Dad as a gorilla, irises in the eyes: what baby’s drawing tells you (not) | family

Give the children pencils and paper and they will draw on it. A child can express himself in drawing, says art therapist Teresa Fox-Appelman. But just like painting itself, its interpretation is also art.

During the holidays, Foks-Appelman noticed that children in other countries draw the same houses as Dutch children: a square with a red triangle. She saw her suspicion confirmed in literature: children all over the world do indeed draw the same houses, trees, and people. How did this happen?

Foks did research and discovered that children’s drawings reflect the development of consciousness. The drawings show how the child becomes more aware of himself, others and the world around him. “My niece lives in a skyscraper in an American city. But she also paints a square house with a red roof. The feeling of being at home somewhere, having your own place, and that’s that square roof—it doesn’t matter where the kid lives.”

in her book Children give signals Foks analyzes the drawings made by children in different age groups. A four-year-old draws a whole house, a person, and a tree. Later, the children will also draw the sun, the moon and the stars, because they will look beyond their own environment. You can see all of that in their drawings.”


My niece lives in a skyscraper in America and also paints a square house with a red roof. The feeling of being at home, your own place: this is that square roof

talent indicators

Drawings have been studied for a long time, for example to measure intelligence or diagnose social and emotional problems. But scientists don’t agree on the usefulness of children’s drawings in research, notes developmental psychologist Sven Mathiessen, who is affiliated with Radboud University. Basically, there are two camps. Someone asked about validity: Do graphics really measure what you want to measure? The other camp thinks that children’s drawings are a useful tool, if only to break the ice on the hunt.”

Mathisen himself is completing his PhD research in human drawings by talented 4- and 5-year-olds. “Research has shown that human drawings can contain clues to talent. Gifted children do not draw much ‘better’ than their peers (with clean lines or correct proportions), but they draw unusual details, such as irises or many human figures, more or less Unnatural shapes, such as an extremely small head or large hands, and striking deformities that must be deliberately drawn are also noticeable.”


If you show interest in a child’s drawing and ask open-ended questions, you can learn a lot

Emily Verkerk

However, more research is needed to use children’s drawings to discover talent, or to explain why gifted children draw more unnatural details and shapes. “If a child draws irises in his eyes, it does not immediately mean that he is gifted. But if the child shows special characteristics in the drawings, it may be cause for further research. In the end, the question is not so much: Is the child gifted? But: Does he meet the education offer The regulars a child needs?”

The gorilla’s father is not a tyrant

Children’s drawing specialist Amy Verkerk is also keen to give examples of signs in children’s drawings. “All the choices the child makes show what matters to the child, or how the child feels. But nothing is black and white. Does the child draw a doll without a mouth? Then it can be difficult for the child to express, but also the child does not feel heard. There are always aspects multiple”.


Gifted children don’t draw much “better” than their peers, but they draw remarkably unusual details more often.

Sven Mathisen

Sometimes hasty conclusions are drawn on the basis of children’s drawings, notes Mathisen. “My dad was drawn as a gorilla on a family drawing, so he must be a tyrant.” It’s coming from somewhere, of course, but there might have been a kid at the zoo. Sometimes the interpretation speaks more about the person who “reads” the drawing than about the designer.

Foks also warns of the danger of “over-analysis”. For example, she once received a drawing from her grandson. “She drew me in, and next to it was a large dark area. My first reaction was, ‘My dear, what is that?’ .

Into the Depths with an imaginary animal

However, Verkerk says a drawing sometimes says more than a thousand words. The art therapist notes that children often cannot talk well about their feelings. “Drawing is a beautiful way for a child to express themselves or to process events. If you show interest in a child’s drawing and ask open-ended questions, you can learn a lot.”

“For example, ask the child to draw an imaginary animal,” Verkerk says. “If you ask what the animal can do or what it is afraid of, you can get very close to the child. Because everything revolves around the child itself. Then you are right where you want to be, without detours. You can go straight to the depths. That’s what makes drawings Children are so wonderful: they are all pieces of children.”

No more snooze? Go finger painting together, swing or play a relaxing game of tips Parents nowBecause the day can be very long once the nap is over.

Leave a Comment