Draw Me A Picture:

The Meaning of Children's Drawings and Play
from the Perspective of Analytical Psychology

by Theresa Foks-Appelman

Approved for 7 hours of continuing education

Book Description
The analytical psychology of Carl Gustav Jung, the ideas of Erich Neumann and modern developmental psychology offer excellent guidelines in the search for the significance of children's drawings. Children actually live in the mythological period of our ancestors. Just as our ancestors' growing process of awareness was reflected in mythological stories, rituals, fairy tales and primitive art, a child's process of awareness is reflected in his or her drawings. There are similarities between the products from various periods of art history and the drawings that children make at various ages. In 'Draw me a Picture' children's drawings ranging from their very first scribbles to drawings by adolescents are described and analyzed. And, when doing so, the author repeatedly makes links to the world of children's games. She also offers illustrative examples from her therapeutic practice. This book is a tool for play therapists, art therapists, sandplay therapists and teachers.

Please join us in this 7 unit course.

Learning Objectives

In this 7 unit course clinicians will:

    1. Understand the significance of children's drawings and play in the context of analytical psychology and play therapy.
    2.  Become familiar with the child’s process of becoming conscious, according to analytical psychology, and see how this manifests itself in drawings and play therapy.
    3. Understand how developmental levels are evident in drawings, play, music, dance and games.
    4. Gain insight into the healing potential of art and play in both daily life and play therapy.
    5. Acquire practical knowledge about the use of drawings in play therapy.
    6. Learn how to structurally analyze a drawing.



This course consists of a post-test based upon reading the text. There is no online material to read. After you pass the post-test, you may print out your own certificate.

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To receive credit students must
  • Pass the post-test
  • Upon passing the test, you print your own certificate of completion

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The symbolic meaning of children's drawings

An important source in understanding the symbolic meaning of children's drawings is the literature of Erich Neumann ,an analytical psychologist, child therapist and author of many publications on art and images at different periods and in different cultures. In his books Neumann investigated the similarity between developmental child psychology and the history of the development of art. According to Neumann, a child repeats the history of its ancestors' development of consciousness, expressed in such art forms as painting, sculpture, music, storytelling, and dance. Even the stages of development in children's drawing compare with the stages in Neumann's developmental theory. That could explain the universal nature of children's expressions in playing and drawing. In this book I show that children's drawings express the process of becoming conscious and embody feelings ranging from boundlessness to individuation. The growth of the Self and the ego from childhood into adolescence is a universal process expressed in a universal way. I explain relations with the analytical theory of Winnicot and Mahler as well as with the attachment theory of Bowlby In the drawings of children we recognize the development of a child who, according to Neumann, lives in the mythological stage. We follow its development to a contemporary modern individual. This process of growth, acceptance and self-awareness is expressed - as it always was by our ancestors - in the artistic forms of art, music, dance, drama and poetry. Every healthy child is able to express this process spontaneously in play and creativity.

There is a trend to accept a more profound explanation of the source of human life. There is also more interest in the psychological history of humankind and the way our ancestors expressed themselves in art, religion, mythology and fairytales. In this book I show the connection between the history of our ancestors and our modern times.

Analytical psychology

Studies show that children draw lines, forms and subjects in the same way all over the world. In my book I give an explanation of the meaning of such lines, forms and subjects.
It is very interesting to find the psychological and historical source of the meaning of the house and the drawing of the human figure. My research into this meaning is based on Jungian analytical theory, with its emphasis on the collective unconsciousness expressed in archetypes or primordial images.

In my book I refer to Jungian analytical theory and the symbolic meaning of play and art, of which drawing is a part. According to Jungian theory a child repeats not only the biological history of its ancestors, but also the history of the development of the psyche.
Readers of this book are given practical guidance in interpreting children's drawings and children's play. To gain a more profound understanding of children's drawings, I have investigated literature worldwide about the roots of drawing, from prehistoric rock-paintings, pictures on tombstones, sculptures, art in the Middle Ages and modern art, which show similarities in method and meaning. I explain various theories which can aid the study of children's drawings, such as Jungian typology, the Creative Process theory and Iconology.

The language of images, pictures and symbols is a universal language. For ages, children in England, Spain, America and Africa have drawn, painted and played in the same way. We can all see that now on the Internet when children from schools all over the world send drawings to a particular website . It is so interesting to see and to recognize specific drawings and to know what they mean and why children draw that way. I have discovered that even skeptical readers accept the way I describe the meaning of children's drawings and play from the perspective of analytical (Jungian) theory. After they read my book, they look differently at children's drawings.

This book is not a therapeutic manual. However, social workers, child therapists, art therapists, play therapists, school teachers and, of course, parents all find support in the topics covered in this book. I not only describe the normal psychological development of a child that plays and draws, but also help the reader to recognize special signals and symbols in drawings and playing that may indicate certain kinds of problems. Most books about children's drawings refer to the phenomenology of the drawing or the cognitive aspects. I my book I show the deeper meaning of drawings. Why do children all over the world like to draw and why do they stop drawing? I give answers to these questions. I show the reader how to investigate the symbolic meaning of a drawing. 

A book for parents and teachers

Children make drawings for parents and teachers for special occasions and there is a natural feeling that it is important to pay attention to that. Which parent doesn't remember their child's painting hanging on the kitchen wall, hall or class room? They know it is something special and they enjoy the colours of these spontaneous drawings. Schoolteachers, social workers and psychotherapist are no longer only looking at the surface, but they are now asking themselves what lies behind what they see and what it means.

This book shows the reader how to look at the normal meaning of drawings done by ordinary, healthy children. Then I give examples of specific signs and signals which need attention, such as conflicts and problems from the past or in present life. My book is not only for art and play therapists but is also for the general public, students and teachers. I explain the archetypal meaning of aggression in drawings and I explain why children make those kinds of drawings. My book is written in clear language based on known and accepted theories, such as analytical theory that specializes in the explanation of symbols.
My book is easy to read, chronologically organized and free of jargon. People say, 'It is as though you are sitting next to me and explaining in a personal way how to look at a child's drawing'.


Theresa Foks-Appelman Theresa Foks is a registered creative arts therapist. She has had a private practice since 1995. in which she works   with children, adolescents and adults. Draw Me a Picture, a book treating the significance of children’s drawings, was published in the Netherlands in 2004 and is now on the reading list for educational programs for creative therapy, schoolteachers, social workers in the Netherlands and Belgium. Theresa Foks is a sandplay therapist ISST and a founding member of the Dutch Society for Sandplay Therapy. She has given lectures about the development of children's drawings and has written several articles in magazines for family and therapists.

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We do adhere to the American Psychological Association's Ethical Principles of Psychologists. Our courses are carefully screened by the Planning Committee to adhere to APA standards. We also require authors who compose Internet courses specifically for us follow APA ethical standards.

Many of our courses contain case material, and may use the methods of qualitative research and analysis, in-depth interviews and ethnographic studies. The psychotherapeutic techniques depicted may include play therapy, sandplay therapy, dream analysis, drawing analysis, client and therapist self-report, etc. The materials presented may be considered non-traditional and may be controversial, and may not have widespread endorsement within the profession. www.psychceu.com maintains responsibility for the program and its content.

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