Why drawing in kindergarten is very important

Many opportunities for free drawing (with some more structured tasks) has many advantages

1  Providing children in the reception year with many opportunities for drawing allows them to refine the basic graphic skills needed for learning to print letters and numbers.

2 Drawing also allows the child to improve the motor coordination improving the needed for  planning and producing the different strokes used to form letters and numbers

Jack sept 214 building.jpg          W_2014_storm.jpg

3  Getting involved in drawing projects trains/develops a child's ability and willingness to:

  • sit and work at a project,
  • explore different ways of drawing lines to create shapes and patterns 
  • arrange lines and shapes on a page to create a picture 

Time spent drawing also helps to develop the strength and coordination in the shoulder, wrist and fingers needed for engaging in handwriting tasks. 

Movement control needed for drawing and handwriting includes: 

Using shoulder/elbow actions for drawing long lines, and moving the hand across the page when writing.

shoulder 3.jpg   shoulder 4.jpg

Lines down and cross Gr 1.jpg

Using effective finger movement for drawing short lines and small shapes  

R 5y 9m big fish and little fishes.jpg   R 18-02-14 Circles_1.jpg

The only way to improve finger action for handwriting

 is to practice drawing short lines and small shapes. 

Other fine motor tasks will not do the trick.

This is because motor learning and strength training are very specific - you learn and improve on tasks that you practice. This is called training specificity.

Drawing practice improves the basic graphic abilities needed for learning to print letters and numbers

Take a look at the picture below, drawn by Max in kindergarten. You will see many different graphic elements drawn with a fair amount of precision, that are well spaced and sized and have several fluent short and long lines in many directions. 

M 6y pirate ship.jpg

Max's drawing incorporates all the graphic elements needed for learning to print letters and numbers.

  • long and short lines in different directions;
  • small well formed circles and other shapes; 
  • fairly accurate sizing and spacing of lines and shapes;

In addition Max planned  the  placement and size of the different elements before he started the drawing so that the pirate ship fits onto the page 

This next picture was drawn Mary who has poor graphic abilities and associated coordination difficulties. Long lines are jagged, spacing is poor with crowding and overlapping of lines, and sizing is erratic. 

GR R child 6 many elelements crowding.jpg

Drawing a Z inside a small box

The term basic graphic abilities  refers to the child's ability to draw straight and curved lines of different lengths and curvatures,  in different directions and in different positions on the page to produce a desired outcome.

This involves:
  • having an idea of the desired outcome (a goal);
  • translating the idea into a motor plan;
  • translating the motor plan into a commands to the muscles to produce the movements required to achieve the goal. 
To write a Z that fits inside a small block, the child needs to "know" that a capital Z has three lines joined together. To fit the Z inside the block involves planning a horizontal line of the right length which starts in the right place, followed by a diagonal lines in the right direction and angle ending near the bottom corner of the block. This must be followed by another horizontal line of the right length. 
The sequence is: start near the top left hand corner of the block, produce a horizontal line that ends near the top right hand corner, followed by a diagonal line that ends near the bottom left and corner and lastly make another horizontal line that ends near the bottom right hand corner. 
Roan 5y 6m: Fairly good control of sequence of strokes needed to form a Z, but the direction of the diagonal line needs work. 
 R 5y 9m Z_1_0.jpg
Will 4y 6m: Not able to reproduce a sequence of strokes to write a Z in a reliable manner

W 4y 6m Z_1.jpg

The basic graphic abilities 

1  The ability to draw relatively smooth and straight lines of different lengths and in different directions 

To draw a long long horizontal lines the hand holding the marker is moved across the page using a combined shoulder/elbow movement.  Ben (Gr R, second term) draws relatively straight and smooth horizontal lines. 

 L-grR-lines-between-shapes.jpg      R 7y stripey monster.jpg
Aziz (Gr R, second term) draws lines are not smooth and have many sharp changes in direction. 
Roan's at 6y is able to draw relatively straight lines in all directions. Some directions are more challenging than others. Her ability to control the direction and length of lines is reflected in her drawings. 
  R-6y-sun-rays-1.jpg    Roan 5y 9m hoase that turned into a mandala_1.jpg

2 Ability to draw smooth curved lines and circles of different sizes

Roan (Gr R, first term) has good control over her drawing of curved shapes. The lines are smooth and confident. 

 R 18-02-14 Circles_1.jpg   R 5 y elephant - with prompts.jpg

This Gr R learner has difficulty drawing curved and straight line shapes with a smooth action.

K-GrR-copying shapes_1_1.jpg

3 Ability to draw/copy squares and rectangles

Children with good graphic skills can draw/copy rectangles and squares of a of a particular size and position on the page. Roan is able to copy a square and rectangles with attention to size and orientation. In this example her ability to copy a rectangle is better than her drawing of a square.  

     R-6y-copying-rectangle_1.jpg      R-6y-copying-rectangle-2_1.jpg

Here you see Will's (4y 6m) attempt to copy a square and a rectangle. He has good control over drawing vertical and horizontal lines, but is not able to pre-plan the length of the lines to match the example.  His various attempts at drawing provide the practice he needs to translate the visual information about line length into a motor plan to reproduce the lines.     



4 Ability to draw a rectangle with the eyes closed

Children with good graphic skills can draw rectangles with their eyes closed. To be able to do this the child needs to pre-plan the movements, and keep in mind the length of the first and second lines in order to complete the drawing accurately. Children who tend to rely on ongoing visual feedback to control their movements can often draw a rectangle with the eyes closed and will produce lines that are in fact straighter and more fluent when over-reliance on visual monitoring is prevented. 


Will (4y 6m) also managed to draw a rectangle after two failed attempts


5 Ability to combine the basic lines and shapes

Learners with good graphic skills will combine shapes and lines to  represent people, animals and objects. This involves careful planning of the size and position of the lines and shapes relative to one another. 

  Robot of rectangles.jpg    R 5y 2m ducks 2_0.jpg  

6 Ability to draw small shapes using effective finger movements

Children with good graphic skills will incorporate small shapes into their drawings.

R 5y 9m big fish and little fishes.jpg     Roan 5y 10m small curved shapes_1.jpg

Children acquire the basic graphic skills through dedicated practice

Young children with good graphic skills have usually spent quite a lot of time drawing over a number of years. This experience provides the child with the necessary practice to acquire the sensorimotor control needed for drawing the basic graphic elements.

Learning to draw a circle - a case study in drawing development over several years

Children learn to draw closed curved shapes at a very early age. Circular marks are a very prominent feature of toddler drawings. 

T (2 years) spiral drawings

 T 2 years.jpg    T 2y circular scribbles.JPG
Tadpole people with circular shapes are a common feature of early people drawings, drawn repeatedly over the course of at least a year. 
L 3y 6m 3.jpg    R 4y 6m person.jpg
However, in order to draw a well shaped circle the child needs to pay attention to the shape that has been drawn, notice how it differs from a well formed circle and make repeated attempts to draw  good circles.  

Gr circles 1.jpg    

Drawing is about pattern making

Drawing activities allow children to explore color, line curvature, length and direction, how lines can be used to draw shapes and how how shapes can be combined in different ways to make patterns and represent people, animals and objects. 

Drawing helps children to develop the  visual-spatial skills needed for mathematics. Pattern making is also an important aspect of developing mathematical ideas in young children.  

     R 5y 2m  ducks.jpg    .          W May 2014 Field of daisies - Copy.jpg

Drawing provides a way to express feelings, relationships and events 

Drawing provides children with ways to represent ideas, things and people,  record events and express their ideas and feelings. 

R 5y daddy when he is very sick.jpg

Lily 6 years: Daddy when he is very sick 


Will 5 year:  My family

Kindergarten Drawing Activities 
A PDF Guide for Parents and Teachers

Enhancing Motor Coordination and Graphic Abilities Needed for Handwriting

Learning to draw and print numbers and letters is a matter of learning to control the movements of a pencil on paper to produce straight and curved lines of different lengths, in different directions, precisely located on the page and linked to create patterns, shapes and letters. (Read more about the graphic abilities children should acquire in kindergarten.)

Children with movement difficulties associated with DCD, ASD, joint hypermobility (low muscle tone) and those having a very cautious highly sensitive (anxious) nature or a diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder,  may need a bit of extra help with guided practice opportunities to acquire the. basic motor control and graphic abilities for learning to print letters and numbers that are well formed,spaced and sized.  

The drawing activities in this Kindergarten Drawing Activities book are designed to help children acquire these basic motor coordination and graphic abilities in readiness for learning to print letters and numbers. 


Available to Handwriting Gym subscribers 
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HWG subscribers: To access the PDF go to your account and click on the files tab. 


How the brain controls drawing movements            
Arm and finger movements for drawing                                            
Teaching for better learning    

Activities with 13 different activity sheets 
Scribble pictures and wobbly monsters
Long vertical and horizontal lines 
Ladders and train tracks 
Circles in boxes 
Diagonal lines, triangles and zigzags
Rectangles and squares 
Shapes in small boxes 

JJ Spider monster_1.jpg   R 6y 3 april 2014 lines across (1)_1.jpg   curves around circles 2_1.jpg

About the author

Pam Versfeld is a physiotherapist with many years of experience working with children who have drawing and handwriting difficulties related to developmental motor disorders such as developmental coordination disorder (DCD), ASD,  joint hypermobility/ low muscle tone and ADHD and being a highly sensitive child (sometimes diagnosed as a sensory processing disorder).

Pam is also a proud grandmother who has closely observed the developing graphic abilities of several grandchildren who have spent many hours sitting and drawing at her kitchen table.

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