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Child's Drawing and its psychological meaning.

1-Evolution of child's drawing

a) Doodles

The first doodle (not always done on paper), is the first graphic expression of what would later be lines that will gradually taking shape and content. They are the precursors of something more important that will come next: drawing and writing.
These first "drawings" are usually done from the year and a half. Obviously, they do not have any intention or ability to represent shapes, figures or objects. They can, from a psychological point of view, allow us to explore some early details of their emotions and temperament that will be explained later.
Their first contacts with a pencil and a sheet of paper will be a way to explore and it will be highly conditioned by the obvious limitations of their ability and visual-motor maturation.
Same as other aspects of learning, every child is different and will follow its own process and cycle. Some children can acquire certain skills earlier than others. At least at this age, this is not an unequivocal sign of delay or less capacity in the future. However, it is always positive to boost, motivate and accompany the child in any learning process and be aware of any problems that might arise.

b) From doodles to the first shapes

From the second year, the child is able to go shaping doodles. It is no longer just about disjointed lines but jointed lines and contoured shapes. They may be the first attempts to represent real-world objects . Obviously, the level of maturity does not allow the definition of shapes yet. Usually, they also start to experiment with different colours. At this stage we can distinguish some features of the child's temperament as noted below .

c) The lines begin to take shape.

We are now at the stage of approximately 2.5 years old. The child is able to draw circles combined with lines to create new shapes .These shapes are drawings that already have some resemblance to objects and human shapes but without enough details to fully identify them.

d) The detail increases

When the child is three years old, objects or human shapes may appear . The drawing may already have a clear intention to communicate situations , characters and emotions. These shapes outline and we can recognize in them the first illustration of the human shape. They are humanoids with only legs and head. Other objects of interest to the child may also be subject to translation into the paper ( bus, car , house, etc. ) .

The child is usually able to draw a vertical line at one year and a half ; the horizontal line and the circles will appear at two years old; the cross comes at the three ; the square at and rhombus at seven years old.

e) The human shape is outlined

Between three and four yearsold, the child refines its drawings. The human shape evolves from a simple humanoid with legs and head to a fuller shape that has already got a body and arms. The head is often big and also appears with really big eyes. When the child is detail-oriented, hair is also incorporated as one more element.

f) The shapes are consolidated

We are already iat the five years old stage. The different cognitive structures have matured and drawing is a facet in which the child has progressed. Now the human shape is perfectly identifiable and it has got most of the main elements : head , body and upper and lower extremities . Eyes and mouth can be observed on the face. The nose and ears usually take a little longer. The presence of hair is also common . Besides, other important aspect appears: differentiation. When several human shapes are drawn, the child is able to draw in each different features (larger, smaller, hair , hairless , sociable, with an object in hand, etc. ). This detail is important because it is a symptom of creativity and ability to observe the environment .

g) The character in situation.

From the five to six years old, the drawing is consolidated . Each child on their own way and with their own skills. However , the drawing will maintain a common element in all children : The ability to be a communication platform , a showcase where they will show us a mosaic of sensations and emotions , that is, their inner These drawnings will not always be so clear but they should be interpreted cautiously in the peculiar and nontransferable key of each child.
Now , people and objects interact within the paper and the child can translate them not only as individual shapes but as part of a performance of a particular situation.

2-Aspects to bear in mind when evaluating

From the very beginning of the doodle, we can analyze different aspects , although , when the drawing takes a special relevance in the assessment is from 4 to 5 years old, at which it is established . Here are some of the elements that may be susceptible to monitoring and evaluation at the early stages of the child are exposed.

a) The way that takes the pencils.
If the child takes the pencils in a calmly and strongly way its line will probably still clumsy but if it takes it forcibly it can be an indicator of stress. It is advisable that you indicate how they should take them quietly, but lit is also important leaving some freedom in their first encounters with the paper to go experiencing.
b) The way of look and attitude.
Does the child enjoy the activity? Does the child ask for the pencils?
We must check if the child is aware of what doing staring at the paper or it is just heedlees of what it is drawning. In the latter case we should try to correct that behaviour and try the child to pay visually attention to what it is doing. In that moment If the child is not motivated to draw better leave it for another time. Do not force it.
A natural inclination towards drawing is a good indicator of the ability to further learning.
c) The space occupied.
The space the child occupies on paper may give us some clues. Generally occupy the entire space is associated with confidence, security, keen to explore the environment, etc. When the space that is occupied is reduced to a particular area or doodles are small would be interpreted in the opposite direction, ie, shyness, withdrawal, introversion.
d) The pencil line.
A strong, secure and stable by making pencil line can mean ease of movement, keen to explore, to experiment, willingness to play, to learn, etc. If the line is made with excess pressure or velocity can be an indicator of impulsivity or lack of control.
e) Shapes
In general, children begin drawing straight lines to gradually incorporate the wavy shapes. Once the doodle stage has passed, when the children start to acquire some drawning skills, the long straight lines drawn from corner to corner of the paper, especially the upstream, can be an indicative of certain aggressiveness outwards or lack of impulse control. By contrast, the prevalence of wavy or rounded shaped are typical of children with greater control over themselves and perhaps more emotional complicity with attachment figures.
f) Their favourite colours.

3-The drawing from 5 years old.

As we have seen , after the first stage , Not only doodles have gradually transformed into a shaped , colored and communicative intention drawings that reflect the maturity changes, but also into the particular way children see and live their world . These drawings are the representation of their subjective universe.
However, the drawing becomes a useful tool in psychological assessment of children when they are, at least, five years old. Asking them a few simple questions about what they have drawn provides valuable information without force them so we can help them to speak in a free way and to live everything in a very natural way.

4-Pychological Traits and their expression

The following text frame shows a summary of some psychological traits and their expression on the paper. This exhibition aims to be approximate. In any case, should not be interpreted assotiation of certain characteristics with the evidence of behaviors or emotional patterns . The presented data are due to statistical probabilities. These are only clues that can guide you to a more objective and specialized assessment in areas which are considered relevant.

Pychological Traits Graphical Indicators
Aggressiveness, disobedience Presence of very prominent teeth. Long arms and closed hands. Claws instead of fingers . Very elongated shapes with straight lines and upwards. The extremities are really asymetric when people are represented . Drawing of numbers, letters , signs or objects repeated following an upward progression in size .
Anxiety - Fear Children's fears are manifested in the drawing by a small, indecisive and simple graphics. Sometimes the child may prefer draw inside a house, car, etc. to provide shelter from the outside world and its ghosts . There is a little expression on their faces. If fear is towards anyone in particular, will represent with or without short arms. The presence of anxiety can also be reflected in the shading of the face (partial or total) being significant between 5 and 12 years old.
Learning Motivation and School The drawings are enriched with some details ( see figure 2). The faces are usually represented with big eyes, there is no expression and the neck is usually present on these drawings. They are usually in the middle of the paper and occupy so much space. The arms are open and the legs are well defined. There are smiling faces and extra items such as small animals (snails , butterflies ... ) .
Egocentrism These are usually represented with a large head and really exaggerated shapes. If it is a drawing of family or several people, the child is drawn first and its appears noticeably larger than the others. ( See fdrawing 2)
Behaviour and obsessive thoughts The drawing is always done with a very similar method, following the same routine, theme or colours. It is an elaborate drawing that creates a lot of anxiety to the child if it goes wrong or the child thinks that it is wrong. The child often need to erase. There are very simple repetitive lines that may be associated with mental disabilities. (See drawing 3)
Insecurity Arms and hands are small and/or close to the body. The legs are thin or unstable. The shape is irregular and insecure. It normally has failures with corrections. The shapes are compressed or small. Shape inclination of 15º or more
Perseverance The shapes are well outlined. The drawing has a lot of details. The characters's faces are expressive and they have got all the elements. The hair is defined too. If the child uses crayons, the drawing will be really colourful. The shapes are really slow, There are not impulsive shapes. Good attention.
Attention deficit, Impulsiveness, adhd. The drawing is disorganized. Typically, the higher attentional deficit the lower ability to structure a global drawing. The child would rather to draw small disjointed objects of different themes and shapes. There is hardly definition and the details are poor . There are unreal or very distorted objects. When attention deficit and impulsivity comes together, the drawing becomes into a tensional release instead of a pleasurable activity . The child will draw only items of interest and tend to occupy the entire space of the paper with few ill-disposed shapes.
Cross Laterality The cross laterality is manifested by the presence of figures, letters or numbers in inverted (as reflected in mirror). The line drawing will be irregular with distorted shapes. (See drawing 4)
Self-Control The drawing is symmetrical. It has wavy shapes and they are well proportioned. If the drawing is colored, the contour limits are not breached.
Self- Steem The drawning has a good organization of space. Hands and arms are usually opened. The size of the shape is large. The drawing usually occupies most of the space but it has a proper distribution. When several shapes appear, their face expression is normally positive.
Social relationship problems and with its equal ones. Arms are close to the body. It has a neutral or sad expression. The shape can be displayed, depending on the child's point of view, large or small. The large one happens when the child lives that situation as an aggression towards itsself and it has to face it. The small one happens when it has the feeling of helplessness , fear or disability. ( See drawing 5)
Mental disability The fundamental feature is the poverty and a lack of details. Depending on the child's cognitive level, it can draw a human shape but it will be unable to introduce significant to distinguish, for example, a man of a woman variations. The extremities are asymmetrical.

5-Some examples of free drawing

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Other links in this website

SCHOOL AREA: General guidelines for controlling classroom behavior Behavior Modification Techniques in classroom The Premack Principle
CLINICAL AREA: What are genetic disorders? ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) Depression in children
ESPECIALIZED AREA: Human Figure Drawing Training in self-instructions Measuring intelligence: WISC-IV

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