When your child draws you a beautiful picture and shows it to you, have you ever tried to interpret what it means, or if your child is trying to communicate something to you? Have you noticed any weird details in the drawings? Children’s drawings and scribbles can tell you many things.
Children begin to draw from the time they are big enough to hold a crayon/pencil. Children always project themselves in their drawings, and it can be an emotion or something that happened in the moment or during that day.
Don’t think that your child’s drawings are random because they never are. Drawings are how children express their emotions because they are not yet aware of how to express all the many emotions they feel through words. They will express their joys, sadness, fears, hopes, and dreams through drawings. Drawings are the window to seeing children’s relationships with others.
Drawings are also great because, during this time, children (starting around age 4-5) tend to tell stories while they draw. Have you noticed that when your child is drawing he/she is often telling a story at the same time? This storytelling can open up a window into their world and what they are thinking.
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AGE & DRAWINGS
- A child usually begins to draw around 18 months. This is the beginning stage of scribbling and usually ends at age two or three. At this age, it might seem that there is nothing there (nothing real), but this is the beginning stages of your child creating certain shapes. At this stage, your child is starting to develop their fine and gross motor skills, penmanship, and imagination.
- As your child reaches age two or three, he/she will begin to draw images that they see around them. They will start to draw simple pictures such as a face, tadpole figures (small head with large body/large head with a small body and extended arms), cars, and houses. This stage is known as the Pre-Schematic stage. The drawings are not fully realistic and there is not many details during this stage. As the child nears the end of this stage (age 4), you will start to see them putting little details into their drawings (flowers in front of the house or windows in a house).
- The next stage is called the Schematic stage (ages 5-8), and here you will see your child’s drawing becoming very detailed. For example, a drawing of a house might include people, a garden with flowers, trees with fruits, figures with a detailed face, etc. Your child may also add words to give further detail. There is more depth to the drawing. Colors become more realistic and stereotypical (grass is green, the sun is yellow) and storytelling starts to develop.
- The last stage, ages 9-11 is called the Pre-teen stage. The drawings are very detailed and realistic. Kids will become frustrated if the drawing is not coming out to their liking or if they feel that it is “not good enough”. My eldest Godson who is 9 years old drew this picture below but started to get upset because he felt that the picture was not good enough to his liking, that he actually wanted to start over.
COLOR CHOICE IN DRAWINGS
The colors that your child choose is also important:
- Pink: shows a need for love and is usually seen more in girls’ drawings
- Black & Purple: may suggest that your child is domineering or demanding
- Blue: your child enjoys company and is in a nurturing environment
- Yellow: shows intelligence
- Red: a color often used by children which shows excitement
- Green: often used by those who like to be different; artistic and intelligent
SPECIFIC DETAIL OF DRAWINGS IS IMPORTANT AND MAY INDICATE THE FOLLOWING:
- Top of page: withdrawn or avoid others
- Bottom of page: insecure, dependent
- Middle of page: a range of normalcy. Well balanced and secure
- Heavy pressure on drawing lines: trauma or aggression
- Light pressure: fear
- Shading: anxiety; if on private areas possible sexual abuse
- Constant erasing: anxiety or stressed
- Small people or small drawing: insecure, sad, or low self-esteem
- Small eyes: maybe feeling guilty
- Absence of hands: possible sexual abuse, and feelings of helplessness
- Hiding hands: maybe feeling guilty
- Large hands or no hands: may have possible aggression
- Open mouth: possible sexual relevance
- Emphasis on private areas: possible sexual abuse
EMOTIONS AND DRAWINGS
Here are some emotions to consider:
- A child that is angry: you may see big hands, big teeth, and long arms
- A child that is anxious: you may see clouds, rains, no eyes in figures
- A child that is shy: you may see tiny hands, arms close to the body, figures that are short, absence of nose and/or mouth
- A child that is feeling insecure: you may see, tiny heads, no hands, figures slanted on the side, very large figures
- A child that is impulsive: you may see figures that are big and missing necks, and limbs that are not symmetrical (not the same)
HELPFUL TIPS TO KEEP IN MIND
- These tips are not meant to diagnose or indicate something is wrong, but rather it is to help you understand your child’s drawing and possibly know when to recognize if something may be wrong.
- Drawings are the window to children’s expression and/or feelings. Encourage drawing or any other art to help your child express their feelings.
- Encourage their creativity as this helps to foster their overall development.
- Children do not think the same way that we (adults) do, so if you notice that your child may color trees orange or themselves blue, it does not mean that something is wrong.
- Drawing helps children to develop their independence and show their ideas/thoughts on papers.
- As your child starts to draw, try to limit instructions. Allow your child to draw their feelings and to express their creativity. By doing so, your child will develop confidence and competence.
- Display your child’s drawing as this will boost their self-confidence and let them know that their work is important.
- Creative Counseling 101. (2012). Interpret drawings for play therapy & art counseling. https://www.creativecounseling101.com/interpret-drawings-art-counseling.html
- Early childhood Central. (1997). Developmental stages of children’s drawings. https://www.earlychildhoodcentral.org/childrens-art/developmental-stages
- Fattal, I. (2017, October, 25). The hidden meaning of kids’ shapes and scribbles. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/10/the-hidden-meaning-of-kids-shapes-and-scribbles/543873/
- Mandrapa, L. (2015, February, 11). Learn to decode children’s drawings. Novak Djokovic Foundation. https://novakdjokovicfoundation.org/learn-to-decode-childrens-drawings/