How to tell if your child is gifted, just by looking at their drawings

October 30, 2017 Published by

When your child presents you with their latest creative masterpiece, do you ask them about it? Stick it to the fridge? Or simply file it away with the others? 

Next time, you might want to take a closer look, as the inclusion of certain features could be a sign that your child is gifted.  According to research, there are thirty ‘exceptional items’ that only gifted seven to nine year-olds include in their drawings of a human figure.




Sven Mathijssen (co-author of the paper Identifying Highly Gifted Children by Analysing Human Figure Drawings: An Explorative Study) and his team looked at the drawings of 120 children, and found that out of 135 features included (e.g. arms, legs, hair), 30 items were considered to be ‘exceptional’ and a possible indicator for giftedness. Of the highly gifted children included in the research, 43 per cent drew one or more of these ‘exceptional items’. The authors claim that, “Highly gifted children produce more novel drawings when compared to non-gifted children.”

Here are some of the features you might want to look out for:

  • Eye makeup
  • Freckles
  • A beard
  • Braces
  • A tie
  • A badge
  • Arm hair
  • Gloves
  • A ring
  • A wallet
  • Hands placed in pockets or behind the back
  • The head drawn from a side profile




Because giftedness is a vague concept, Mathijssen admits that detecting highly gifted children is not an easy task, but looking at their drawings could provide an insight for parents and teachers. There may also be other reasons for the features that weren’t looked at – for example, children might have a parent who has a beard, or wears a tie everyday, so they could be more likely to include it.

Currently, many gifted and talented children remain unrecognised by teachers, as there is no published set of criteria. Gifted and talented goes beyond IQ, so intelligence tests are not necessarily the best measure; there may also be more than one ‘intelligence’ so a gifted child may show a particular talent playing a musical instrument or communicating with others, that isn’t reflected by IQ.

Whether your child is identified as ‘gifted’ or not, remember that you can have a big impact on their self esteem. No-one is good at everything, so focus on their abilities – they might not click with maths, but they could be brilliant at coming up with stories – and keep encouraging your child to pursue their interests. Your support will boost their confidence and make them feel they can take on the world.


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This post was written by Claire Gillies

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