What do children’s drawings tell us about children’s minds? The topic of children’s drawings and their relation to a child’s cognitive processes, particularly thoughts is a topic of great interest. It is widely believed that children often express feelings, thoughts and messages which they cannot express through words through drawing pictures. This essay reviews previous research conducted on children’s drawings and aims to assess what exactly it tells us about their minds and what messages they are putting down in drawings. Following an overview of drawing and the cognitive development, this essay evaluates a selection of relevant research studies into children’s drawings and minds and aims to understand some specific symbols which are often drawn by young children and the meaning of these graphic images. According to Thomas & Silk (1990), children’s drawings have a variety of different purposes varying from bringing pleasure and enjoyment to themselves, decorating walls and expressing feelings and showing others how they feel about certain objects or people. N.R. Smith (1973) believes that the child begins the drawing with no intention or symbolisation, but as the drawing progresses a pattern is made and the child sees a representation and then proceeds to make the rest of the drawing shift towards this representation and builds on that. The basic pattern of children’s development of drawings begins at scribbles which appear from 12 months. The scribbles are non-representational and just involve the progressive control of movement. These scribbles tend to be viewed as gestures rather than drawing in true sense of the world according to Vygotsky. Arnheim (1956) believes that the earliest scribbles are a motor impulse, this simply means the child has no intention to draw a representation of an object or event it is just a coincidence. They begin to progress from 20 months of age where the scribbles being to become representational and the marks stand for whole objects. Cognitive psychologists tend to search these scribbles for visual resemblance where they attempt to make some sense of it. There is often some intended meaning within the scribbles, for example dots representing foot prints but not true representation. Symbolic pictures start to appear around 3 years of age where children begin to understand that pictures represent objects and begin to start drawing simple pictures of people. Over time more realistic pictures are drawn around 5/6 years old and at 6/7 years old children begin to use size, position and composition to show depth, those of which allow more natural representations of the real world and tend to have a more significant meaning. Luquet (1927) and later on Piaget & Inhelder (1969) invented the Stage Theory of Drawing. This is the belief that drawings are external representations of the child’s internal model which is their mental picture. The stage theory consists of four stages. The first stage is fortuitous realism which occurs at 1.5-2.5 years old and consists of labelling objects in scribbles. The second stage is failed realism (2/5-5 years old), representational intention but tends to be inaccurate. The third stage being intellectual realism (5-8 years old), drawing what the child knows rather than what they see and the fourth stage, visual realism which is beyond 8 years old which is where the child actually draws what they see. There has been evidence to back up the stage theory, for example Freeman & Janikoun (1972) conducted a study in 1972 on 5-7 year olds. They were asked to draw a mug in front of them which had the handle out of view. Results found that under 8 year olds who would be in the intellectual stage drew the mug which included the hidden parts as they would be drawing what they knew, whereas the 8 year olds and over who would be in the Visual stage drew only what they could see. However the stage theory has been criticised for the stages being too...
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