Want to know how clever your child is? Ask them to draw a picture

A child's drawings at the age of 4 can indicate their intelligence at 14, new study finds

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How well your 4-year-old draws a picture of a child now can tell you how intelligent they’ll be at the age of 14. So say UK researchers, who’ve found a link between preschooler drawing and later intelligence.

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But it’s not about how they draw (which, let’s face it, is probably just as well); it’s about what they draw. For top ‘future intelligence points’, your child needs to include all the right facial and body features in his or her portrait, in more or less the right place. 

The researchers studied drawings of a child that had been made by 7,000 pairs of identical and non-identical twins at the age of 4 – and then graded according to the presence, and correct quantity, of features such as head, eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hair, body and arms.

So, a drawing with 2 legs, 2 arms, a body and head, but no facial features, would score 4. But one with 2 legs, 2 arms, a body, a head, hair, 2 eyes, 2 ears, 1 nose and 1 mouth, in the right place, would score maximum marks.

The researchers then compared the results of the ‘Draw a Child’ tests with assessments of the same children’s intelligence at 14 – and found that the children who’d done well in the drawing test were more likely to be more intelligent at 14.

“Our findings are interesting,” says study leader Dr Rosalind Arden of King’s College London. “Drawing is an ancient behaviour, dating back 15,000 years. Through drawing, we are attempting to show someone else what’s in our mind. This capacity to reproduce figures is a uniquely human ability and a sign of cognitive ability, in a similar way to writing.”

But that doesn’t mean your child’s destined to be a dunce if his or her drawing’s a bit pants, says Dr Arden. “Parents shouldn’t worry if their child draws badly. Drawing ability alone does not determine intelligence: there are countless other factors, too.” 

Photo: Twins Early Development Study, King’s College London

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