Child Scribbles: Why is it Happening All the Time?

Picture this: You are spending time with your toddler. It completely slipped your mind to remove those pens from the table after using it for your work. You turn your back for just a minute. And when you turn back, your child has said pen in hand. You completely freak out because this pen held in the nifty fingers of your child is uncapped, which can only mean horrific scribbles on a wall, on the floor or a piece of furniture. 

We believe many parents can relate to this experience and are wondering why your child is obsessed with scribbling everywhere. Here’s why:

Toddlers between the ages of twelve months and two years go through the random scribble stage. This is an exploratory phase where scribbling is driven by the interest to discover what can be done with materials such as paper, pens, markers and crayons. Because these materials are usually stored together, the  tendency for toddlers is to find out how they can be used together. They start uncapping markers, clicking pens and soon realise that when they put the tips of these writing instruments to paper, marks are made. At this stage, your child delights in exploring the movement of their arms and shoulders, as well as the resulting marks made on the paper.

In the random scribble stage, your child is new to writing-related movements in their arms, wrist and shoulders. Scribbles done at this point in time results are uncontrolled. As time passes and your child gains control over their movements, scribbles grow to be more controlled and they start exploring with lines, curves and circles to make shapes. These all form the foundation for developing writing and drawing skills

So how can you scaffold experiences to positively manage your child’s scribbles?

  • Make large empty canvases accessible

Your child needs something to scribble on! For most of the time, a large piece of white paper along with some jumbo crayons can satisfy them. Additionally, to keep scribbling off unwanted areas, provide canvases that are interesting such as coloured paper, wax paper, cardboard pieces and large cut-outs of odd shapes like hearts and circles. The idea here is to be as creative as you can be in providing canvases for your child to work on.

  • Have a designated scribble area

This is an area where your child can go to anytime they wish to do some scribbling. Materials here should be neatly organized yet easy for your child to help themselves to. You may wish to have some paper materials already laid out on a table surface, on the floor or on a vertical surface such as a glass door or wall. Doing this helps your child understand that this area in the house, and not others, is meant for scribbling.

  • Leave out a limited number of crayons or markers

You need not leave out a whole pack of crayons and markers for your child to scribble with. Scaffolding the scribbling environment allows your child to dedicate focused attention on each material and colour. For example, you can leave out either markers or crayons at any one time. Alternatively, you can leave out limited colours to reinforce colour recognition. For instance, you may leave just blue and green crayons and markers for your child to explore with. Rotate the colours at different times and put out different combination of colours to see what effect they present on paper! 

Stay safe, and happy playing! 

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