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Drawing Upside Down

By Ellen Booth Church
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Q: My daughter always draws people upside down. The pictures are very good, but my wife and I are confused as to why she draws in this way.

A: In the early childhood years it is not unusual for children to reverse drawings and letters. Often children can draw quite beautiful and well-formed images and letters that are either upside down or reversed like a mirror image.

Most children grow out of this phase at about 5 or 6 years old. Reversals of this type are not something to be alarmed about unless they persist beyond this age. It can be a visual maturity and integration issue or can even be emotionally based.

The best thing to do is to stay supportive of her drawings without criticism. You can draw side by side with your child. Keep your drawings simple and childlike so that she is not trying to copy yours. When you are finished, invite her to notice the similarities and differences between her drawings and yours. It would be helpful to know if she sees the difference between the two. Ask if you could hang one of her pictures on the wall by a family photo of people. Without emphasis on one way or the other, ask her which way she wants her picture hung. Just don't use the terms "right side up" or "upside down." These terms can sound like a judgment. This is delicate because you do not want to stifle her creativity and at the same time you want to find out what she is seeing. You can also talk to a good developmental optometrist who can work with eye training if that appears to be necessary.

The right mix in this situation is to keep a watchful eye while allowing your child the creativity she needs to feel free to express herself in drawings. I am actually a prime example of this type of child. I drew pictures upside down and wrote letters as if they were in the mirror at 3 and 4. By kindergarten it all magically went away and I went on to be a professor and author. Young children have the gift of time — to mature and grow, to experiment with their own view of the world, and to learn. Allow your child this gift as you nurture her creativity with a loving and watchful eye for any future issues.

About the Author

Ellen Booth Church is a former professor of early childhood education, an education consultant and author.

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