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How to Tell If Your Child May Be Gifted, Just By Looking at Their Art

You'll want to give your kid's latest creations a second glance before storing them.

Ever wonder if you have a gifted child? You may be able to get an idea just by looking at his/her artwork. According to new research, when it comes to drawing people, there are certain features highly gifted children tend to include, reports The Guardian.

In the study, researchers examined the human figure drawings of 120 boys and girls, ages 7 to 9, from six different schools in the Netherlands. The kids—47 of which were considered highly gifted with an IQ of 130 or higher and 73 considered non-gifted—were asked to produce drawings using pencil on a white piece of paper. From analyzing the drawings, researchers found that these 30 exceptional items were possible indicators for being gifted:

  • eye make-up
  • mucus
  • freckles
  • a goatee
  • braces
  • a bow tie
  • a tie
  • a badge
  • a waist
  • nipples
  • hair on the arms
  • hands put in the pockets
  • hands behind the back
  • gloves

  • nails

  • a ring

  • genitals

  • urine

  • a wallet chain

  • a shoe buckle

  • shoe accessories

  • cowboy spurs

  • feet and toes as a whole

  • wings

  • a tail

  • a head from the side

  • multiple human figures

  • an animal

  • use of color

  • a frame around the human figure

Study authors note that the items were found in only around half of the human figure drawings of highly gifted children. When they did appear, they tended to appear just once or twice, meaning that this method of judging whether you're dealing with a kid genius, while helpful, is not exactly foolproof.

This isn't the first time researchers have tried to gain insight on the way a child thinks by looking at artwork. In the past, researchers tried to analyze children's intelligence by focusing on their drawing IQ, i.e., the total sum of features they include in their drawings, and comparing that number to the number of items the average kid draws. The downside to that method is that it was based more on quantity and didn't provide an explanation on why including certain items were significant.

But rather than trying to measure intelligence, this study sets itself apart by measuring giftedness. Study authors write: “What is considered to be gifted goes beyond a high IQ. For example, 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. But these children give unusual answers to intelligence tests. Their answers are not necessarily wrong but cannot be considered correct, because they are not mentioned in the scoring manuals of the used tests.”

Currently, there isn't a set way of determining gifted from non-gifted children, but most gifted programs still rely on standardized measures such as intelligence tests or measures of achievement, leading many gifted children, including those who are underachievers, to go unrecognized in school, study authors write. They also say that further research on the topic of highly gifted children is needed, since the environment (a kid who draws a beard may know someone with a beard) and ages of the kids (drawings done by older kids may be influenced by who they're around in school) may play a role in what features they choose to include in their human figure drawings.

Here in America, 48 out of 50 states have their own definition for giftedness as of 2012—the only exceptions are Massachusetts and South Dakota—with intelligence as the most popular factor in states' definitions (included in the definitions for 45 states), followed by high achievement (included in 39 states' definitions), Psychology Today reports. And when it comes to determining whether a child is gifted, the main way states do this is by looking at IQ and performance on standardized achievement tests, although no state reports using a single IQ score to judge a student's giftedness anymore and most states no longer have specific tests or cut-off scores to determine eligibility in programs for gifted students.

Written by Maricar Santos for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Working Mother