What a tough time our kids have been having lately! Between the Pandemic and the ordinary business of growing up, these days our kids are certainly battling with lots of big feelings. From emotions of anxiety, sadness, anger to boredom, the problem isn’t really the feelings themselves, but rather that there isn’t always a productive place to put them. Luckily, art can be a beautiful way for kids to identify and manage their emotions. When used therapeutically, art can be a great place to improve self-esteem, ease anxiety and relieve stress.  So here are a few simple art activities that you can do with your kids at home, to generate conversation and help things settle.

A mandala is a circular geometric design made up of repetitive symbols. If you think about nature, this circular pattern with a centre, occurs naturally in many places in geology, astronomy and biology and symbolically it represents a world within many other worlds. Whether coloured in or created from scratch, the recurring mandala design has a calming effect, which holds the potential to regulate emotions and focus attention. So either download an existing colour-in template or if they’re older invite your child to come up with their own symbols which they can then draw concentrically from the centre of the circle outwards. This can also provide a snapshot of where your child is, in that moment in time and can be a very powerful image of their inner world.  

Offer your child a range of collage materials like googly eyes, playdough, pipe cleaners, glue, glitter, feathers and more. Then ask your child to think of a big feeling. Now invite your child to make this ‘big feeling’ into a “Feelings Creature”. What colour and texture is it? How big or small is he/she? Does it make a noise? What is it thinking? Allow the creature to unfold in all its glory. This can be a wonderful way to let your child know that feelings are not monsters, and in fact they need to come out and find an understandable shape so they can be talked about and managed. 

Sometimes we don’t need fancy art equipment to make beautiful things. Rather, simply take a walk outside with your child and invite them to collect a container of interesting objects like dried leaves, sticks, flowers or grass. Now invite your child to arrange these items into a creative formation and stick them onto a piece of cardboard. This activity helps kids understand that they can make do with whatever is in their immediate environment and create wonderful things out of their ordinary surroundings. 

Sit together with your child and write a list of all the things they hate about Covid-19. Now invite them to tear up the list and use the scraps of paper to make a brand new beautiful picture by sticking the torn pieces onto a fresh piece of card. Can the scraps take a new form, like become a tree or a garden? Use this as an opportunity to talk about how certain things in life can’t change right now, but we can always change our minds and approach old problems in a new way.

Collage is such a great activity! Not only does the handling of different art materials calm the senses and offer a tactile outlet, but it also allows a new picture to unfold in a surprising way. So gather collage bits and bobs like buttons, paper, old trinkets, bottle tops and more and invite your child to stick them randomly onto the cardboard. Here you can talk together about how life is surprising and even though it’s unpredictable, something exciting is always bound to happen. 

Offer your child a plain mask to decorate with their very own superhero. As they create, encourage them to tell you more about this character like what their power is and who their Nemesis is. This can offer really useful insights into what is worrying your child and give you access to what is not so easily expressed in other ways. Once done, they may want to wear the mask and play together. Here role play can also offer a good outlet for larger-than-life feelings. 

Take a matchbox and get rid of all the matches. Invite your child to decorate the matchbox by painting the outside and inside of the box with a delicate brush. Ask them what “feelings” they would like to put inside it. Draw emojis or find tiny objects to represent the identified feelings and place each one inside the little box. You will be amazed at how such a tiny box can become a mirror of what secrets they are holding deep inside their minds. This is a very containing activity and provides an important little place to hold big worries.

The bottom line

While this isn’t therapy, offering your child ongoing creative outlets to think and feel can be incredibly therapeutic. In this way you don’t need to be a therapist, but rather just a parent who is open to your child’s big feelings and every-day worries. This will not only help your child develop an emotional vocabulary around problem solving, but  will also send the message to your child that their feelings matter and that in your house, there is always a place for them. 


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