Toddlers just want to scribble and draw.

Why Do Toddlers Write on Walls?

by Gail Sessoms

When your toddler uses a crayon to write something indecipherable on your walls, he is following in the footsteps of other early peoples who first scribbled on cave walls about 40,000 years ago. Your little primitive needs a little time to learn the rules of civilized society and discover other materials. Really, he does not understand why writing on walls is wrong or how much paint costs. Seriously. Although he used your lipstick to draw a picture of the dog on the kitchen wall, try approaching his work from a different perspective. Something wonderful is happening in terms of your toddler’s cognitive development.

1. The Proper Canvas

Toddlers need to scribble. Start by admitting that in a toddler’s mind the wall is a much better canvas than a little piece of paper. It’s not like you’re using the wall for anything. Oh, really? It’s just a big, blank surface. What a mind the toddler has. Your toddler needs room to practice his new skills and explore the magic of putting pictures on the wall with a crayon or pencil. He’s seen others perform this magic and has just discovered that he can do the same. Also, a secret and frenzied art session may be emotionally cathartic for a frustrated toddler confronted with all the things he cannot do well. If all else fails, try to remember that scribbling opens the door to writing.

2. Creativity and Movement

Your toddler’s interest in creativity and art, like the markings on your walls, is connected to writing. Her need for self-expression and independence will evolve into more acceptable forms of communication. Your toddler had to learn to grasp the crayon in her fist and then her fingers to make those marks on the wall, which is a demonstration of her large and fine motor control. If you look closely at her work, you will see that her large, broad strokes have evolved into finer lines applied to a smaller area. This is a good thing. Her “controlled scribbling” is the foundation for writing letters and words.

3. Cognitive Development

To you the long black mark on your blue wall is maddening, but to your little thinker it is an example of cause and effect, according to Zero to Three, the website of the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families. He placed the marker on the wall, moved it and the line appeared. Eventually, he will graduate to circles and other shapes. As you wipe away his work, you will notice that the markings are starting to look a little like letters of the alphabet. As he points tearfully at his art work and explains that it is dog, you can actually see the legs and ears. Awww. She is beginning to get the hang of symbolic thinking, learning that pictures represent real things. Why the wall and not the paper you gave him? It’s just too much canvas for him to resist.

4. Remedies

Once your toddler knows that writing on the walls makes you crazy, he might indulge for a little attention. However, there are solutions to address his developmental need to scribble. If your toddler likes to stand and draw or write, an easel might help wean him off of the wall. Provide a variety of art supplies and materials to help him see how art and time-outs are not connected. Paint one wall with blackboard paint, give him chalk and turn him loose. Tape a large piece of paper or poster board to a table or any large flat surface so the canvas stays in place as your child works. Give him colored chalk to draw with on the cement walkway outdoors. Display his art work on the refrigerator or other surfaces.

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