Some children have trouble putting feelings into words, so art can be a way of helping them to express themselves. Using art as a tool to relax or as an emotional outlet is primarily about the artistic process rather than the final artwork. Our art therapists have outlined how parents can promote the benefits of the artistic process, and have included a couple exercises that will help children get into the right mindset to create. These tips and exercises can be incorporated into any artistic activity to emphasise the therapeutic elements of the process.


Tips for Parental Encouragement

Getting Started: Children should not think too hard or spend too much time thinking about what the final product is going to look like, and can start by choosing certain materials, colours, and textures they like. Stories, journaling, or drawings can be good catalysts.

Space to Create: Create an art space that allows your child to be free to experiment and get messy. Use a cloth or a newspaper on top of your kitchen table, in the garage, or a space outside. 

Avoid giving direction: Don't tell your child what to make or how to make it. Instead of saying, "Paint a rainbow," encourage them to experiment with mixing colours using different types of brushes and paper. 

Speak specifically about their art making: When talking to your child about their artwork, try to be precise in your comments. For instance, instead of giving a generic compliment, how about, "I see you used a lot of purple. Why did you choose that colour?" 

Explore your child's process: Often the best way to encourage conversation about your child's art is simply to say, "Tell me about what you made," or ask, "Did you have fun making it?" or “What did you enjoy?" 

Give them space: Don't always draw with your child. When parents draw something representational while a younger child is sketching, it can distract. Sometimes, it's better to just be near them and let them know that you're interested and supportive of their art-making.

Let it be: When a child finishes a piece, don't suggest additions or changes. It's important for a child to feel that what they have created is enough—even if it's just a dot on the page. 


Calming Circles Technique

How it Helps: Colour, creativity and circular movement can help you feel relaxed by: 

  • Distracting you from worrying thoughts
  • Giving you an outlet and focus for your emotions 
  • Stimulating your senses 

Sometimes a brief warm up technique like this can be helpful to overcome a blank page and can take anywhere from 30 seconds, to a few minutes, to an hour. It helps the child relax and get in touch with their imagination and playful side of creating.  

Materials: A table/deskpapercrayons, coloured pencils or penssticky tape to hold paper down (optional) 

Guidance:

  1. Make sure you are sitting comfortably with your feet firmly on the floor, your back straight and your shoulders relaxed. 
  2. Take your paper and crayon and draw a circle that fills most of the page – don’t worry if it’s a bit wonky! 
  3. Now keep drawing. You could keep going over the circle or fill it with a pattern, but try not to let your crayon leave the page. Don’t worry about creating a finished picture, just keep going. 
  4. Take time to focus on what you’re drawing. Focusing on these sensations can help you quieten your mind. 
  5. Once you have done this for a few minutes, try using a different colour or pattern. 

Variations: If you’re focusing too much on getting the pattern right, try using your other hand. If you find it hard to get started, try using a colouring book or use some of our colouring designs.


Scribble Drawing Exercise

How it Helps: This relaxing exercise can allow you and your child to tap into your imagination together. It can help overcome a blank page and take away the anxiety or pressure of not knowing what to create. 

Materials: Choose an art material you like, for example, a pencil or crayon.

Guidance:

  1. Close your eyes and just let the pencil scribble over the paper. 
  2. Listen to the noise it makes or how your arm and hand feels moving across the paper. Don’t worry about what you are drawing. 
  3. Repeat this 4 times, selecting a new colour each time. 
  4. Once you have done this, look at all the lines you have created and then see an image or a shape in your scribble. 

Variations: You could then look further at your scribbles and create an imaginary picture from the shapes you see, or you may simply want to spend time colouring the image in.  

Follow along: We've created a video called the Squiggle Game that shows you how you can do this at home, so be sure to check out this additional resource.