This work examines a more perceptual explanation: when children look down at their bodies, they see their arms coming from their head. (Stretch your arms to the side and then look down.) Therefore, early on, children draw pictures combining their head and body as one component. Because children assimilate their environment to what they see and know about themselves, they will draw all humans and animals in this tadpole manner.
After completing their self-portraits, we pulled out a large roll of brown craft paper, traced each child, handed out brushes and paint, and encouraged them to paint their bodies (on paper...hoping we can do some really body painting once it gets a little warmer...any suggestions on best type of paint for actually body painting?). Once again, it was interesting to see how each child approached the task. I think the kids enjoyed having such a large "canvas" and the freedom and space to do whatever they wanted to with their bodies (the body on paper and their own bodies as they worked on the floor).