What Does Drawing Develop in a Child?

Drawing is an important childhood activity with wide-ranging benefits that go well beyond artistic talent. The simple act of creating lines and shapes on paper facilitates physical, emotional, cognitive and social development in children. Understanding exactly what skills drawing builds can help parents facilitate activities to maximize their child’s potential.

drawing for children

Develops Fine Motor Skills

The physical act of grasping a crayon, pencil or marker and guiding it deliberately to form shapes and lines is an excellent way to refine fine motor skills in young children. The small muscles in the hands and fingers grow stronger with drawing practice. Eye-hand coordination improves as a child learns to translate what they visualize in their mind onto paper. Control and dexterity develop as they use drawing tools with precision to add detail, texture and shading to their artistic creations.

Stimulates Imagination and Creativity

Drawing opens up a world of endless possibility as children experiment with color, shape and composition. There are no limits to what can be created on paper when a child picks up a crayon. Unencumbered by realism, children use their vivid imagination and sense of wonder to draw fantastical scenes from their dreams and interests. The ability to generate original ideas, problem-solve and translate abstract concepts through symbolic drawing promotes creativity and divergent thinking.

Helps Emotional Expression

Before children have the language skills to express complex emotions, art provides an outlet to communicate and work through their feelings. Unpleasant experiences like fear, sadness and anger can be depicted through dark coloring, harsh lines and abstract shapes. Happier subjects are represented by brighter colors, smiling faces and upbeat scenarios. This is why therapists often provide drawing materials to help verbalize and process emotions. The non-judgmental forum of paper invites freedom of emotional expression.

Grows Observational Skills

Drawing requires careful observation of the subject in order to accurately replicate its elements. As children purposefully note details like shape, proportion, color, texture and spatial orientation when drawing people, places and things, their perceptual skills, focus and concentration sharpen. Sketching from life trains the eye to recognize subtle nuances that translate into realistically rendered artwork. Attention to geometric and aesthetic properties of the visual world all stem from observational drawing.

Expands Vocabulary

Discussing their drawings provides children context to learn new words and build oral language fluency. Making art elicits descriptive vocabulary like shapes, colors, numbers and positions as children explain their creative choices and name their subjects. Responding to art prompts further expands classification, categories and adjectives. Hearing others describe their drawings grows receptive vocabulary. Word/image association through labeling parts of a drawing helps cement lexical semantics and syntactical skills.

Boosts Self-Esteem

The pride of creating a piece of artwork from start to finish cultivates confidence and self-efficacy in children. Seeing their development through saved sketchbooks promotes a sense of accomplishment. Displaying artwork on the refrigerator or a parent’s office reinforces their value. Positive praise for creative risk-taking through art nurtures self-esteem. As they gain mastery over employing tools to manifest ideas unto paper, an internal sense of validation grows. Finding enjoyment and acknowledgment through drawing helps children build resilience and positive self-image.

Promotes Problem Solving Abilities

Decision-making pervades the creative process as compositional problems arise and children must make choices to construct the pictorial puzzle pieces. Determining layout, spatial relations, dimensionality, medium, hue, emphasis, scale and other design elements involves assessing options and strategizing solutions. Evaluating a work in progress and modifying accordingly also develops critical thinking abilities. Experimenting with color mixing, textures and layering to achieve desired effects involves manipulating variables and observing cause and effect relationships as well.

Fosters Hand-Eye Coordination

The intrinsic link between what the eye perceives and the ability of the hand to actualize through motor output is drawing’s main coordinative function. Children further unite these domains as they focus visual attention while simultaneously controlling pencil movement to produce representational artwork. Using gestural cues, proprioceptive feedback and eye tracking, the hand learns to mirror ocular directives. Smooth, controlled movements manifest as motor learning refines this bilateral integration. Proficiency manifests in precise execution of beginning art techniques.


From physical development and emotional processing to imaginative wanderings and practical experimentations, drawing taps into the full scope of childhood capacities. Art transcends mere hobby status in youth as a practice promoting extensive cognitive, social-emotional and kinesthetic proficiency. Understanding the breadth of functions fulfilled through drawing and art exposure allows parents to facilitate activities that maximize developmental outcomes in well-rounded, creatively enriched children. So provide those crayons and give your budding artist freedom to engage their world through the magical portal of paper and color. The rich pay-offs extend far beyond fridge decorations – and art is definitely more than just child’s play.

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