First it is important to realize that there is a difference and that each style should not be compared to the other. Each style of drawing is an entirely different subject.
Symbolic: Much like stick figure drawing and drawing things from the picture you form in your head. When a child is drawing symbolically they are telling a story and this is a very important process in language development. When a child draws a picture of a house with a family and their pet. She is saying ” this is mommy daddy our dog my house etc.
Symbolic drawing is a Natural activity for all children from age 3 through about 8 or 9 years old.
Abstract: Abstract drawing comes mostly from feelings and imagination. There can be some realism at different degrees.
With abstract art all ages express themselves in line, form, texture, color and shape.
Realistic: Realistic drawing involves the art of “seeing” the subject for what it really is and capturing it in a creative individual way. Drawing Realistically is fun and challenging at the same time. With proper instruction, all children from 4 through beginner adults can learn to draw realistically.
As I have been teaching children art lessons for the past couple of years I have observed that they still enjoy drawing various objects such as space ships, action figures, animals, family, nature and many other things that kids love to draw, however they also love the individual time they get from a structured lesson. When they want to draw realistically they now have the tools to know how to “see” the elements of shape in their subjects and can problem solve to figure out how to make a drawing look they way they want it to.