Question:  In my kindergarten class, I have noticed that a five year old child’s drawing ability is not as developed as his other same-aged peers.  He draws many circles, and lines with a small circle for people.  He draws very few details and colors way out of the lines.  In general, he doesn’t like to write or draw much.  With art, I tend to not want to give children instruction, for fear of stifling their creativity.  I have read many books about drawing developmental stages.  Should I be concerned about his fine motor skill development?

Myrna Shure:  Unless this child is seriously behind in other aspects of motor skill development, I would not be concerned about this phase of his development at this time.  I agree that fostering creativity is the primary goal at this age, and there are effective ways to do this.  Rather than focusing on the product of “what” the child is drawing, focus on the process of “how” the child is drawing.  That is, avoid asking questions such as “Who is this person you just drew?” and say “Tell me about your picture.”  This allows the child to create in his own mind what he wants to talk about, which is fine even if it doesn’t seem related to what’s on the paper.  If the child responds, then you can pick up on what he says to start a supportive conversation.  

You can take this still further by pointing to a particular part of the drawing, and say, “Tell me more about this.”  This can stretch his thinking and he may even enjoy making up a story about what is on the paper.  Some children are more verbally oriented than visually oriented and this child may be one of them.  You mention that he doesn’t like to write or draw much, so having him become involved verbally by making up stories may be something he’ll enjoy very much.  Such opportunities may even inspire him to want to draw more so he can enjoy making up more stories.  And you may learn something about what is on his mind in ways not possible from direct questions about, for example, the “small circles.”

Giving the child freedom to create in his own mind what his drawing represents puts no pressure on the boy to change his style of drawing, and he may come to enjoy it more with these new opportunities to think and talk about it.