Why children’s drawings matter

Researchers explore the often overlooked importance of childhood scribbles.

In our modern society, we are asked to take responsibility in a number of different ways as we reach adulthood. To become a productive and considerate part of the population, we must surrender the naiveté and blissful ignorance of our kid-selves to make room for acute self-awareness and sense of duty. This glum and necessary evolution is evident, perhaps most obviously, in the art of youngsters versus that of adults.

This video by Parisian creative director and animator Delphine Burrus explains the true gravity of children’s drawings – a kind of art that is often disregarded for its juvenile nature.

The narrator comments on the traditionally assumed purpose of art, as it “was meant to show command of technical skills and fidelity to the real appearance of things,” yet the art of children is merrily (and inadvertently) defiant of this. Can we derive wisdom from this carefree creative honesty that comes so easily to young ones?

While the colourful scribbles and wonky shapes of child art might seem inane or devoid of function, studies have shown that playful drawings are often a child’s first exercise in self-exploration. With tools as simple as a blank piece of paper and crayons, children are able to communicate and portray innermost emotions far away from the confines of verbal language.

According to psychologist and art therapist Cathy Malchiodi, “By its simplest definition, art expression is a form of nonverbal communication. For children who may not be able to articulate thoughts, sensations, emotions or perceptions, it is one way to convey what may be difficult to express with words. For those who have experienced abuse, it is one way to “tell without talking” when they are unable or afraid to speak about specific events or feelings.”

Unfortunately, it is maturity and self-consciousness that often cripples our creativity later in life. Children’s art serves as valuable reminders of the people we used to be, bold and unfettered.

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