Elementary Student Milestones In Art

Student Milestones in Art | Kindergarten, First & Second Grade

This is the first installment of the Student Milestones in Art Series. Part II covers 3rd, 4th and 5th grade and Part III covers middle school students.

As a teacher, you are ultimately a guide for your students in the adventure of learning. It might sound silly to call it an “adventure of learning”, but take a moment to imagine what it’s like to be a kindergartener clumsily using scissors for the first time, a first grader following along with a guided drawing while holding back giggles or the wonder of mixing secondary colors as a second grader.

There is so much joy and discovery happening in the art room. If you’ve ever wondered if you’re exploring developmentally appropriate skills, subjects and materials within each grade, then keep reading because this Student Milestones in Art series is for you.

This is part one of the Student Milestones in Art series where we will cover developmental stages and expectations for kindergarten through second-grade students. The next two installments will cover what to expect and plan for in the art room with third through fifth graders and middle schoolers.


I loved teaching my Kinder classes. They are eager, undisciplined and adorable. My biggest advice for teaching art to this age group is to not underestimate them. They can follow directions, sit for longer than you expect and will come up with the most adorable versions of your art lesson.

For many of my lessons, I like to read a book that ties into their art project for the day to help transition the children from arrival to beginning the art lesson.

K-Student-Milestones-in-Art | Kindergarten art lesson teaching kids art

Here’s what Kindergarteners can do:

– Are able to hold a drawing tool. Oil pastels and a paintbrush are my preference for this age.

– Love to draw and experiment with lines, especially squiggles and circles.

– Use scissors with some accuracy, and the more they practice, the better they get.

FIRST GRADE (Ages 6-7)

First grade students are can-do kids. They have unstoppable enthusiasm and rarely balk at projects. They love painting and learning how to draw something (to the extent that they will repeat the drawing all day!). They are learning how to use a paintbrush effectively and can color in large areas well, while practicing their precision skills with filling in smaller details. Painted paper projects are a favorite as first graders are amazed at texture, mess and color mixing.

1st-Grade-Student-Milestones-in-Art | 1st First grade art lesson teaching art

What First Graders can do:

– Are learning to use a paintbrush and mix paint effectively for large areas and small details.

– Understands types of lines and geometric shapes.

– Can follow directed line drawings well (and really love adding their own details).


Second graders have evolved past the pure sweetness stage and have merged into fun balls of energy. This is the age where I start to see The Great Divide: some children can draw better than I can while others struggle to hold scissors properly.

Strangely enough, I always found this grade the most difficult to gauge in terms of typically skills. They just seem all over the place!

So my goal is to always play it safe with this age group. I don’t like to offer projects that only the advanced kids can do, but ones that all children can do. Keeping the art lessons focused on exploration maintains the art enthusiasm for this group.

2nd-Grade-Student-Milestones-in-Art | 2nd grade art lesson teaching art

What Second Graders can do:

– Draws simple images from observation.

– Mixes secondary colors from primary colors.

– Can form great pinch pots and add lots of details using the “scratch-attach” method.

white line

Having a clear understanding of the basic milestones in art makes planning easier and helps you best meet the needs of your students. Join us in the next two parts of our series Student Milestones in Art | Third, Fourth and Fifth Grade and Student Milestones in Art | Middle School to learn about the milestones for all the grades you teach.

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Student Milestones in Art for first, second and kindergarteners in the art room

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  • Angela

    I enjoyed listening to the webinar today. As a retired teacher who may occasionally substitute I would love the PDF on the developmental stages. I was in the Sparklers Club when I was teaching and it is fantastic!

    • Patty

      Hi Angela! Thanks so much for joining us. If you check your email tomorrow, you’ll receive a link for the PDF. If you don’t receive it, reach out to support@deepspacesparkle.com and they can check your email.

  • Noria Jefcoate

    I love teaching art to children and appreciate any help I can get. There’s always room to improve and more to learn.

  • Jennifer

    In the past I have taught K-5. Now I am at a school with only Kinders! I used to dread the Kinders when I taught k-5. Some of these kids can’t write their own name yet! Can DDS help me help them? I don’t have my own room and only have them for 30 minutes at a time. I see them twice a week for total of an hour.

    • Bethany

      Hi Jennifer! This is Bethany from Team Sparkle. The Sparklers’ Club is an affordable and flexible pay as you go monthly membership—perfect for anyone who teaches art to students aged K-6. Get kid-tested (and teacher-approved) step-by-step lesson plans, done-for-you curriculums, and practical support—so you can unleash your student’s creativity in the classroom and become an Art Teacher Superstar. The Sparklers’ Private community group would be an amazing resource for you. You can ask thousands of experienced art teachers what they suggest and we are always so impressed with their responses, Please reach out to support@deepspacesparkle.com with any other questions. We are here to help.

  • Stacey

    I remember well my daughter drawing Starry Night on EVERYTHING after her art teacher taught her 1st graders about Van Gogh and his beautiful painting. I thought that it was just my daughter…apparently she was right on track. Ha!

  • Kaye

    I have K-6 and see the majority of students with IEPs. I have students with Autism and a few with limited fine motor skills. What do you have for all students?

  • Ms. Jodi

    Thank you! I’m a Proud Gold member! This is awesome!

  • Deb

    I love teaching art in my classroom and appreciate your guidance and ideas. My students really benefit from it.

  • Melvina Cutright

    Just beginning this career of art education.

  • M Adriana

    Muy interesante la propuesta. Efectivamente los niños de 5 a 6 años son creativos y propósitos.

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