Jun 28, 2023

Mark Making Development: 1-2 Years

Jane Magnani
Jane Magnani
Mark Making Development: 1-2 Years

Through their first year, your baby has been exploring the world around them through sensory stimulation, growing and developing new skills.

Between the ages of 1-2 years, your little one will go through an exciting journey of discovering different ways of mark-making exploration and materials and learning how to use them to create marks.

How do mark-making skills progress in your little during this stage?

As your little one's understanding of cause and effect progresses, they begin to understand that their action has resulted in a mark being made. 

They begin to take pleasure in making the marks and intentionally choose to do so, helping them develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination needed to hold various objects, grip pencils or crayons with their entire hand, and move their arm across the paper (Palmer grasp).

During this stage, children move from making spontaneous marks to exploring mark-making, exploring repeated actions and experimenting with the different types of marks, such as linear, wavy and curved lines.

After your little one master using a palmer grip, they will make more significant, large-scale motions promoting physical development and gross motor skills.

As your toddler develops, they will start to make more deliberate marks- for example, drawing horizontal and vertical lines, expanding their understanding of how the marks they make are symbolic, and even though their marks may not yet resemble letters and words for your little one, they are important and carry meaning.

How to encourage and promote mark-making skills:

Mark making station

  • Gather a range of mark-making materials and create a cosy area for your little one.  

  • To encourage your child's independence and confidence, store materials for making marks in a low and easily accessible place. This way, they can access them easily whenever they are interested.

Allow for messiness

As a parent or caregiver, it can be tempting to want to keep everything clean and tidy regarding our children's activities. However, it's important to remember that messy play is crucial to our children's development. 

  • When children are given the freedom to explore different styles of mark-making, whether, with paint, crayons, or even mud, they can express themselves creatively and develop fine motor skills. 

  • Learn about cause and effect, problem-solving, and the importance of trial and error. 


Explore mark-making using large surfaces

  • Do water painting or use chalks, and go outside to explore mark-making using the pavement as a canvas.

  • Provide your little one with different surfaces, such as large paper, cardboard, paper roll, etc., to place on the floor or the wall. 

  • Encourage different mark-making movements – big, small, quick and slow, and different shapes, such as circles, lines and dots.

  • Remember to join in the fun and comment on the marks you are making to encourage your little one to notice and talk to you about theirs.

Multi-Sensory Mark-making

  • Make mark-making multi-sensory by providing different textured papers, like sandpaper and bubble wrap, newspaper etc., for your little one to make using different materials and tools such as paint, chalk and crayons. 

  • Provide sensory trays with materials such as rice for your little ones to use their fingers to create marks. Place a rainbow-coloured paper underneath the rice to allow them to discover different colours and create colourful marks as they move the rice.

  • Provide your little one with different size sponges to dip in paint to practice exploring repeated actions as they stamp the sponge repeatedly, making the same mark. 

Get inspired by nature

  • Take your little one on a walk and explore the environment. Collect leaves, rocks, and sticks to use for mark-making.

  • Encourage them to explore the different marks the items make and how thick, thin, short and long the marks are. 

  • Gather some materials and bring them back home with you. Your child will enjoy experimenting with different tools and materials to create unique marks. For example, they can dip sticks and stones into the paint, make lines with the sticks, and stamp them to leave prints.

Tracing opportunities

  • Provide different opportunities for your little one to experience tracing with their fingers or tools.

  • Allow your little one to explore and experiment with different colours and textures by finger painting. Place a piece of paper in front of them and encourage them to dip their fingers into the paint and make marks on the paper.

  • Flatten out a ball of playdough and place it on a flat surface. Encourage your child to use their fingers to trace shapes, letters or numbers onto the play dough.

  • Cut out shapes from sandpaper or different materials and tape them to a table. Let your child trace the shapes using their fingers or a crayon.

  • Trace around your hands and feet!

  • Place a stencil on a piece of paper for your little one to trace around the shape with a crayon. You can find stencils in various shapes, such as animals, letters, or numbers, or you can create your own.

  • Draw different lines, zig-zags, straight, curvy etc. and encourage your little one to trace them first with their finger, then with a crayon, chalk etc.



Join in!

  • Model how to use the materials and tools and comment on the marks you create, movements, shapes, colours, etc, to help spark their interest.

  • Talk and describe their mark, the colours and shapes, and ask open-ended questions to encourage your little one to share their marks meaning with you. 

  • Write down (scribe) your little one's words and read them back to them. 

  • Value these early mark-making activities by celebrating their creations, framing and hanging them in their room, or displaying them on the fridge.


Recognising that every child is unique in their mark-making development is also essential. Some may start with simple scribbles, while others might be able to create recognisable shapes or even write letters at an early age.


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