Fun, Fabulous Children’s Activity for Language and Listening Skills

If you haven’t had a chance to check out 30 Days of Brain Play in The Free Printables Collection yet, go ahead and take a look! Inside you will find activity #9: Describe a Drawing.


SOMEDAY I might design a complete product around this powerful language and listening activity for kids.  In the meantime, I’m giving you a more do-it-yourself version that you don’t have to wait for.


I love Describe a Drawing for its complex simplicity.  What?  Complex simplicity?


Yes, let me explain.


The idea behind Describe a Drawing is simple.  Your child looks at a very basic drawing, describes it to you, and you do your best to replicate the drawing without actually seeing it.


Simple, right?


While it may appear deceptively simple and fun on the surface, this DIY language and listening activity for kids builds a significant amount of learning skills. Could your children use a little help with communication? Try "Describe a Drawing."


The results are complex and profound.  Your child develops significant learning skills in the process.  One important connection that your child will inevitably make is that you do not see what your child sees.


Okay, maybe with your parental superpowers you kind of DO know what your child thinks, sees, and feels.  The point here is that your child recognizes, on a deeper level, that our thoughts and mental images are ours alone.


Does your child ever become frustrated when you don’t understand what he is trying to tell you?  Do you find yourself saying “use your words” because she expects you to simply read her mind?


As much as kids might wish it were true, we can’t simply will our thoughts into other people’s minds.


With Describe a Drawing, children quickly learn that words are not only important.  We can use them as powerful tools to help others understand our perspective.


Recognizing the POWER of communication is only one side benefit of Describe a Drawing.  This activity’s ultimate purpose is to develop and strengthen those language skills.


Then, when your child takes a turn drawing an image that YOU describe, many more learning skills get a healthy workout as well.


Listening skills, following directions, attention focus, spatial awareness, which in this case includes distance and terms like above, below, left, right, etc., are all nicely rolled into this one little activity. 


Are you ready to give Describe a Drawing a try?


Describe a Drawing Instructions

  • First draw a very simple picture on a blank sheet of paper. Half sheets or quarter sheets of paper work well for this activity.
  • Your drawing can be something as basic as a square, a squiggly line, and a circle. I’ve included a few examples for you above.  Start simple, then increase the level of complexity.
  • Don’t reveal your drawing yet! Describe the drawing to your child.  (In order to model how this activity works, it’s best if you take the role of describer first.)
  • On a blank sheet of paper, your child will draw exactly what you describe. Don’t peek!  You may only see your child’s drawing when you finish your description.
  • Be as detailed as possible. Model the types of words to use when you describe the elements of your drawing.

▪ How big is the square? (Use rulers and measurements if you like.)  Is it as big as a nickel?  Longer than your pinky finger?  Adapt this to fit your child’s skill level.

▪ Where, exactly, is the squiggly line located? Is it above or below the square?

▪ Does the circle overlap or touch anything?

▪ Is it on the left, the right, the center of the page, or somewhere else?

▪ Remember, your child cannot see what you see. You may, in fact, be strengthening your own communication skills in the process!

▪If your child is old enough, teach the words horizontal, vertical, and diagonal so that you can describe exactly which position the line is in.

  • Important: Your child is not allowed to ask questions about your description.  When you see those questioning eyes peering back at you, encourage your child to “take your best guess.”
  • Once the drawing is complete, compare your drawing with your child’s.
  • Was your child a good listener? Did you describe your picture well?  Now it’s time to switch.  Let your child draw a simple picture and describe it to you.  Don’t ask any probing questions!  Draw exactly what your child describes.  Then compare pictures.  As you practice this activity more and more, your child will gain a better sense of how detailed the descriptions need to be.


Tip:  If you happen to have the game Swish or Swish Jr. around, instead of drawing your own picture you can use a single card or any combination of layered cards from that game to create the “drawing” you will describe.


Which roll is easier for your child, describing a drawing or drawing the picture that someone else describes?  This is a clue to which skill needs more practice, listening or language.  Or both.


Remember, though, we aren’t seeking perfection here.  Just have fun with it!


I hope you have just as much fun with the other 29 learning skill-builders in 30 Days of Brain Play.  Grab it free by signing in or signing up here.