Learn to decode children's drawings

by NDFAuthors

  • феб 11, 2015

Learn how to decode children’s drawings and get to know your child and his inner personality better. Children’s drawings can tell you so much about their fears, joys, dreams, hopes and nightmares, but they also give you a precious view of their personalities.

Children begin their drawing process from the moment they are big enough to hold a crayon or pencil and put it to paper.  For little ones drawing represents a natural activity, usually with much enjoyment. They draw in order to express emotions, because they don’t know how to express different feelings through words. They express their fears, joys, dreams,  hopes and nightmares through drawings, and also give you leads about their relationships to the world and to other things.

Drawing is an outlet for communication, and children’s artwork represents a view of their personalities. Children’s drawings are unique and can give us precise information about the young artists.


Every parent hopes to find some meaning in his child’s drawings. Sometimes drawings are just drawings, with nothing more than a fun playtime showing itself on the page. But sometimes, interpreting children’s drawings means that you discover a deeper layer to what they are thinking and feeling.

So, don’t read too much into a drawing, but instead allow the child to tell you what the drawing means to them. Asking questions, such as what the people in the drawing are doing, can reveal things from your child that you might never see yourself.


Drawing Stages

There are three stages of children’s drawings: Scribbling, Pre-Schematic, and Schematic stages.

  1. Scribbling    (2-4 years)

At this stage, there is no realism in the pictures, and they are mostly just marks on a page. It might seem like there is nothing there, but sometimes children create something called „fortuitous realism.“ This means that when the scribbles are done, you might be able to see certain shapes,  resembling a car or a house.


  1. Pre-Schematic  (4-7 years)

At this stage, children attempt to create things they see with their eyes. They might draw the simplest things, such as faces, stick figures, cars, trucks, trees, and houses. There are usually no realistic details to these drawings. At the end of the stage, they begin adding in certain things that set their ideas apart, such as flowers in front of a house or clothes on the stick figures.


  1. Schematic  (7+ years)

In this stage there is some evidence of schema. For example, a drawing of the ocean might include sea gulls, starfish, a beach ball, people wearing bathing suits, etc. Words and symbols might be added to give further messages of explaining the drawing. Drawings of humans will have more details, possibly including freckles. There is more depth and realism, and the use of new viewpoints is possible.


Gender And Colour Preferences

Unsurprisingly, there are some differences between how and what girls and boys draw. Girls usually draw rounded shapes, including flowers, hearts, while angles, boxes, and straighter lines are characteristics of boys, along with cars, buses, etc. In general terms,  there is a tendency in children to prefer to draw their own gender.

In addition, some researchers have reported that girls tend to use more colours per drawing than boys do, with a preference for warmer colours (i.e. pink) and that boys demonstrate a preference towards cooler colours (i.e. blue).


The choice of colour apparently can be significant:

  • Black and purple suggest dominance, and can be favoured by a child who is relatively demanding.  Blue is popular with children who have a caring nature and enjoy company.
  • Red is the colour of excitement, may be used especially by children to don’t want to miss out on anything, and is one of the most popular colours for children to use.
  • Pink shows a need for love and appreciation and is favoured by girls
  • Green is the colour of those who like to be different, like space, and are artistic and intelligent.
  • Yellow also demonstrates intelligence and a sunny nature.


Position of the Drawing on the Page

When it comes to positioning on the page, apparently the left side of the page is traditionally associated with the past and with nurturing.  It is also associated with mothers.

The right side relates to an interest in the future, and a need to communicate.  This side is associated with fathers.

A child who places a drawing of a good size prominently on the page is considered to be well-balanced and secure, while in contrast, small figures drawn at or near the lower edge of the paper, or in a corner, express feelings of inadequacy or insecurity.

What Emotions Do Their Drawings Reveal?

Many emotions can be revealed from your child’s drawings, but don’t get too carried away with the things they might mean until your child has had time to explain them to you. However, there are some points that researchers have found that might display what a child is really feeling.


  • Detailed, careful drawings may reveal a child who feels the need to try very hard.
  • Bold strokes, especially if close together, can be a sign of stress, strong feelings, determination or anger, while softer marks suggest a gentler nature.
  • The quality of line can also be significant „“ a figure drawn with light, wavering, broken lines, reveals a hesitant, insecure child who appears to think as he goes along.  By contrast the bold, continual, freely drawn line is expressive of self-confidence, and a feeling of security.

When drawing figures, the size, and the relative size of the figures drawn is considered to be significant, with more important or dominant figures being drawn larger.

The absence of arms is sometimes interpreted as indicating timidity, a sign of non-aggressive children, whereas exaggerating the size of the hands is seen as symbolic of aggressive tendencies if the figure is a self-portrait.  Likewise, tiny feet are seen as a sign of insecurity „“ literally an unstable foundation.


  • Impulsive child: Big figures, no necks, and asymmetry of limbs.
  • Anxious child: Clouds, rain, flying birds, no eyes on the figures
  • Shy child: Short figures, no nose or mouth, tiny figures and arms close to the body
  • Angry child: Big hands and teeth, long arms, crossed eyes
  • Insecure child: Monstrous figures, tiny heads, no hands, and slanted figures

How to Encourage Your Children’s Drawings

Learning to interpret and decode children’s drawings can be very useful for you as a parent. However, try to encourage this creative activity as well.

Art experiences help children develop independence within limits, and gives them the opportunity to represent their ideas on paper or in other formats.  Most importantly, creative expression lets children tap into the magic of their own imaginations, which is what being a child is all about.


Here are some of the things you can do to encourage your child to draw more:

  • Make art a regular part of playtime.  Offer them various drawing utensils such as crayons, thick pencils, and washable markers.  Cut paper bags up to draw on.  Sometimes it helps young children out if you tape the paper down on the table so it doesn’t move as they draw.
  • No need for instructions.  Let your child experiment and explore and express his creativity in his own way.  This independent child needs to feel confident, competent, and clever.
  • Notice the process, not just the product.  Participate in their drawing process, instead of just complimenting your child’s success.  Help him draw some more complicated things, or choose together appropriate colours for a house of tree.
  • Use art to help your child express strong feelings.  If your child is feeling angry, help him/her express such emotions by drawing very angry picture.
  • Display your child’s art and writing.  This is how your child knows his/her work is valued and important.


Do you like to draw with your kids? Would you share some of your kids’ drawings with us? That would be wonderful!