Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Scribbles: Motor babbling

I love abstract art done by children like my granddaughter.

Fiona loves colourful markers. Pencils are out.
Come September my granddaughter Fiona will be all of two. And Ga-ga, that's what she calls me, has had the pleasure of watching her develop. It's been wonderful.

Naturally, I think she's quite the talented little girl. But, thanks to the Internet, I know the truth — she's just a normal child developing on schedule.

Right on cue, at 18 months, the kid discovered pencils, pens and paper. (I am so thankful she discovered paper. Lots of kids don't. They discover walls.)

Fiona would sit on the floor, a pen gripped tightly in her fist and get great joy from swirling the pen over the paper. This is typical of many toddlers as they do not have good finger, hand and wrist control.

Now, the little tyke has moved past grey pencil lines and boring blue ink — she is now deep into colour. She loves her package of colourful felt-tipped pens. She sometimes makes a simple work with only one colour and a few, concise lines but it is far more common for her to attack the paper with every colourful pen-weapon at her disposal.

She chooses her colours carefully.
Toddlers learn to speak by first learning to babble. But there are more ways to babble than just verbally. There is also motor babbling that teaches children muscle control and enhances coordination.

Baby talk has meaning. Mothers understand their child's babbling. Scribbles also carry meaning. Children as young as 18 months have been known to use dots, for example, to represent falling rain. (We know this, I assume, because the message has been babbled to mom.)

I don't understand Fiona's verbal babblings but I do have a feel for her art, her motor babbling. I'm sure she is concerned with colour, line and placement. She loves to experiment with the process, mixing a variety of dots and bold dashes with sweeping, full-page ovals.

As she gains more control, she will gravitate toward more and more realism in her art. She may oscillate between realism and scribbling but the move is always towards the real.

By the time she is six years old outlines will be replacing single lines to depict legs and arms. Stick figures will be out.  It can take another two or three years before body proportions become important to a young artist like Fiona.

Then, if she is a real artist, maybe she will rediscover the abstract. Her aunt did.


It has been more than a year since I wrote the above piece on motor babbling. Fiona's love of art has remained strong. She loves to get out her paints, her brushes and create five or six works of art before moving on to another activity.

Done shortly before she turned three, Fiona titled this work "Rainbow."
Fiona, 3, finds inspiration in the world surrounding her: "Red Flower"

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