Scribbles: The Secret Language Of Children

Scribbles are the gateway to children’s secret language. Their interpretation, the key to open the lock.
Doodles: the secret language of children

Children amaze us with their wits. Not having internalized a standard way to communicate, they can be very original when they find themselves interacting with others. One of these forms of communication are scribbles: “drawings” which have a precise and concrete meaning, but which at first glance do not give this impression.

As the little ones grow up, their way of communicating becomes more and more structured. The scribbles become drawings, words, phrases and stories that allow them to express themselves.

In this article we will talk about children’s doodles and give you some curious information about this form of secret language and their way of expressing themselves.

Scribbles: what is it all about?

Doodles are creative designs that tend to get more complex as the child grows. At first, they may seem impulsive and untidy due to the fact that the little one has not yet developed good motor skills. However, each sign has a meaning and we would like to understand if the “artist” is able to explain them or if we do not have the necessary means to interpret them.

Overall, the signs can follow a common thread. In them we can reflect:

  • Feelings.
  • Wishes.
  • Fears.
  • The stages of the child’s development.
  • The biological rhythms of the child.
Child scribbles on the wall

We are certainly in the presence of a form of communication. For this reason, psychologists and psychiatrists interpret and use scribbles as a tool to analyze the child’s problems, be they biological – because they explain the stage of his development – or psychological because they tell us about his inner world. Scribbles essentially have two components:

  • The gesture. It consists in the manifestation of intention, in spontaneity or in the attempt to convey a message.
  • The stretch. It refers to the child’s ability to control movements. We refer in particular to the ease or otherwise of making the drawing.

The scribbles are related to sensory and motor aspects. The former refer to what the child perceives and the stimuli to which he is sensitive. The second concerns the movements that allow him to interact with the outside world.

The secret language of children

Scribbling is a form of language because it is one of the modes of expression that children use. Although they correspond to a primitive act, they can be rich in meaning. A way in which the child builds bridges of communication with others when he cannot do it with words or when he prefers not to use them.

As Evi Crotti (pedagogist and psychologist) and Alberto Magni (doctor who dedicates himself to psychosomatic illnesses and psychotherapy) suggest in their book Non sono scribbocchi , “… scribbling on a piece of paper allows communication between the child and the adult “(p.19).

The language is expressed through various forms. According to Treccani, it is “the ability and the faculty, peculiar to human beings, to communicate thoughts, express feelings by means of a system of vocal or graphic signs”. Therefore, it does not concern only the oral level, but the ability to write and non-verbal communication. For this reason, scribbling can be considered a language as a form of expression. It is the way children use to communicate something about their inner world to us.

The interpretation of the scribbles

In order to interpret the scribbles, two fundamental aspects must be taken into consideration:

  • The development of the nervous system. Especially of its representative skills. The focus is on, among other things, motor skills, spatial skills, symbolic function and language.
  • The skills of interpretation. We must be aware that, even if there are some benchmarks, the only ones who can give an objective interpretation and who are legally authorized to do so are the professionals. We refer to psychologists, psycho-pedagogues and psychiatrists (although this depends on the legislation in force in each country).
Child with pencil

Here are some guidelines for interpreting scribbles. Remember, however, that each child is unique and that the information we will provide you is not sufficient for a complete interpretation. They are mostly pointers that can help you in case you think there is a problem. In any case, do not hesitate to consult a professional if you consider it necessary.

To interpret children’s scribbles you must pay attention to:

  • The way the child holds the pencil. You have to understand if he is relaxed and free or if he hides tension.
  • The starting point of the drawing. If the child starts drawing from the center of the paper, it usually indicates that he is in the outside world. If not, it may show us shyness or tension.
  • The spaces. If the spaces between the strokes are large enough, they indicate confidence, extroversion and a desire to grow. When they are not large, we may be faced with a fearful, inhibited and introverted child.
  • The pressure. If it is light, it could show a sensitive nature child. If it is marked, it indicates a great energy and the need for large spaces.
  • The stretch. If it is sure, it indicates strength and courage. If not, it could mean fear or be the consequence of too strict an upbringing.
  • The shapes. Each circle, curved line, corner or broken line is a reflection of how the child places himself in the world and how he perceives himself.
  1. The circle is the child’s most familiar projection of the image: the face.
  2. The corners show tension and resistance.
  3. The dots are evidence of an intense emotional life and a request for contact due to a concern.
  4. The broken lines represent the fear of separation from loved objects.

Colors can also have meaning. They can show aggression, joy, love, and other moods. The psychology of colors helps us understand their meaning. For example, red could mean impulsiveness, yellow joy, black fear, sadness or aggression, and white tranquility.

The children’s scribbles represent their inner world. Paying attention to their drawings can help us know how they feel. It is a wonderful language that becomes more and more elaborate and although it is “secret”, because at the beginning we do not understand it, through its interpretation we can know the personality of the child and what happens to him.

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