Let me introduce you to a friend to all professional art educators out there. His name is Viktor Lowenfeld, and though he may no longer be living, his impact is alive and well. I want every parent to meet him, because he offers something that not only will deepen your appreciation of art, but will also help you employ art to observe and promote your child’s cognitive development.
Now who doesn’t want that? And here’s a secret: your children’s art teachers at school already know good old Viktor and look at their students’ art work through his eyes. So let’s even the playing field and open up a conversation between art educators, Viktor, and you!
From what I remember back in graduate school, Viktor Lowenfeld researched children’s drawings across many different countries, and he looked at ages from the time a child grabbed a writing implement to approximately seventeen or eighteen years of age. What he found was astonishing. Lowenfeld realized that at certain years in a child’s development, children that were developmentally normal were drawing the same kinds of things! So from ages two to four, for example, you could expect to see children scribbling. That is…expected. Ok, ok, stay with me. After the scribbling stages, Lowenfeld gets really specific, mentioning shapes with names like radials and mandalas associated with certain ages, and predicting when children can produce representational or even abstract images. All of these stages have a collective and logical name, and they’re called Lowenfeld’s Stages of Artistic Development. Search for it online! When I did a quick search, I found a lovely concise explanation of each stage by a Jim Brutger, Professor Emeritius of Art Education at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
Here’s the link: www.d.umn.edu/~jbrutger/Lowenf.html
What does this mean for your child? I’ve found these stages very reliable in simply confirming other cognitive evaluations, but also for just checking in with students to see the rate that they’re progressing. The next time you hand your child a crayon and piece of paper and let them free draw, take a look at the finished drawing and see what kinds of shapes and images they are producing. I’m sure you’ll find your child right where they would be expected to be.
“But what if my child’s drawing is a little or a lot behind where they should be according to the Stages of Artistic Development?” I put that in quotes, because I can hear your thoughts of worry from here. Please, don’t worry! Much like any theorized stages of development, they are not exact and need to take into account a lot of factors. What I would suggest is using these stages as a supplemental tool, not a primary one, to assess your child’s cognitive development. In my experience as an art educator, I’ve had parents approach me regarding concerns over their children performing behind the curve in school, only to have their children’s drawings reflect perfectly normal cognitive development proven later by the child’s achievements. The assessment, using Lowenfeld’s Stages of Artistic Development, afforded the parents, in these cases, some patience and peace of mind to allow the child to develop at his/her own pace. “What if my child is really ahead of her/his artistic stage?” Most often, when children are ahead of the artistic stages, they are ahead in other areas as well. They can be early readers, or mathematicians advancing in front of their peers. It’s exciting to explore and you can have your child evaluated by different means to confirm what their art is showing.
I hope you take a few minutes to meet Viktor Lowenfeld and his Stages of Artistic Development for yourself. It’s rare that parents have such amazing visual and immediate feedback about their precious child’s cognitive development, and it’s always wonderful to gain new tools and skills for helping our kids fulfill their potentials. If for no other reason than curiosity and a little fun, check it out! You’ll end up having your kids create some pure and heartfelt drawings for your priceless art collection.
The ideas and opinions expressed in this article are purely those of the author, and should not be taken as primary psychological or neurological advice.
A creative adventurist, Kristine Peterson began her arts endeavors very young. In her identity, Kristine captured the love for all things creative, drawing from the time she could hold a pencil and leading her to Alfred University where she graduated magna cum laude earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She was trained as a studio artist in all mediums, ultimately concentrating in ceramics and metal foundry and fabrication work. A portion of her senior thesis exhibition was selected for an emerging artist’s show at the Kathleen Cullen Gallery in New York City. She first began teaching art while at Alfred University, even traveling to and living in Anan-Cho, Japan for three months to teach pottery. Following her undergraduate experiences, she worked as a tour leader for a traveling hands-on children’s museum. This allowed her to visit thirteen different states and over seventy-five different schools. With an ignited passion for art education, Kristine attended Mansfield University of Pennsylvania earning her Master of Education in Art Education degree. Upon her graduation, she received the Outstanding Art Education Award for her performance excellence in the program. She moved to Charleston from Pennsylvania in 2012 to work as an art teacher in the Charleston County School District. During her very first year she was selected Charleston County School District’s “Rookie Teacher of the Year.” She taught in the Charleston County public schools for three years. Kristine is now the Art Director and an Instructor at Black Tie Music Academy (www.blacktiemusicacademy.com) offering both art and music instruction for all ages and levels.