As your toddler gets older, they are learning to scribble with more definite and repetitive lines, in small, intense bunches as well as in circular patterns that may take up an entire page. This is in contrast to earlier coloring, which consisted of the light and hesitant marks they made around the time they turned one. More than anything, toddler art is a sensory exploration involving fine and gross motor movement; toddlers do not yet create representative images.
As the adult, it is important to imitate your child’s efforts and model what is developmentally appropriate, like simple dots, lines, and swirls as you see these emerge. When commenting on your toddler’s work, aim to talk directly about what you see: “Wow! I see so many swirls and lines!”
For young children, the process of their work and experience with the materials matter more than the finished product.
Here are the stages of toddler drawing development:
By about 18 months, your toddler may grasp a crayon and scribble spontaneously on their own.
Somewhere between 18 and 24 months, your toddler might learn to imitate a vertical line you draw for them. The line won’t be exactly straight up and down like yours, but it might be close.
At the same age, they may also be able to keep their coloring inside a large sheet of paper, especially if you emphasize the importance of coloring “only on the paper.”
Imitating circular scribbles
Next, around 20 to 24 months, they may start imitating your circular scribbles. You can narrate this for them by saying, “let’s go ‘round and ‘round with the crayon.” You might also want to tape or hold the paper down for them.
Imitating your horizontal strokes comes later, when they’re about two. As you are making the line, you might say “across” or “this way.”
Your toddler's grasp affects how easily they can control the crayon. Between 23 and 25 months, they may learn to grasp a crayon with their thumb and fingers so that both thumb and crayon tip are pointing down toward the paper. This grasp will give them more control over their markings. They will probably continue to use a fist grasp occasionally, especially when trying to make heavy or intense marks. Grasp is one of the most variable of milestones.