7 -9 Symbol Making

  • This is the period when children most enjoy their art, and produce interesting work for adults.
  • They are not creating art yet, but developing a complex system of visual communication.
  • Human figures have distinct head and torso.
  • Drawing anchored to base-line
  • Color is not random but assigned based on realistic color of object.
  • They are trying to translate a three-dimensional world into symbols.
  • Images don’t touch, overlap or go off the page
  • X-ray drawings appear trying to explain a baby inside mommy’s belly or clothes on top of the body situations.
  • Multiple view points appear: bird view points become visible.
  • Themes are narrative, mostly about themselves and the immediate reality around them.
  • Children begin an understanding and begin to have a preference of medium to represent their idea.
  • They sustained an idea to the conclusion, meaning that the theme of the picture they beggin with is the same as when they end. They do not change the theme on the middle of the process as in the early stage.
  • They begin fitting together ideas about the world, ideas f the way three dimensional objects culd be represented in a two-dimensional medium.
  • They can begin naming the image before creating: single object works
  • They can be very curious about human relationships and interconnections and the reflective view of real world events: rules, convention and inhibitions among groups of people.
  • It is considered their peek of curiosity and imaginative powers.
  • Children at this stage may not be including many details but they begin they incorporate the necessary to differentiate between male and female and to give objects their specific characteristics. This is part of the subcategorizing cognitive process.
  • Relationships of of proportion and size are not fixed representational concepts: so the length of arms, the size of hands or thickness of mouth are still not accurate.
  • Children transcend from having a large object covering the page, to putting objects together. : making interactive events. When objects stand together, the child has a need for a standing place. Base and Sky line become visible. This also develops the concept of below-middle-above, side to side and near and far.
  • Themes revolve on I and me and things I like to do as they are still on an egocentric face.
  • Object do not touch because there is a cognitive understanding that each object occupies a space, in-front and behind are abstract concepts on the two-dimensional space.
  • Towards the end of the stage y=themes may revolve on “trips to far away places,” or “the way things work and why the work” this are called Real World Events.
  • Events involve start to involve action

 Bench mark: baseline

Santiago Arévalo – Colombia

Age 4

Color on paper

Santiago has shifted from the tadpole figure to a image with torso. The torso has two parts, one might be a neck. The hands still appear from the head. He is understanding the difference between male and female representation as the figure drawn has earrings and long hair, characteristic of a woman schema. The woman depicted is probably his mother due to the word “mama” written below. There is no sign of baseline.

Santiago Arévalo – Colombia

Age 4

Marker on paper

This picture tells a story about the child everyday life event. His mom would ride a bicycle to preschool everyday and he would ride on the backseat. Children at this stage are drawing themes from their immediate life, their families en simple events. He has not yet shifted from the ego-centric stage so drawings include the knowledge of his instant reality. This picture still shows how the child gives a space to each element. The bicycle is “cut” by the mom’s figure and they do not overlap and there is no sign of x-ray depiction.


Mariana – Colombia

4 years

Pastel on paper

This is a very early sample of Symbol Making and could even be considered under the Early symbol making stage. It has been included here because of the emergence of a base-line and the detail of the drawing. For this picture children sang a song on how to draw their bodies while touching their necks, arms and legs in front of a mirror. Afterwards, the teacher gave erasable markers and they drew themselves tracing from the mirror. This picture was the result of analyzing the human figure through this activities and was intended to be the final wrap-up of the lesson. In a very advanced way, Mariana drew herself with hair arms, legs, shoes, fingers ears and cheeks, the torso appears to be divided in two, a higher part that could probably represent a shirt and a lower part that could be a sort of skirt, both parts are disjointed. The hands are represented as “suns” with many fingers. She wrote her name as well.

“A tree wit leaves and grass”

Nicolas – United States

Age 5

Watercolor on paper”

This is Nicolas first drawing with a baseline. The colors are accurate with the real objects as the grass is green and the tree-trunk is brown. the representation as grass as sticks that grow from the ground is an schema interpretation of the grass. The symbol of the tree is evident. He wrote his name across the paper. There is an event going on in the tree branches and one big leaf seems to extend from the tree.



 (Play audio of the child talking about his drawing)

Anonymous – United States

Age 6

Color pencil on paper

This piece is a result of an activity of children drawing a gallery. This picture is inspired by the photographs of Stephen Frank and prompting from the teacher on story telling. The children where asked to think about a story looking at one of the artist photographs. This child chose a cowboy picture and decided to tell a story about a cowboy who gets stinged by a cactus. The student used a very light green color to show the baseline. The cowboy is depicted with characteristic cowboy features like the hat, jacket and gun on the side. The picture of the horse is not as developed but follows the schema of a four-legged animal. The child drew the cowboy from the front and attempted to draw him from the side to represent the action of horseback-riding, both legs are visible as there each figure still has its own space in the paper. This is an example of children’s story telling through art. even though this child still may not write, he can tell a story by drawing the scenes and create beginning, middle and end situations. The advantage of this kind of story drawing-by-frames, in contrast with stories told in a single frame, was that the child could separate the different stages of his story, adding more detail and giving more information to the adult about the creation of worlds through art.


“I am doing thing with the ___ on the stage and I am happy because I like to have people clapping at me.”

Carolina- United States

Age 5

Paint on paper

In this picture Carolina is describing one of her everyday activities. The piece involves action from the character. She depicts the character with the __ on her hand. On the upper right side there is a shape that could represent the theater. If so, Carolina may be wanted to put the idea of her action and the stage or theater together, but was not able to represent the character inside the space so she drew them together. In her writing she describes her action and the happiness of succeeding or performing a good job and being recognized by others. The presence of societies rules and conventions like clapping are evident in her understanding of reality. 






“My family”

Carolina- United States

Age 5

Color pencil on paper

In this image, Carolina is using very specific characteristics of the male and female schema to differentiate both sexes, she has also developed the human figure with torso. Daddy and brother have short hair represented by horizontal lines and mummy and herself have skirts longs spiral hair, she is using clear symbols to subcategorize the individuals in her family. Mommy and daddy and big while the children are small. The base and sky-line are evident, the family and the house lie on a ground while the clouds and sun are under a blue line. The sun appears on the corner. The house has a chimney with the tilted perspective, there is still not a clear understanding of proportions and the smoke follows a diagonal line. There is no size relationship between the figures and the house, there is no sense of depth either.






Paula – Colombia

Age 6

Water color and crayon on paper

In this painting, Paula seems to be representing a social activity, probably a birthday or reunion. The human figure has a distinct torso but arms still seem to appear from the head, there is no evidence of a neck. The big and small figures may represent the “mom and daughter” schemas, figures on the right may be male due to the lack of long hair. The objets and the human figures start to be proportioned to each other, the relationship human- table size is accurate. There is a base-line where the characters stand and a skyline where some sort of lamps hang from the ceiling.


Pablo Borda

Age 5 years

This drawing may be considered a late Symbol making sample due to the detail of the objects, the proportion between the tree and the house, and the presence of a baseline as well as a skyline. The flowers are still not proportionate to the house and he used the schema of the round petals. The house has detailes like door and windows. He named his creation.

“Little house on the woods”

Pablo Borda – Colombia

Age 6

A baseline is evident in the picture. The child is exploring the three-dimensionality of the house, he draws it from the front and attempts to draw a side. The chimney in vertical but the smoke follows a trails according to the space left by the objects around it. The proportions are still inaccurate  specially the relationship between human and house and flower and house. The sun appears on the corner. All the objects have been placed on a baseline and set on a composition.