Are your child's drawings telling you something?

Are your child's drawings telling you something?
When your toddler draws, he reveals a part of his world. But that doesn’t mean there’s a hidden message in every picture.

When your toddler draws, he reveals a part of his world. But that doesn’t mean there’s a hidden message in every picture.

4-year-old Claire really enjoys drawing her family. She recently drew a picture in which her three-year-old sister was much bigger than her. “I thought it was because her little sister was important to her and she loved her very much,” says mom, Kristell. But what if it were more because Claire would have liked to be little again? After all, at the time she drew the picture, her parents were often telling her to watch out for her younger sister.

Various books and websites explain how to interpret the messages hidden in children’s drawings. However, this information should not be taken too seriously, as it is very general and this is far from an exact science. “Even though a hole in a tree trunk can sometimes be an indicator of trauma, your child may quite simply have wanted to draw a nest for a family of squirrels,” says Pierre Plante, psychologist, art therapist and professor with the Psychology Department at UQÀM.

The same goes for colours. If there’s a lot of black or red in your child’s drawings, you might think this a sign of aggressiveness or anger. But it isn’t always the case. “Colour choice is something far too personal to assign any type of code to it,” says the psychologist and art therapist.

It’s true that psychologists, for example, sometimes use drawing as a therapy tool. “However, one picture isn’t enough to understand what a child is experiencing,” says Pierre Plante. “You need to look at several, since it’s the repetition of certain elements that can provide insight. Furthermore, you cannot read a drawing as though it were a crystal ball. You have to listen to the child and consider the context of their life.”

The interpretation of children’s drawings should be left to specialists.

His advice : listen to what your child tells you about his drawing rather than trying to find a meaning in it. For example, ask him to talk to you about what he drew, without insisting. “This will motivate him to keep drawing,” says the psychologist. The opposite may have him no longer wanting to draw if he feels that each picture is some sort of test.

For children, drawing is first and foremost something fun to do. Of course their drawings tell us something about them. They give us information about what they’re interested in, what they did that day, what they saw, what they find pretty, what they’d like to do, what they’re afraid of, and so forth.

Drawing also helps them express and manage their emotions, whether positive (e.g. making a picture for grandma to express their love) or more negative. Pierre Plante illustrates the point with the story of a four-year-old boy and his new baby sister. “He drew a picture showing his imaginary friend mad at the baby. It was his way of expressing that he was finding it hard to share his place.”

  • Drawing comes naturally to children.
  • In addition to being fun, drawing allows children to develop skills that will serve them later on in school.
  • When you let your child draw what he wants, how he wants, you foster his creativity.
Naître et grandir

Source : Naître et grandir magazine, September 2016
Research and copywriting : Nathalie Vallerand
Scientific review : Josiane Caron Santha, Occupational Therapist

Photo :