Working together through continuous learning to improve the quality of life for all in DeKalb County, Indiana
An education initiative of the Community Foundation of DeKalb County

Art Offers Gateway to Children’s Thoughts

Written July 1st, 2010 by
Categories: Early Childhood Learning - Publications

The Star

by Lindsay W. Brown

July 1, 2010

Sherry Hanchar, Director of Butler Early Education, told me this about her daughter’s drawing of her family. “My husband is very tall in the picture, so he asked our daughter ‘why am I so tall?’. Our daughter responded ‘because you are really important to me.’” The conversation surrounding a child’s work of art is revealing. What might just look like a circle and some lines may tell you a lot about what your child is thinking.

Did you know that children who enter school with this basic skill become better readers and writers when they start school with the basic skill of drawing something that represents a person? As children draw, they’re learning about spatial relationships, science, social studies and math! The early childhood team of DeKalb County Learning Link, an initiative of the DeKalb County Community Foundation, has set a goal for every child to be able to draw a person with four or more body parts when they enter kindergarten.

Hanchar continued, “As a mom, I look back on all the saved artwork of my children that’s been hung on my refrigerator. Their ‘creations’ provide a timeline of their development. As an early childhood educator, I’ve watched children grow and learn and reflecting on those past drawings is meaningful and special to me.”

Children are ready to draw when they develop the ability to control their fingers to hold a crayon. Seeing their first markings on a piece of paper (or onto your wall) pleases children because it’s one of the first times they create something that lasts.

For young children, parents and caregivers can provide supervised opportunities for children to use crayons, colored pencils or other drawing materials. An older child can use more advanced writing tools including journals, markers, paint and canvases. At any age, draw together with your child and have fun.

Children begin drawing in scribbles and may not be able to draw something specific, but don’t worry. If they enjoy the experience, their skills will develop quickly. As children develop eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills, they begin to draw a body as a circle or oval and will add sticks or lines as legs or arms. As children further develop, they add more detail. By the time children are 4

and 5 years old, they will add detail with eyes (with eyelashes), hair, a nose, ears, legs (with feet and toes) and arms (with hands and fingers).

Often adults put more emphasis on the final picture that a child creates, but always remember that the thinking and enjoyment is the key to learning. Ask your child to describe what they draw to learn how they thought through it. Use blank paper. Coloring pages/books do not provide the same quality experience because the drawing is already done and the thinking part of the activity is taken away.

Here are a few ideas for parents and caregivers to help your child recognize body parts:

  • Take one-on-one time with your child and play a singing game like “head, shoulders, knees and toes.”
  • Play the “body part” game. Take turns saying “there’s a spider on my ____ (name a body part).”
  • Play “Simon Says” and name the different parts of the body. “Nod your head”, “tap two feet”, “wave both hands”, etc.
  • Set a low and safe mirror on the table so that your child can look at his or her face. When your child thinks she is done drawing, ask her to go back and look in the mirror for more details. You’ll be impressed by how what they see in the mirror might change their drawing.

Butler Early Education is a non-profit, state-licensed childcare provider in Butler, Indiana, for children ages 6 weeks to 12 years. For more information about Learning Link, an initiative of the DeKalb County Community Foundation, or a four-page booklet of low- and no-cost summer 2010 learning resources available in DeKalb County, go to and click on ‘Community and Parent Resources’, then ‘Early Childhood’. You may also call Judy Sorg at the DeKalb County Community Foundation, 260-925-0311 or e-mail