Jun 29, 2023

Mark Making Development: 2 to 3 Years

Jane Magnani
Jane Magnani
Mark Making Development: 2 to 3 Years

As your toddler enters their 2-3 years of age, their brains start to develop rapidly, and their curiosity towards the world around them rapidly grows. They become increasingly adept at understanding and controlling their bodies, developing fine motor skills, and improving their ability to manipulate mark-making-writing tools to create effects on paper.

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

Your little one has been exploring different mark-making techniques with various tools and materials, embedding their understanding of the world and concepts such as object permanence and cause and effect; by now, your little one knows that the marks they make are of value.

  • They begin to understand and distinguish between their marks; for example, they draw lines of different lengths and thicknesses by varying the pressure they apply and using it to make fine lines and broader strokes. Stamping the pen repeatedly and knowing they made lots of dots!

  • During this age, your little one also begins to understand shapes, colours, and patterns, laying the foundation for forming writing skills and moving from making exploratory marks to making meaningful ones.

  • It is important to note that your little one's drawings may still look like scribbles and often do not resemble what it is intended to represent. However, the marks your little one makes have meaning to them and express their thoughts and ideas. For example, your little one might draw a line and say, "This is you".

  • As your little one progresses, they start gaining more control over their marks and can create more intentional and controlled scribbles. They start attempting to make straight up-and-down lines, horizontal lines, circles, and curves. However, these may still appear quite wobbly or incomplete.

  • They learn how to begin a mark at a specific starting point and stop at another point, showing increased control over their movements.

  • Making meaningful marks is a valuable and vital stage of your little one's development, during which they focus, concentrate, use their imagination, and develop physical skills.

  • Fine motor skills continue to develop, and children begin holding mark-making tools using a tripod grip, with movement coming from the wrist, refining their hand-eye coordination and pencil grasp, and gaining more control over the pressure they apply while making marks.

  • These skills are developed as children actively draw and manipulate various writing tools.

Towards the end of age 3, some children may begin to use marks to represent actual objects or people. For example, they may draw a recognisable picture of a person with a head, arms, and legs. This stage marks the beginning of symbolic thinking and the understanding that marks can represent something else.

  • Children at this age often start to use their marks to represent objects in their world and can consider and plan what they will 'draw' before making any marks.

  • Children may observe and learn writing skills by watching adults write. Seeing the act of writing could inspire them to start writing themselves and begin recognising the difference between pictures and words.

  • During this stage of their development, your little one may change from making meaningful marks to emergent writing. Some children may begin to show interest in writing or making letters.

  • However, the focus is typically on imitating letter shapes rather than producing actual letters.

Child Drawing

How to encourage and promote mark-making skills

Offer a Variety of Materials

  • It is vital to continue allowing your little one to explore various materials and resources.

  • Your little one is still learning from their world through exploration, so providing a wide range of options is crucial.

  • Paint, crayons, pencils, chalk, markers, paintbrushes, and other sensory materials such as foam and sand will inspire your little one's imagination and promote mark-making.

  • Letting children experiment with various tools can help them learn about colours, textures, and shapes, allowing them to express themselves creatively.

Create an Art Space

  • Designating a specific space for art activities can make a difference in encouraging your little one's mark-making skills.

  • A small table or area with child-sized chairs and various materials and resources, such as pens, crayons, different sizes and colours of papers, hole punch, etc.

  • Separate resources into pots and boxes or baskets and store them in a low and easily accessible place, making them accessible, inviting your little one to explore and experiment with various art materials.

Join in

  • Your input is vital for your little one's mark-making and writing development.

  • Your movements, comments, words, and sounds will support your little one's understanding as well as build on their vocabulary and language skills.

  • Join in when they are mark-making and comment on the marks and drawings that you are making.

  • Listen to what your little one tells you about their marks, drawings, and writing.

  • Ask them open-ended questions, starting with how, what, and where to support their thinking and language skills.

  • Write down next to the drawing what your little one tells you their marks and picture represent; write down the exact words your little one tells you.

Writing with a purpose

Ensure your little one sees you writing; in this day and age of technology, our children are seeing us write so much less than ever before; the use of voice reminders, our phones, and tablets are excellent time management resources, but it is crucial for our little one's literacy development to see us writing for a purpose.

  • Keep a calendar on the fridge or somewhere visible to your little one to write down notes, appointments, and special occasions; refer to the calendar often to support your little one's understanding.

  • Write your weekly shopping list with your little one, go together to check what is missing and write it on your list.

  • Get a message board; a small whiteboard will be perfect for writing messages and reminders.

Role play and writing with a purpose

Provide a range of writing materials, small notepads, different colours, and sized papers, pencils, markers, etc., and encourage your little one to begin writing with a purpose in role-play activities. For example:

  • Doctor's Office: your little one can pretend to be a doctor or nurse and write prescriptions or medical notes to their "patients" on notepads.

  • Restaurant: your little one can take orders from "customers" and write them down. They can write recipes, their ingredients, and steps to make.

  • Post Office: Your little one can pretend to be a postperson and write notes and messages on postcards or letters. You can even help them write and send a letter to a family member or friend.

  • Nursery: Children love playing "teacher"; they enjoy imitating what their teachers do; they can write notes to their "students," take the register, or write lesson plans.

  • Supermarket: Encourage your little one to explore writing a shopping list, understanding prices of items, and examining receipts.

Mark making and Symbols Hunt

  • Engage your child in pointing at various marks, symbols, shapes, and letters found in pictures, posters, and their surroundings. This activity helps them comprehend these symbols and differentiate between letters and other signs or shapes.

  • Highlight the marks, signs, and symbols in their environment, discussing their meanings. Point at words while reading them aloud and sound them out, such as "b-u-s s-t-o-p."

  • While sharing stories, point at words, describe images, and shapes to promote association and understanding.

  • Provide reading materials like books, magazines, newspapers, reflecting cultural diversity. This allows your child to encounter familiar symbols and marks and learn about different script systems, including Arabic, Chinese, Greek, and Braille.

  • Play I Spy with your child during walks, park visits, or at home, encouraging them to spot and describe recognised letters or symbols.

  • Engage your child in matching activities, where you point at a letter, symbol, character, or shape, discuss it, and then encourage them to find a similar one elsewhere!


Your little one possesses a natural curiosity and enjoys creative endeavours. This developmental stage is crucial as their motor skills improve rapidly, enabling them to connect their thoughts with their physical abilities. Storytelling can be a valuable tool in supporting their growth.

  • Incorporate props and puppets into storytelling sessions to encourage your child's interaction with the story. This fosters fine motor skills development and engages them in mark-making activities as they create drawings or pictures related to the story.

  • Co-create stories orally with your child, transcribing them together, and encouraging them to draw accompanying pictures.

  • Introduce sensory materials like sand, rice, or shaving foam during storytelling to inspire mark-making in these textured substances. For instance, while telling a beach-themed story, provide a tray of sand for your child to make marks while retelling the tale.

  • Motivate your little one to record their own stories using digital tablets or phones, allowing them to play back their creations.

  • After storytelling sessions, provide time for reflection on the story and mark-making activities.

  • Engage in discussions, ask open-ended questions, or provide drawing prompts to encourage critical thinking and expression of thoughts and feelings through mark-making.

Use Technology

Introduce storytelling apps or digital drawing tools on tablets or phones to enable your child to interact with stories and make marks using touchscreens. These experiences enhance digital literacy skills while supporting mark-making development.


Join 1000's of families learning at home

Get 3 months of free access to our award-winning nursery education app.