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(This is the fourth post in the series called I Don’t Understand You! – Learning How to Connect with Your Child When They Think Differently than YouIf you haven’t read the first post already, you’ll want to start there.)

Our kids are amazingly unique. They all think I Don't Understand Youdifferently and learn in distinctive ways. Picture smart kids think with their eyes. They love to read fiction and history. These kids remember what words look like when they’re trying to spell. They love to doodle. They’re great at learning the written Asian language, which is formed with pictures instead of words.

Picture smart kids are usually characterized by several of the following:

  • Easily distracted by the patterns on clothing
  • Can visualize pictures, diagrams and colors in their mind
  • Enjoy drawing
  • Notice colors and art
  • Like building toy train layouts or complicated structures with blocks
  • Accurately read math problems
  • Enjoy creative writing, fiction, and history
  • Have a hard time listening for extended periods
  • Have a keen sense of humor because they can see pictures in their mind
  • Can struggle in school or experience learning fatigue

If your child has several of the above characteristics then they are probably picture smart.

Here are some practical ways for connecting with your picture smart child:

  • Inspire them – Go to movies, craft shows, and art museums.  Go window shopping with them and notice details about whatever catches their eye.  Help them to decorate their bedroom creatively.
  • Spend time in their world – Play video games with them.  Use pictures or movie clips to help them understand whatever it is you are trying to communicate.  Teach them to scrapbook.  Picture smart girls will love it if you  help them to experiment with makeup and hairstyles.
  • Communicating with them – It may be hard for these kids to maintain eye contact with you if you are disciplining them.  They have a hard time viewing the disappointment on your face.  Try having serious talks with them while driving in the car, walking side by side, or at bedtime when the lights are dimmed.
  • Reaching them spiritually – Ask your child what they “saw” while reading the Bible with them or discussing a sermon.  Have them try to visualize God’s love.  Have them draw pictures while listening to you read Bible passages.

Picture smart kids end up being great cartographers, illustrators, clothing designers, photographers, landscape architects, sculptors, and video game producers.

Here are some great methods for teaching these kids:Child drawing a picture of a person

  • Use visuals such as pictures, diagrams, maps, charts and illustrations
  • Allow them to watch demonstrations – either in person or online
  • Talk about designs and shapes seen in the world
  • Encourage them to build hands-on projects
  • Have them sketch or draw what they see
  • Ask them to visualize whatever it is you are teaching them – tell them to close their eyes and picture whatever it is…
  • Talk to them about what details they have noticed in the lesson
  • Using highlighters is effective for these kids
  • For spelling, ask them if the word “looks right.”  If they forget how to spell a word, have them write it out using different colors for certain letters – or draw pictures out of some of the letters to let them visualize the proper spelling.
  • For math, use manipulatives, stories, and pictures to help them learn their math facts.

Picture smart kids who struggle doing their schoolwork would also benefit from learning how to use their photographic memory.  Kids can learn how to read, spell, take notes, and remember math facts by using their right brain, which is the visual part of our brain.  If your child is picture smart, you may want to check out these right brain learning resources by Dianne Craft.

One of my sons is picture smart.  He is able to pay attention to what he’s hearing much more closely if he’s allowed to doodle at the same time.  This behavior doesn’t distract him.  It helps him to focus better on what he’s supposed to be learning. When we allow him to draw on the church bulletin during the sermon, he tends to remember what he heard much more than if we ask him to sit quietly and listen.

Some picture smart kids get extremely distracted by the world around them while they’re trying to do their schoolwork.  You may want to try using a study carrel with these kids to help limit visual distractions.  Be sure to tell your child that this is a tool which may help them to focus, not a punishment.  Don’t think that your child’s lack of focus is on purpose – or that they’re trying to push your buttons.

My picture smart son loves to sit underneath a blanket when he is reading.  He actually pulls the entire blanket up over his head!  I always thought it was very strange behavior; but, now I think that he’s using the blanket to block out anything else that might distract him visually while he’s trying to read.  I never would have come to that conclusion if I hadn’t learned more about how he thinks.  🙂

If can be extremely frustrating trying to teach a child who thinks very differently than we do. We need to be careful that we don’t make our kids feel like they aren’t smart because we don’t fully understand the way they think.  Remember, if our child isn’t learning then we aren’t teaching them in the way that is best for them.  It’s not our child’s job to learn in whatever way is most convenient for us to teach.  

Part of our job, as parents, is to help our kids figure out what they can do to help their ideas flow freely.  Some people think best when they are running.  Some people think best when they’re playing a musical instrument.  Some kids will be able to process their thoughts more clearly if they’re jumping on the trampoline, petting the dog, shooting hoops, or laying on the grass watching the clouds go by.

To find the key to unlocking your child’s thoughts, give him something to think about and then give him different situations to experience while thinking.  Experiment with different scenarios until you’re able to help your child learn under which conditions he thinks best.

For more tips for helping you to understand your Picture Smart Child, please check out Kathy Koch’s book, How Am I Smart?  Another amazing resource which will give you lots of  ideas about teaching your kids according to their learning style, check out The Big What Now Book of Learning Styles by Carol Barnier.

Question:  Do you have a Picture Smart Child? Have you found any other clever ways to connect with your child? What has your experience been like when dealing with a child who thinks differently than you? Please leave a comment below.