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 of 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

There’s no right or wrong way: There’s no script. There’s only your child's way. It can be colourful, monochrome, textured and tactile. Check out our Art Space for tips on creating a space that allows your child to get messy and experiment. 

Let it be beautifully simple: It’s an invitation to play, to ‘be’, and to connect with “the here and now”. Any materials, textures or colours can be used. Try not to let your child overthink the end product and instead get them to start creating and see what naturally forms. Our Squiggle game and Eyes Closed Drawing can be a good place to start. 

It's a way for them to share their story without telling it: No words are required and yet your child can share their deepest thoughts and feel safe. Sometimes your child could be influenced to create based on what others are drawing around them so let them create on their own but know that you are there to support them. 

Explore your child's creation: If your child shares their art with you it could be helpful to explore the thoughts and feelings they had when creating so try asking them questions such as 'What made you draw that?' or 'Did you enjoy making this?'

Be specific about their artwork: You can sometimes get greater insight from asking a specific question about their artwork. Asking questions around line making or colours can lead them to open up about thoughts and feelings they had when creating a specific section of their artwork. 

Allow them to decide when it's finished: When your child is done, remember it’s their choice what they want to do with it. Whether that's sharing it, or not! Allow your child to feel that what they have created doesn't need changing and is enough just as they've done it.

Calming Circles Technique

How it Helps: This activity encourages children to think about the feel and shape of what they want to draw, whilst concentrating on their breathing. Thinking about how the movements feel provides centring and grounding in the body, which can be helpful when feeling anxious. This activity also helps children understand control by thinking about what they can and cannot control.

Materials: A piece of paper, pens, coloured pencils or crayons


  1. When you're doing this activity try not to worry about how your drawing is going to look. 
  2. Close your eyes, take some nice deep breaths and imagine what you are going to draw. 
  3. Take your pen or pencil and start to draw a circle onto the page. Try and fill the page, don't worry about how straight your line is. 
  4. Fill your circle with a pattern or you could keep going over your circle. Just try not to let your pen leave the page.
  5. Make sure to relax and concentrate on your breathing.
  6. Once you have finished you can colour it in.  

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.

Squiggle Drawing Exercise

How it Helps: This therapeutic art activity encourages creativity when drawing and removes the fear of an empty page awaiting your artwork. It can be used to engage the imagination and help children loosen up and relax. This exercise can also be a group activity with everyone contributing what they see.

Materials: A piece of paper and something to draw with either a pencil or pen and some colours if you want to colour it later.


  1. Close your eyes, place your pen or pencil on the paper and start squiggling.  
  2. You can go fast or slow, just make sure to fill the page. 
  3. Now if you look at your squiggle can you see any shapes in it? You could see all sorts of shapes but one of the easiest to find is a fish because for a fish all you need is a loop and a tail. 
  4. Turn your page around in lots of different directions to see what other shapes you can find.
  5. Once you've found all your shapes you can colour them in. 

Variations: You could ask someone else to draw the squiggles on the page or add fewer lines to challenge yourself. 

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.