How drawing affects the development of children

Children love to draw. In all countries and societies, children create pictures, draw and tell stories through images, even if they only have sticks and sand at their disposal. From the age of one and throughout childhood, children color pictures and draw all sorts of realistic and fantastic drawings. Children’s drawings often amaze parents and psychologists who see in them the key to the individual qualities, emotions and mental development of the child.

Drawings are a reflection of the child’s creativity and his sense of beauty. While drawing, children also develop logical thinking and symbolic representation, as they learn to display the world around them in two-dimensional space, on paper. Drawing also develops a child’s spatial orientation, promotes science learning, and helps regulate emotions during times of stress. Psychologist Lev Vygotsky argued that drawings are part of a symbolic communication system that includes speech, reading, and writing. The child’s communication system is revealed in the process of development. In a literal sense, primitive children’s drawings serve as an intermediate link between oral and written forms of language.

But how can parents and teachers teach a child to draw? Does it need to be done? And how exactly can this be done? In an art school, a child may be taught specific drawing techniques. But besides this, young children love to play with blocks, act out skits or read children’s books. Can these activities affect a child’s ability to draw? To find the answer to this question, American psychologists conducted a study. It lasted 8 weeks and involved 91 preschool children.

The children were randomly assigned to three groups, in each of which they engaged in a specific activity: reading a children’s book, building with blocks, or playing imaginary role-playing games. At the same time, each group of children drew, and the scientists examined how the children’s activities influenced their drawing skills: artistic skills, cognitive abilities, etc. The children’s drawings were judged on five criteria: creativity, artistic talent, spatial complexity, use of colors, and use of people in the drawings.

The study showed that children’s drawing skills (in the aggregate of all five criteria) improved over the course of eight weeks. Children who had higher drawing skills initially showed greater progress in learning, although improvement was seen in all children. Of the three activities, reading a book proved to be the most beneficial for developing drawing skills: it had a positive impact on the development of creativity, talent, and spatial complexity. The group in which children built with colored blocks showed the most progress in using colors in their drawings. Role-playing games had the least impact on the development of drawing skills, but this group saw the most progress in using images of people in drawings. This was probably due to the fact that in role-playing games, relationships between people come to the fore.

Why did reading turn out to be the best activity for developing drawing skills in children? The psychologists who worked with the group of children who read the books asked the children many questions related to the illustrations. Psychologists often stopped reading to ask questions about the colors, spatial arrangement of objects, and plot elements depicted in the drawings. Then the children were asked to briefly answer the questions or discuss the drawing. Illustrations are extremely important in children’s literature, so when a child’s attention is drawn to the details of these illustrations, they better understand what a quality drawing should look like. By considering the style and subject matter of the illustrations, the children were able to make progress in developing the creativity, complexity and realism of their drawings. In other words, the children moved from observing to creating their own drawings.

Drawing is associated with the development of the cognitive, emotional spheres and symbolic language of the child, the perception of space and teaching the exact sciences. Therefore, it is important for parents to know what activities, besides formal learning to draw, contribute to its development. The research reviewed above shows that parents and teachers can use the reading of illustrated books in the process of teaching a child to draw.

By drawing your child’s attention to colors, shapes, story elements, and the general execution of book illustrations, you can improve their drawing skills. Most of the previous psychological research on this topic was devoted to the interpretation of the content of children’s drawings. However, further exploration of what activities help a child develop his skills will help to understand how the child’s leisure time can be combined with his development.