Development FAQ: 12-18 months – Entertaining and Educating your Toddler

My 14-month-old wants to play with pens and pencils.

Is it safe to let my 14-month-old have pencils to draw with? My husband gave her one and now she screams every time she sees either of us using a pen. She still puts lots of things in her mouth, so what would be the best thing to give her?

Now that your toddler has discovered how to make marks on paper, she will enjoy drawing sessions. Sit with her at a table and provide a large sheet of paper. This can be taped to the table to keep the scribbles on the paper and also prevent frustration if it moves.

Buying child-friendly chubby crayons, pencils and felt-tips will help your daughter with grip, but there is no reason why she cannot use ordinary pencils and crayons if that is all you have to hand. By fourteen months, she will be able to hold a chubby crayon in her hand (not yet in the conventional grasp) and make a mark on the paper; you can show her how to rub it back and forth. As she begins to explore the pencils and crayons, some are bound to find their way into her mouth. Remove them gently but firmly, and tell her that pencils are for drawing with and not for putting in our mouths. If she persists, then put the activity away for another day.

Give her three or four colours of crayons and felt-tips to begin with. Show her how to pull the caps from pens, and also how to replace them when she has finished with one colour. It is a matter of preference as to whether you draw pictures for your child or not; some educationalists believe a child should develop portraying an object or scene in their own time. Small children can become very passive about drawing if they are used to an adult drawing for them, or frustrated that their efforts can’t match up to an adults. The main thing is to let your child explore with a variety of drawing materials, and for both of you to enjoy the experience. Generally children will not draw something recognisable until they are three years old, but observing their growing skills is a fascinating part of their development.