If you know what to look for, artwork can reveal a lot about your child’s thinking.
Children like drawing, and their artwork often reflects their inner selves. Most children don’t consider or censor their paintings. I’ve included kids’ artwork into my paediatric practise for the past 40 years. Beginning at 4 or 5 years old, our nurse encourages the child to “draw a picture of your family doing something” at every well-child appointment. Each exam room has a clipboard with blank white paper and a black felt pen to make the process simpler.
The family drawing aids in my assessment of growth at a specific juncture and may alert me to prospective issues. A child’s perspective on her place in the family, her interactions with other family members, and her sense of self-worth can all be captured in a single picture. Additionally, it could highlight the child’s and the family’s strengths, which should be acknowledged and validated. It can point out cultural trends that help me comprehend particular behaviours or views. I always ask the parents what they thought of the artwork so that our chat can elicit more details that might not have come up otherwise.
There is a very important caveat here: Be careful not to overinterpret pictures. We all want to discover hidden meanings in them. Reading too much into your child’s sketches is not a smart idea. Instead, take use of them to have a conversation with your child about what they have drawn. Then, in order to improve communication between you, ask questions about them. Try your best to refrain from sharing too many of your personal opinions. I deliberately leave the discussion very open-ended: “Describe your drawing to me. Who are the individuals in the photo? They are doing what?” See my examination of these kids’ drawings for samples of what you could be looking for with your own kids.
A Bunch of Balloons
This first image is an excellent illustration of how art can serve as a starting point for dialogue. A patient of mine created it when she was 11 years old. Since infancy, she had lived by herself with her mother; she has no siblings. She appeared to be in good physical and academic condition, and she was progressing socially. However, she took her time making friends and showed remarkable caution when it came to leaving her mother to visit friends’ homes. She loved having friends around to play at her place while her mother was present. Their strong relationship worried me because it prevented her from developing the ability to detach from her mother, which is an essential stage of growth.
When I had previously visited the office, I had struggled to make my point. But I did have a chance with this drawing. I was struck by how close they were to one another and how a thin string bound the mother and daughter together. Mom originally boasted about her daughter’s drawing abilities when I asked her what she thought of this artwork. She later acknowledged, though, that she understood what I had been attempting to communicate about their connection. We were able to talk about it, and she left the office inspired to find a method to psychologically distance herself from her kid while still preserving their tight and loving relationship.
The Stick-Figure Family
In kindergarten, drawing abilities typically start to tell a tale. Despite the fact that children of this age typically draw simplistic stick figures, you may occasionally infer meaning from the facial expressions, placement of family members, and activities they are engaging in. An illustration of such is the second drawing, which a 5-year-old girl created. On the far left, she sketched her mother, who was followed by the family dog, her father, herself, and her brother, who was eight years old. The girl portrayed herself as larger than her parents, which is a sign of a healthy sense of self. It’s important to note that she put herself in the middle of her father and brother: Children become aware of their gender identification between the ages of 4 and 6. Young girls frequently experience transient emotions of physical and emotional closeness to their father as part of this normal growing process (boys at this age typically experience such feelings of closeness to their mother).
Lots of Detail
The third drawing was created by a 7-year-old triplet who was born prematurely. She began on the left with her brother, who is on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, when I asked her what the individuals in the photo were doing. “He’s washing the car, my sister is washing the glasses, Mommy is on the computer, I’m hanging up the clothes, and Daddy is doing the laundry.”
She has drawn several different body parts and pieces of clothes on her parents, which implies that she has developed visual and motor skills. She is aware of gender distinctions based on how everyone is dressed, as I can see. Additionally, the sketch depicts the family as a whole; the kids and parents appear to enjoy working together on common responsibilities. The brother has a larger frame and a larger head, while her sister has glasses, for example. Take note of how everyone is depicted in a unique way. This demonstrates to me that she is able to view each member of the family as an individual.
A Hole In The Ground
A 7-year-old girl who had recently attended her grandfather’s burial with her parents and younger brother created the last drawing. Her ability to clearly separate adults from children and to depict sorrowful features were two of the many aspects of her drawing that I found impressive. She sketched a profile of herself and her father, which can be a sign that they have a close relationship. She touched everyone, which was heartwarming and reassuring because it showed she thought her family was close-knit during this difficult time in their lives.
The Soccer Match
The drawing at the top is excellent; it depicts a family participating in sports together. When asked to describe the drawing, the 9-year-old boy who created it responded, “Soccer is being played. Dad instructed me to pass, which I did. After I passed to him, he passed to Mom, who then passed to my younger brother. Also, he won!” The boy’s description of his photo demonstrates his lively interaction with other family members. The fact that his mother is depicted as the largest member of the family may not be significant, but I may utilise the occasion to comment, “You depicted your mother as the picture’s biggest person. Is she in charge of the family group?”
A View from Above
The 7-year-old youngster who created the final illustration claims that “all of us are playing Sorry” in it. I saw right away that he depicted his family from the viewpoint of someone seated at their game table. This shows he has great visual-spatial abilities; kids with these talents are frequently creative and excel at games and puzzles. This family is playing together at home, which shows that they get along well with one another. I could point to it and say, “Great painting — you really are the strong one in the family,” and then wait for his reaction. He had drawn his parents and younger sister around the sides and bottom of the board, and himself at the very top. He presents himself in a way that suggests a strong sense of identity, so I’d start there.
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