Children’s drawings could predict their intelligence later in life

We may earn a commission from links on this page.
Children's drawings, scored according to accuracy
Image: Twins Early Development Study, King's College London

Now there’s one more reason to save your child’s first sketches. Researchers at King’s College London have found that a 4-year-old’s ability to produce an accurate drawing of a person predicts the child’s intelligence at age 14.

For the study, 15,504 4-year-olds (7,752 pairs of twins, both identical and fraternal) were each asked to make a figure drawing of a child in what’s called the Draw-a-Child test. The drawings were scored on a scale of 0-12 for accuracy. (For instance, points were given for two eyes and deducted for a third or fourth eye.) The children were given intelligence tests, and then tested again ten years later. Higher Draw-a-Child scores correlated with higher intelligence scores for the 4-year-olds and 14-year-olds.

“The Draw-a-Child test was devised in the 1920s to assess children’s intelligence, so the fact that the test correlated with intelligence at age 4 was expected,” Rosalind Arden, the paper’s lead author, said in a release. “What surprised us was that it correlated with intelligence a decade later.”

The researchers also found that drawing ability has a genetic association. Pairs of identical 4-year-old twins (who have the same genetic information) produced drawings that were more similar than those of non-identical twin pairs (who share around 50% of genes), suggesting a genetic aspect to drawing ability that goes beyond growing up in the same environment.

The study isn’t bad news for parents whose children’s portraits look like electrical storms or smudgy spiders, Arden says. ”The correlation is moderate, so our findings are interesting, but it does not mean that parents should worry if their child draws badly.”

Still, if you want to track your kid’s artwork—for reasons of pride or science—here are two apps that will let you store them digitally.