I recently read the following: “Virtually everyone draws or doodles at some point in their lives. The question isn’t when did you start, but when did you stop?”.

As a child I was an AVID doodler.  I would doodle on anything and everything.  In elementary school I have vivid memories of doodling on the sides of my paper as my teacher stood at the front of the room teaching.  I always knew what he or she was saying…it just seemed as though I needed to move my hands to remain attentive.  This is when I taught myself to write upside down, backwards and in bubble letters…I know…all VERY important skills.

I always found it interesting that I never really doodled pictures, but rather I doodled letters, numbers, words and names. What I didn’t know at the time was that I was actually using many cognitive mechanisms as I was doodling.  I was engaging my spatial relations, attention, motor execution and planning.  In addition I was exercising skills such as visual attention, scanning of eye movement and visual memory.  These are all aspects that I address today as an Occupational Therapist.

Researching this topic I now know that several articles have come out in the past 5-10 years stating that while doodling was once thought of as an idle or mindless activity, it is now being perceived as an activity that can benefit attention, memory and learning.

When I see school aged children that are experiencing difficulty with letter formation, sizing or spacing, I usually have to look beyond what is on the paper to examine the child’s visual spatial skills, visual memory, attention to task, planning and motor coordination.

In fact, I have often encouraged parents of children with IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) to add in doodling as a modification.  Since doodling can facilitate thinking and can often be essential to expressing spontaneous concepts and emotions, it should really be encouraged, not punished.  Doodling can help make concepts more tangible and may even increase engagement and interest in educational subject matters.

I know that old school thinkers may find this all hard to believe.  After all, how can you really be paying attention to what is being said if you are drawing, sketching or doodling? Not everyone needs to visually attend to a speaker to receive and retain the information being said.  Sometimes the act of engaging in doodling, is keeping the mind active enough to allow it to be receptive. Those that daydream rather than doodle often find it more difficult to retain dull information when compared to doodlers.

So get out that pen and paper everyone!  Doodle away!