According to a new study of human figures drawn by children aged seven to nine, there are 30 so-called “exceptional items” that only highly gifted children draw when depicting people. Exceptional items for a child to include in human figure drawings (HFD) include eye makeup, mucus, freckles, a goatee, braces, a tie, a badge, hair on the arms, gloves, a ring and a wallet chain. There are also, according to the research, specific ways of depicting a human that only highly intelligent children use, including a head from the side, hands put in the pockets, and hands behind the back.
As we have discussed on this site before, the role of creativity – in the form of generating novel ideas, thinking flexibly and out-of-the-box – is widely considered a sign of giftedness. Sven Mathijssen – co-author of the paper Identifying Highly Gifted Children by Analysing Human Figure Drawings: An Explorative Study, found that out of 135 items drawn by the 120 children in his study – 47 of whom were highly gifted – 30 items were considered to be “exceptional” and a possible indicator for giftedness. In the drawings of the highly gifted group, each of the 30 exceptional items occurred only once or twice. Also, 20 (43%) of the highly gifted children drew one or more exceptional items. “Highly gifted children produce more novel drawings when compared to non-gifted children,” says Mathijssen.
Analyzing Human Figure Drawings might help identify highly gifted children who do not achieve their full potential in more standardised tests because of nerves or perfectionism. “Test anxiety is a possible cause for academic underachievement,” says Mathijssen. “But when a child is asked instead to just ‘draw a person’, that child is likely engaging in an activity that he or she has done many times and is therefore often not threatened by this task.”
“Parents of highly gifted children told us their children had drawn remarkably detailed Human Figure Drawings when they were younger,” he says. “But after they had been at school for a few years, their drawings looked exactly like the more simple drawings of their classmates.” That is because children tend to be “negatively influenced” by school setting, teachers and classmates as they get older and their drawings start to conform to what they think a standard drawing should look like instead of drawing from their imagination. This is why it’s important to give your children the opportunity to continue to freely express their creativity in their drawings and to encourage them to engage their imagination.
One of our Creativity Tools, Imagination Drawing Station, available on Amazon, is specifically designed to provide a platform for your children to express their creative thought and perhaps even giftedness through what they show in their drawings. You can purchase this tool by clicking on this link that will bring you to Amazon: RCK: Imagination Drawing Station.
So, next time your child draws a picture of you and gives you very hairy arms, don’t be offended, he might just be showing you that he’s gifted.