When Will a Toddler Start Scribbling?

6 min read

Written by Smita Srivastava

Smita Srivastava

Toddler scribbling with crayon

“When will a toddler start scribbling?” The answer to this question is, once your tiny tot can comfortably grab a crayon they are ready to rock-and-roll! Give them a paper and see your little Picasso at work. Making those random lines, loops, and squiggles is a joy for your little bambino. Scribbling has lots of brain-boosting benefits – adjusting the crayons, applying pressure, and so on, involves a lot of mental gymnastics.

You want your toddler to start scribbling and keep this wonderful habit with them. But sometimes, parents unknowingly discourage their adorable ones by using incorrect feedback methods. The right words, and questions with affectionate conduct work like a tonic to boost their drive for scribbling. Furthermore, there’s a way through which toddlers disinterested in scribbling can also be made to love it.

In This Article

When Does a Toddler Start Scribbling?

Your toddler will show you all the mesmerizing things they can do with crayons anywhere between 12 to 15 months of age. By this time they can sit unassisted. But because their motor skills are still developing, they use their entire fist to hold the crayon. Shoulders and elbows support their hand movements, which are not yet very precise.

Somewhere around the age of 2, as their grip improves, you’ll see them making bigger scribbles on paper. The scribbles will transition from ‘left-right’ pendulum-like motions to zig-zag lines, dots, circles, lines, and crosses. Their scribbling may not resemble any specific object to you. But, your toddler will find meaning in those random shapes and forms. This is similar to how adults look for face formations in clouds. 

Why is Scribbling Important For a Toddler?

Scribbling fosters creativity and imagination in your little one. It brings immense joy to them, seeing that they can create colorful marks on the paper. During scribbling, no one tells them what to do and what not to do. Their imagination takes flight and finds expression through those loops, lines, and squiggles.

Scribbling is the first step to writing, of penning their thoughts on paper. Plus, they’re coordinating their hands and eyes while scribbling. So writing, drawing, reading, and communicating all will be much easier later on.

Top 6 Amazing Benefits of Scribbling For a Toddler

There are many benefits of scribbling for toddler

Once a toddler starts scribbling, it’s an important milestone for them. Scribbling benefits toddlers in many known and unexplored ways. Science has explored some of them-

1. Cerebral Development

The drawings of your little one are hints of their intellectual growth. The act of creating random loops and lines on paper not only improves their concentration but also forms new neural connectors.

2. Hand-Eye Coordination

The more they scribble and draw, the sharper their hand-eye coordination becomes. They have a certain shape in mind, and they use their hands and eyes coordinatively to draw it. This improved hand-eye coordination will benefit things like- handwriting, reading, and daily activities such as tying shoes in future. You might see kids having a certain type of handwriting in mind, and create it with little practice. On the other hand, some struggle a lot and have to practice much more intensely.

3. Boosts Memory

In many ways, scribbling and drawing are memory-intensive tasks. Your toddler recalls the events, experiences, and images they see in their everyday life during scribbling.

[Read : Developing The Right Motor Skills In Your Toddler]

4. Motor Skills Development

When toddler start scribbling, with hand-eye coordination, their motor skills also improve. The movement of small muscle groups in the hands, fingers, and large muscle groups located in the shoulders, and arms get refined. Such well-developed motor skills are not just limited to painting. Surgeons and musical instrument players also have very strong motor skills, especially fine motor skills.

5. Enhances Creativity

According to ResearchGate, One becomes creative when their thinking has no boundaries. Your little one is not tied to any specific style of art, or ‘rules’ while scribbling. Such a habit of creative thinking will stay with them in their later years when they’ll need it. 

6. Helps Inculcate Problem-Solving Skills

Your toddler will eventually reach a point where they’ll want to intentionally draw something. For that, holding the crayon in different ways, and experimenting with applying different amounts of pressure on the paper comes naturally. To attain the desired picture, lots of brain gymnastics happen inside their tiny heads. All this helps to inculcate problem-solving ability in them.

[Read : Teaching Your Child Problem Solving Skills]

How Can You Support Toddler’s Scribbling Journey?

Encourage your toddler on their scribbling

As your toddler explores their imagination, you simply need to sit, watch, and listen to their stories. Ask questions, offer praise, and show interest and enthusiasm toward their scribblings. Your questions should focus on the hard work behind their art rather than the outcome. Your expressions, voice tone, words, and hand gestures, all matter to your toddler when they show you their creativity.

For example; questions like- “What is it?” often dishearten toddlers and children. That’s because the question unconsciously communicates you wanted them to draw something else.

Instead, you should consider the following approach-

Encouraging Feedback-

  • “I see lots of dots on your drawing. That’s a lot of hard work you’re putting in!”
  • “You are having lots of fun moving the crayon round and round, right?”
  • “That’s such a remarkable piece of art you’ve created. We must keep it on the table and surprise Dad with it”
  • “Let us take a picture of your beautiful drawing and send it to Grandma. She’ll be very happy seeing it”

Feedback You Should Avoid-

  • “You forgot to draw the legs”
  • “No dear, the color of the sky is blue. Here, take the blue crayon”
  • “Sam draws the house so well. You should try to draw it like him”

Which Activities Will Help Toddler Scribbling?

Activities which can help toddler scribbling

Scribbling comes naturally to your toddler. It may be tough for them at first but with practice they gain the necessary skills required to scribble better by the day. Try out the following activities to help them in their scribbling journey-

  • Make a place in the room, filled with papers, pencils, crayons, and markers to motivate them to draw
  • Clip their drawings or scribblings to walls
  • Collect leaves of different shapes and textures from gardens or parks. Dip them in colorful paints and show them the beautiful prints it creates on the paper
  • Stick big sheets of drawing paper on the ground. It’ll keep the paper steady as they scribble
  • If they love outdoors, then take them outside and give them sticks to draw or scribble in the ground
  • Write along with them. As in, when they are doing their own scribbling, you also sit with them and write something in your notebook, and also talk to them about what you are writing
  • You can also try to encourage them by doing their hand and foot prints on paper. Use non toxic, bright colored paint to do imprints

What if Your Toddler is Not Scribbling?

There are other mixed media techniques which offer the same benefits as scribbling. Toddlers not showing interest in scribbling should be engaged in these activities.

For example, they might find it more enjoyable to draw and color using different surfaces and techniques like- drawing on chalkboard, on the ground, making use of rubber stamps to create imprints, using markers to draw, drawing on fabric, making ‘drawings’ by using glue and paper, etc.

When to Talk to a Doctor?

Toddler holding crayon

If your toddler holds an object in their fist and finds it hard to release by 12 months, it’s a matter of concern. Around 18 months, they should be able to use a pincer grasp rather than a fisted one to grab the crayon. Parents must visit their pediatrician if they find their toddlers facing these problems.

Once toddlers start scribbling, it’s a phase that can be both enchanting and exasperating for the parents. While it’s fun to watch them explore and learn, it’s also distressing to see them scribble everywhere except in the place they are supposed to! But these are the moments that make memories. So, spend time with them as they scribble. Encourage them through your praise and enthusiastic questions. Have fun with them by using new techniques to make art. Remember, these are precious moments, so enjoy them while you can!


1. Is Toddler Scribbling a Milestone?

Yes. Scribbling is a baby step towards writing, in the same way, a baby’s cooing sound is the first step of talking. So, give your toddler plenty of opportunities and encouragement to sail through this phase and hone their skills.

2. What Are The 4 Stages of Scribbling?

Scribbling takes different forms as your toddler grows-

  1. Scribbling randomly (12 months to 2½ years)
  2. Scribbling with some control and precision (2 to 3 years)
  3. Scribbling patterns and lines (2½ to 3½ years)
  4. Objects or people in scribbles (3 to 5 years)

Read Also: How Can I Encourage My Toddler’s Imagination?

Smita Srivastava, Bachelors (BA) in Mass Media and Mass Communication from Delhi University
Masters (MA) in Mass Media and Mass Communication from Kurukshetra University

With a background in Mass media and journalism, Smita comes with rich and vast experience in content creation, curation, and editing. As a mom of a baby girl, she is an excellent candidate for writing and editing parenting and pregnancy content. The content she writes and edits is influenced by her own journey through pregnancy and motherhood. When not writing- She can be found curled up with a book. Or, bingeing on Netflix.Read more.

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