In Defense of Doodling as a Mental Exercise for Kids

by Terri Libenson

I remember when my daughter showed me some notebook doodles she and her friend did in class in middle school. The drawings meshed and built off each other until they became one doodly inside joke. They were goofy, silly, and charming. I laughed. It didn’t even occur to me to chastise her for drawing in class. I DID ask if the teacher minded. She said he wanted to keep the drawings.

I recall my own school days, and all the notebook margins and brown paper bag book covers (remember those?) I decorated in doodles. I couldn’t stop. It was in my DNA. I also remember how lucky I was to have teachers that either didn’t notice or didn’t mind. I joke that I was so shy and withdrawn, my teachers took pity on me and turned the other cheek whenever I drew in class.

The truth is, doodling didn’t hinder my learning. It enhanced it. I really believe all that mindless drawing helped me focus. I even mention it in Invisible Emmie. If you’re artistically inclined, that drawing hand almost becomes an extension of your brain, and it’s hard to do anything without it…even learning other things. In my case, I think it helped me relax and open my mind to whatever the teacher was saying. Hey, it couldn’t have been all bad — I got pretty decent grades!

I know it’s sometimes hard to explain to parents that when their creative kid is doodling in class, it doesn’t necessarily mean their child isn’t learning. It might just mean that their child is learning in a different way. And that’s okay (as long as those grades aren’t slipping).

All kids learn in their own unique way. And if doodling happens to be one of them…well, I raise my ink pen to that!


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