-3 months different in age from mine have very little interest. My 5 year old draws like a 10 year old and my sister often would stress out that her kids never draw and when they do it is horrible scribbles in dark colors…. She worried so much that she bought them children’s how to draw books, etc… and nothing until just a few weeks ago.

Apparently they began to show a slight interest and when they finally


made something that their grandma made a fuss about – they, I think out of an eager to please attitude, have begun to show an interest in drawing. I think my sister felt compelled to “catch up” with my children and forgot for the moment that her children have their own wonderful gifts and are miles ahead of mine in other areas. We cannot all be the same!

When I taught, both in regular school and also led the group at the Waldorf school I came across several children who just were not into it. I think, just like with everything else, that children have different talents and we shouldn’t buy into – or generalize, or even assume that drawing is a kid’s activity. I would not push or pressure he child in any case.

May I suggest forgetting about the crayons allowing the child to fully experience watercolor painting. Let the child just experience the colors – one at a time. Relax. I am sure that the time will come when the child will WANT to color and draw.

Holding a crayon is much like holding a pen/pencil and it really is related to later stages of development anyhow…. It’s funny you are worried about this and I, on the other extreme worry that mine are too INTO writing and drawing! (I want them to get out of their head and more into the heart and hands!)

Trust your child’s own level of developmental readiness. Have the materials ready (some clean paper and the crayons placed in an appealing manner to the eye, maybe in a small basket, on a small table with a nice little flower or plant – maybe close to the window or sliding door… so the area will invite the child to want to sit down and begin to experience the colors. Don’t immediately run over “What are you drawing?” – Just let the child be and have his own experience with the process, colors, etc…

I often had to bite my tongue when I’d see parents runs to the table, in their own anxiety, and literally hover over the children – “Oh, I like that flower you made, Is this a princess”, etc..” Give the child his OWN EXPERIENCE. What may look like a flower to you may be a car to the child and he may be processing that long trip you took over the holidays! Don’t assume that what looks like an object to you IS what you think it is.

Coloring, Scribbling, Drawing, Writing, Painting all falls under the category of HEALING art and should be, in my opinion, encouraged to be expressed in one’s own manner and time. In Waldorf Kindergarten (age 6) they are just beginning to experience color with singular color painting and it is not until then end of the year that they are mixing the colors… The crayons don’t normally come into play until first grade (age 7, change of teeth). I know, I know – you will say “But I saw these beautiful drawings hanging up at my local Waldorf PREschool!” But you know what – that’s not the was Steiner saw it, nor was it a part of his recommended curriculum. You see those pictures hanging there because teachers feel parental pressure and feel they have to deliver something concrete to make up for their parents spending $500 a month of tuition!

So, take a deep breath and relax. You child may have the seed of a Picasso lying dormant in it’s winter sleep waiting to sprout in all its beauty when springtime comes… but to force the little flower to blossom too early would surely damage the little plant – perhaps even kill it. Your child inherently knows what is best and the time table s/he is on. The bests thing YOU can do is

  • allow the process to unfold naturally
  • create a beautiful place where the process can occur , when it’s time
  • offer the best quality materials – as the materials speak to the senses, to the soul
  • be patient and accepting with your child’s development
  • forget about keeping up with what the other kids are doing
  • don’t rush to (mis) identify or overly praise the first work your child does

“When the child is specially attentive to the spiritual environment, more dreamy and NOT reading (or in this case drawing) than you can be sure that he is retaining himself and enriching himself for a more powerful development later. Remember that Einstein did not start to read and write before he was 14. He was going under a healthier development. What is the norm does not mean that it is the best.” ~Ghamin

Another parent who had the same experiences adds this:

“My son is almost 7. He NEVER had any interest in coloring, scribbling, drawing, etc, yet loved paints and clay as your daughter does. I thought something was wrong or weird, but it is not. He just this year started becoming Picasso! He loves to draw and draw and color and color. He draws pictures and puts them in envelopes, tapes them around the house on gifts, etc…. He just needed to do it when HE was ready. Just like learning anything else I guess. I do understand your feelings though, it did concern me, but no longer. Just let her continue to be a happy, well adjusted and loving child!” ~Jonelle

To view “Waldorf Style” I’d like to recommend:

Drawing Simple Animal Forms – Waldorf Style

Drawing Archetypal Forms

Grade Four: Animals Among the Elements

To inquire about the above, please email Rainbow directly at rainbow@live-education.com (tell him Kytka sent you!)

Suggested Articles: (the following are all .pdf files)

Recommended Reading

Elkind reveals and explains the serious risks entailed in the current craze for giving formal academic and physical instructions to pre-school children four years old and younger.

This book will help parents consider when their child is ready to take the step from kindergarten to grade school. There is much written about WHEN a child is really ready to learn to read. Here is wise guidance for those who wish to understand how young children learn to play, speak, think, and relate. How language and the senses develop. When a child is ready to learn to read. The difference between the way boys and girls learn. Simple tests to give a child for school readiness & more.
Michael Rose teaches at York Steiner School. Martyn Rawson works for the UK Steiner Wal­dorf Schools Fellowship. They both are consultants in teacher training and have written numer­ous articles and books on Steiner Waldorf education.

This experienced Waldorf teacher allows us to enter his classroom and gain insights that serve as valuable guides for both parents and educators. Aeppli also presents a challenge to teachers: penetrate the subject, grasp its essence, transform it artistically, and present it to the children in a way that fits their evolving inner orientation. This fresh approach is not just another theory about good education. Aeppli writes of practical experience. The goal of this kind of education is to send young adults into the world with an ability to stand on their own feet and accept responsibility for their actions.

Questioners Follow Up:

Kytka, Thank you SO MUCH for the new page regarding my concern about young children and art. This is now, I can safely say, the ONLY place on the entire world wide web that addresses this specific aspect of child artistic development. I should know, I visited a zillion such sites and found nothing to either confirm or deny my concern. Thank you, thank you for taking time to set up the page and to share your expertise as an educator and parent with me and with all. I am already heaving a great sigh of relief and the dark cloud of worry has lifted. Once again I am at peace with my daughter’s own special pace.

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