Child’s Self Portrait

Dear Dr. Day Care,

My child just turned three years old and is drawing a picture of himself with his head bigger than his body and his legs and arms are coming out of his head!  He didn’t draw any details like fingers or toes.  Should I be alarmed at his portrait of himself?


First Time Mom

Child's Self Portrait


Dear First Time Mom,

Actually, it sounds to me that your son is right on target!  Most children at his age are drawing the same type of images of themselves.


Did you know that children go through stages of drawing just like any other stages of development?  Typically, children begin drawing self-portraits with scribbled lines before progressing to rounder more circular shapes.  By the third stage, you will start to see some resemblance to the objects they are drawing and children love to point out the people and objects in their pictures.  It sounds to me like your son is at the fourth stage – which is when children start to draw people much like you described, with arms and feet connected to the head.  After this, children do begin to draw people with a body and drawings become more representational.  There are a lot of great resources out there that discuss the progression of artwork, if you are interested in it I highly recommend reading further on this topic!


As your son is drawing his pictures, this is a great time to ask questions and increase his language skills.  Compliment him on his drawing and ask him to tell you about it.  Don’t make assumptions on what you see – you may be surprised at his creativity and imagination!  Use open ended sentences to lead the discussion, such as “tell me about this” as you point to an area on his drawing.  Listen as he explains himself and continue the discussion with open ended sentences.  When the conversation finishes, together hang the drawing on the fridge or display his artwork in a place it can be viewed by him.  As he grows older, his self-portrait will become more expressive and detailed.


Classroom teachers often save self portraits for portfolios for this very reason, it is amazing to look back and see how children have developed and progressed.


Don’t forget to write the date on his drawing and save it, because someday it will be a family masterpiece!



Mary Ann Shallcross Smith President Dr. Day Care
Dr. Mary Ann Shallcross Smith
Founder, Dr. Day Care



“Dr. Day Care” is Mary Ann Shallcross Smith, Ed.D., Founder & President of Child Care Consultants & Facilities Management, Dr. Day Care Learning Center, Kids Klub, and Therapeutic Child Care Services. We educate infant, toddler, preschool, kindergarten, and school-age/camp children.

“Dr. Day Care” can be reached anytime by calling 401-723-2277 x 222 or by e-mail at For additional Parent Resources, such as informational videos, visit our website at:  Mary Ann also recently wrote a children’s book about educational opportunities that you can read to your child: Edgar Graduates, learn more at