What your child’s drawings can tell you

One of my favorite studies conducted around children and their dominant sense was involving children between the ages of 2-5 years, in a controlled setting who were given free rein to simply draw. Through their drawings, these children could be classified into their dominant sensory modes.

Visual children would pick up each color of crayon, and mark the page, being careful to use the whole page and every color. Their drawings, from the start are colorful and expressive. Unlike the other senses they seemed to approach drawing or painting with the finished picture in mind, and were willing to spend time mastering little details. Their drawings tend to be pretty but not personal, and contain more popular representations rather than their own visual experience. The personal component for them seemed to come from others seeing and commenting on their drawing and not drawing as that expression.

Tactile children, preferring to stand, would survey the blank piece of paper quickly, grab one or more pencils in one hand and vigorously scribble across the page. While they were aware of the edges of the paper, they were unconcerned about being within its border. As quickly as they started they would stop, throw the page on the floor and repeat the action on the next page. They usually picked one color, possibly adding another if pressed.

For taste and smell children, a blue squiggle on a blank page would be a representation of something precious and contain lots of meaning. The squiggle often was of someone the child knew and loved, and the color often one that they associate with that person. They drew, with intent in mind, and while the drawing might not look, to us as adults, like anything in particular; to the child it was very clear, and very important that the viewer appreciated and knew what the squiggle was. Their drawings mostly consisted of family members, pets and close friends.

Auditory children, preferred to be organized before they start drawing. They had looked at the different pencils, crayons and colors of paint, made sure they were in a comfortable position, before picking their favorite color and proceeding to make circular patters all over the page. Their drawing style was balanced, organized using two or three colors.

Drawing is a wonderfully creative expression for your child, and therefore a great way to determine your child’s sense.

Priscilla Dunstan is a behavioral researcher and creator of the Dunstan Baby Language and author of “Child Sense” and “Calm the Crying.” Learn more about Dunstan at