Drawing Self-Portraits Is *Incredibly* Beneficial To Kids, So Get Out The Crayons

I remember drawing a self-portrait as a school project in the fourth grade, and I don't know why, but I really enjoyed it. It was less about drawing my own features and more about drawing the accessories in the photo, which to me were my interests like soccer and horses. As it turns out, drawing a self-portrait can be beneficial for children in some pretty surprising ways. (Beyond just getting to test their art skills.)

According to an article on School Run — a website dedicated to helping parents understand the lessons their children are learning in school — creating a self-portrait has many great benefits for kids, besides just being a fun activity. Self-portraiture is "one of the most introspective art forms," noted the article. Children can express what's important to them, learn about who they are, and how they want to present themselves to the world. Which sounds highly sophisticated, don't you think? New York City-based family therapist Dr. Kathryn Smerling agrees and tells Romper in an email, “Very often children’s self-portraits are an indicator about how the children feel about themselves. Often accompanied by a self-portrait is a one-lined descriptor that the child can dictate to an adult. It can help the child stand back and reflect upon who they are. It is a key part of learning and personal development." She says that this act of drawing a self-portrait also helps children build their own sense of identity.

One major benefit to this introspective art project is that it allows kids to have the "maximum amount of artistic freedom," noted the School Run article. I mean, it's you. Kids get to use whatever materials they like, or try any art style they wish, giving them complete freedom. The article also pointed out that self-portraiture is a fun intro to art history, which might be a subject misconstrued as boring to some kids. You take it a step further and even help them in the activity by showing them different versions of self-portraits throughout history and talking about the different styles and how they've changed over the centuries, making it a great hands-on history lesson.

Another benefit to self-portraiture for kids is that they get to become well acquainted with themselves in the mirror and learn about what makes them unique. The same article explained that "a self-portrait gives children the time to study their eyes, nose, mouth, and the rest of their face and body, and to work out how it all fits together – perfect for teaching children how to draw basic body shapes." Another article on the Acorn School website goes a bit deeper and noted that when children explore their "me-ness," they are "developing their observational, expressive, and reflective skills," as well as developing a positive relationship with themselves. Such a great tool for molding minds. Dr. Smerling agrees and says that it could be “interesting to have the child do a self-portrait year by year to see the child’s developing sense of self each year.”

As if those weren't enough reasons to convince you to try this expressive exercise with your child, "self-portraiture helps your child to consider their aspirations for the future," noted School Run. It gives kids the chance to not only think about who they are, but who they want to be when they get older. You can even add exercises for them to include. For example, prompt them to draw themselves in a specific environment or doing an activity they choose. Not only is it giving your child the chance to express their uniqueness, but you'll get a glimpse into what it's like to be in their world. "Drawing pictures of their family is insightful," Dr. Smerling says. "Drawing a picture of their room and friends, drawing the thing they most enjoyed doing that day, drawing what their birthday party might look like" can all be incredibly eye-opening to both parents and kids.

It's clear that self-portraiture can be a fun and beneficial project for all kids, regardless of their artistic abilities and preferences. There's room to explore different ways of approaching this project by experimenting with materials, styles, and various artistic exercises. So whether your child is doing a self-portrait as a school project or you've been considering creating one with them at home, there are many ways this activity can be enriching and enlightening for both you and your child.