Can You Find A Three-Year Old Who Can’t Draw?


Here’s a test.

Find a three-year old.
Any three-year old child.

Give them a piece of paper. And some crayons.
Then ask them to draw.
Notice what happens next.

They start drawing.
Every single three-year old draws.

Now try this same test with a group of kids that are about eight or nine years old.

And something weird happens
Suddenly the room is split up into kids who say they can’t draw vs. kids who can.
So what happened between three and eight?
And what happens between eight and eighteen (or eighty for that matter?)

How is it possible that you cannot find a three-year old who can’t draw, and then suddenly they’re all art-challenged?

Any ideas?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Charest

The older kids believe there’s a correct way to draw. They’ve seen other drawings and are judging what they do against what they seen. Or they’ve been told it not good.

Three year olds are just doing it. They’re not judging it. They do it because they love it. No other reason.

Hmm…my three year old’s teach me more and more everyday.

Perry Droast

The 3 year olds are too young to know they “can’t” do something. They have little experience, hence they draw. Nobody has told them they can’t.

The 8 year olds have been told one thing or another and it’s difficult to undo what’s already been done.

Case in point. At the age of 6 my son was in the first grade. He had not yet been diagnosed with ADHD. That came the second time he did first grade at the age of 7.

His teacher did not know how to focus his energy and wasn’t motivated to do so. He was told by his teacher that he was stupid and would never learn to read. We know this because a mother of one of his classmates heard her say to him when she was helping in the class.

My son spent most of first grade sitting in his desk in the hallway of the school. When my wife confronted the principal about this he defended the teacher saying she had the right to conduct her classroom as she saw fit.

Subsequently my wife and I spent 1 to 2 hours a night for over a year working with him teaching him to read. He would read an entire childs book, 20 or 30 pages without a mistake, and then look up and say “I don’t know how to read”.

He had taken the statement of an authority figure into his heart and believed it. It took us over a year to finally get him past it.

By the 6th grade he was reading thick adult novels by Micheal Crichton and others.

Children take statements made to them and about them to heart very quickly and often permanently. We need to be very careful about the things we tell them. It can cause lasting damage. Or it can help them to greater heights, depending on the message.


Mackay said:

The inner critic arrives. They begin to compare their work against others’ and the “norm.” And then they self-select out and/or are ridiculed out.

Have you heard the story of the pre-schooler who “failed” art because she refused to color within the lines, a metric for measuring a student’s eye-hand coordination? True story. I can dig up the reference if you want. (‘Unschooling of America’ maybe)


“Teachers” in all forms can destroy a child.

Perry, that story is very disheartening. I’m glad there’s a good ending…ongoing good ending. 🙂


I once went to a school. And they had to draw Christmas trees on sheets of paper. And the sheets were put on a softboard.

Every tree was green. Except one, which was red.

And I looked closer at the tree, because in a mass of green, it sure stood out. And guess what? The child was given a zero. And the comment was: You should pay attention. Trees aren’t red.

This incident was well over twenty years ago, and it still sticks in my memory. It was a sad moment for me. Still is 🙁

Perry Droast

My son has survived and thrived.

But many children don’t get the same type of help we could give at home to counteract the negativity this teacher sent his way.

Who says trees aren’t red. I’ve seen plenty of trees in the fall that turn orange and red.

That teacher also doesn’t get it.

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