The hidden meanings in children's drawings you never knew about
Look at your child's drawings carefully... they carry important messages.
Children love to draw. From those crazy scribbles, to stick-people and happy faces, to more complex art. You may not think of them as having much significance. After all, a house is a house and monsters are nothing but another scary creation from our kids’ imaginations, right? But mums and dads, your child could be trying to tell you something that they’re unable to, through their pictures. With the help of this article, you can uncover the meaning of kids’ drawings, which can help you uncover any underlying issues.
First, let’s understand…
Did you know that there are three different stages when it comes to drawing for a child?
A scribble could be just a scribble. It may not represent anything for a child. But this may change as they grow older, with the marks becoming more representative and often more realistic.
There’s no “realism” in the drawings at this stage — or something in the real world a child may have wished to represent — they are mainly just markings on a page. Unaware to outsiders, the drawings are more than meets the eye; children create and infuse what’s called “fortuitous realism” into their drawings.
It simply means that the drawings were not intended to hold the meaning it has at first. They only make the connection or see the resemblance after or while drawing.
This stage is where a child starts to associate certain elements of their drawings with something in the real world that they wish to represent. They attempt to create something they actually see with their eyes: simple everyday sights like faces, cars, stick figures, houses, suns and trees.
At this point, however, there is an absence of realistic details. Details of many features are usually lacking, for example, fingers, pupils and realistic lips.
“The relationship between the different elements is very important when drawing,” according to studies done by Luquet on the development of a child’s drawing.
Children at this stage of their development have problems in “organising, arranging and orienting the elements of a drawing”. So if you happen to see your child drawing a face but placing the mouth above the eyes, don’t be alarmed.
At this stage, “intellectual realism” occurs.
By this stage, many detailed features of the objects are now present. There is often depth and a sense of spatial awareness, known as “visual realism”; drawing as realistically as their skills may allow, and they show the picture from a certain viewpoint or perspective.
Words and symbols may be added to give more context and provide further meanings to the drawings. Children drawing the sea may incorporate elements such as fishes, shells, sand and other relevant images to match their “idea” of what a sea should involve. They also cleverly replace elements such as “V” shapes for birds.
Understanding your child’s drawings at every stage of their development can be a great tool for you. Slowly but surely, as they get older, you will be able to better interpret what their drawings mean.
This one never gets old, even for adults. But the way the stick figures are represented or positioned can tell a lot.
- The child often draws family members in a particular order — they might also place themselves next to a family member that they feel the closest to.
- Different facial expressions drawn on different family members show how the child perceives them and reveals how that member seems to act most of the time.
- The child uses size as an indicator of their importance to them: they could matter more to the child or seem more dominant to them.
- More details put into the drawings of people around a child could mean that she sees the individuality more clearly.
For example, drawing the child’s brother with glasses or her sister wearing a dress is telling of the way she views them and how she sets them apart on a daily basis.
- The position of family members in the picture could represent a sense of closeness. Family members that are happy will be grouped together.
- It could be related to a devastating experience of the death of a loved one.
- If the child is drawn alone, it shows that they feel very alone.
- The way the family members are placed around the hole shows who the child feels closest to or how the family coped with the loss.
Monsters are known to be represented as “a powerful being”, according to Dr. Christopher Hastings, a psychologist.
- A child draws monsters as the focus of the drawing: It could mean that they yearn to be seen as powerful — which shows significant anxiety issues.
- If a child is instructed to draw a human but draws a monster, a negative self-view could be at stake.
- But if it’s just for fun, then they could just simply want to appear more powerful.
These are sunny pictures (literally), but they could be about more than just a satisfied and positive outlook to things. It’s all in the details.
- A partial sun drawing in the upper corner of a drawing could indicate signs of anxiety regarding authority figures.
- If the sun barely peeks through a cloudy sky, that could indicate signs of depression, and maybe even feelings of hopelessness in their situation.
This one tells us a lot about our child’s mood. The use of a specific colour, however, may not be related to the actual meanings of the colour. For instance, we would think of red as anger. It could just be their personal preference.
Mums and dads, it could be a cause for concern if you see monochromatic drawings, especially if in shades of grey. This could indicate color-blindness, neurological concerns or other psychological issues.
- An excessive number or absence of windows can give insight to their openness to communicating with others; but “could also be the child wishing others could ‘see’ what was going on in the house”.
- The more normal details that are present in a typical house, such as doors and windows and walkways represent a more positive view of a child’s household or family
These are just some common signs that you could have overlooked in the meaning of kids’ drawings.
It’s not all worrisome, mums and dads! At least for children who loves drawing rainbows, there’s some good news! Rainbows are all about positive messages and a positive outlook in life!
Never assume what your child is feeling based on their drawings. Always ask them or have them explain the picture to you. There are some emotions, however, that researchers such as Koppitz (1968, 1984) have found in children. He defines these various signs:
- Impulsivity: Big figures, transparencies, poor integration of parts and gross asymmetry of limbs, no necks.
- Anxiety: Shading of the face, body, limbs, hands or neck (or a mix); no eyes on the figures, legs pressed together; clouds, rain, flying birds.
- Shyness: Tiny figures with short arms that cling to the body, no nose or mouth.
- Anger: Big hands and teeth, long arms, crossed eyes, nude figures, exposed genitals or sexual content.
- Insecurity (and feelings of inadequacy): Monstrous and slanted figures, tiny heads, hands cut off, no arms, legs and/or feet.
*It’s important to note that these are just general observations about children’s artwork, and might not reveal anything at all about your particular child. If you are concerned about your child’s behaviour or health, please consult a doctor without delay.