Drawings from early childhood - a universal picture language


Collection of drawings, exhibitions, research, archives


“What happens if you just let us draw and paint…”

We already discover the activity of drawing as young children, quite intuitively transforming experiences, observations, and the world of imagination into pictures, without having ever “learnt” how to do it. Before being able to write, we develop a visible language which can be understood the world over and which has hardly changed in generations. If only as adults we just let children get on with it! For various reasons, this is becoming more and more rare today.

For over forty years, Norbert Carstens has been building up a comprehensive collection of drawings by young children, which have come from throughout the world during the last hundred years. An ever-fascinating field of research, he has been discovering what the drawings from different continents and times have in common, as well as observing current developments.

Through making this unique treasure visible, as well as something to experience, the ChildArt Association hopes to bring far greater attention to this aspect of the natural, healthy development of children. We also hope to encourage people to trust the extraordinary creative forces which the child reveals in this dynamic, visual way. We want children to have more opportunities to live through these important stages of development freely and independently, without being disturbed by, often well-meaning, interference from outside influences.

With these themes in mind, and to make this unique and comprehensive collection accessible to the public, the aim is to find a worthy permanent home for the archive, a lively space for workshops, talks and exhibitions, open to everyone. We are looking for all kinds of creative support. Would you like to contribute in some way?

Norbert Carstens is a teacher, artist and eurythmist from Bochum in the Ruhr area of Germany. He has been active with the theme of young children’s drawings for over forty years and has brought together a vast international collection. He is the founder of the ChildArt Association (ChildArt e.V) and is the curator of the Exhibition CHILD ART. LITTLE PEOPLE: BIG IMPACT.

Launching ChildArt : an exhibition to see and to experience

A very special experience! The current exhibition Little People: Big Impact brings to public attention a wide and distinctive selection from the the ChildArt collection. Norbert Carstens has chosen originals drawn in very different circumstances by children up to the age of seven, from all continents and from the early twentieth century to the present day. He has mounted the selection on eighty large wooden boards, which he has prepared and painted to best display the children’s works.

The drawings present ever-recurring motifs and experiences: the spiral, geometric forms, Kopffüssler (head-and-feet people, or head-and-limb people), the “double-sun”, life and death, the human form, and many others. These universal themes are deepened by pictures drawn by children with significant disabilities, children born blind, and children who lived in the concentration camps.

The influence of children’s graphics on modern artists is considered, the Kopffüssler motif in advertising, as well as the perspective of researchers and scientists. Alongside the opportunity to view the pictures, we will be offering many ways of experiencing aspects of the central theme through a series of workshops, lectures, activity projects and presentations, combining theory and practice in a lively way.




Would you like to support the ChildArt aims and projects?

Donations go towards realising exhibition and educational projects, and help to lay the foundations of the International Centre of Early Childhood Drawing, to include space and materials for children to draw when they visit. All contributions support increasing respectful awareness of young children, through observing and supporting their natural development. Let us do what we can to protect and sustain the extraordinary life of the universal language of pictures originating from the very being of the young child.

Giving a donation is easy. Every contribution helps. Thank you.

Child Art.e.V.
IBAN: DE49 4306 0129 0138 8641 00


Milestones: ChildArt Exhibitions

Children’s drawings from the past 100 years:

  • Graphic movements without objects
  • The spiral
  • Circle, square, triangle (centering, crossing)
  • Kopffüssler (Head-and-feet/limb people)
  • The “double-sun”
  • The human form
  • Life and death
  • Embryo forms
  • Colour

Special focus of attention on:

  • Painting and drawing by children with severe disabilities
  • Pictures by children born blind
  • Pictures by children who lived in concentration camps
  • Influences of children’s pictures on modern art
  • The Kopfüssler (head-and-foot/limb people) in advertising and in past cultures
  • Quotes from artists, educational researchers, scientists


The Exhibition:

  • A wide range of originals from the past 100 years, from all continents
  • Selected drawings presented on hand-finished on large-format wooden boards
  • Detailed visitor information on all exhibits
  • An accompanying programme covering theory and practice (lectures, workshops and courses)

The next CHILD ART exhibitions are in preparation and will take place in Davos/CH (late 2024) and Vienna/A (2025).




“A lovely exhibition! It captures wonderfully the lively imagination and spirit of children throughout the world.”

“I was deeply moved by the beauty and the truth hidden in today’s children, those of yesterday, and the child that I was. Thank you for opening my eyes to this world.”


Exhibition Bochum 2024

First Impressions

Want to take part?

We need tremendous support to realise the ChildArt aims outlined above. If you would like to become a member of the ChildArt association or to give a donation, if you have questions or constructive ideas, or in some way would like to accompany the project, please get in touch. We look forward to hearing from you!