As many of us are aware, life returning to normal in the United States is not coming over the horizon as soon as we had hoped. While those of us that have kept our families healthy and safe count ourselves very fortunate, the extended time spent in quarantine has strained us all. Likely no family member has expressed their displeasure more than the children you share your dwelling with. While we know that craft projects and art can help to kill time and keep kids busy while staying indoors, using arts and crafts may be more beneficial for your children than just staving off cabin fever.
So, what is art therapy? Rtor.org defines it as “application of the visual arts in a therapeutic context.” To put it in layman's terms, this basically means using art as a means of self expression and exploration in order to manage, explore, and overcome mental and emotional setbacks. When used in a clinical setting, art therapy has been shown to help patients manage anxiety, depression, PTSD, and many other mental health issues.
You might be saying, “But my child isn’t depressed. Why should I care about art therapy?” Firstly, we are not physicians. Only you and your child’s doctor can decide if your child is experiencing any emotional turmoil or if they are in need of treatment. That being said, with the world changing so rapidly, many children are struggling with why they can’t go out and do all the things they could do before. Because children do not have the sophisticated verbal reasoning of their parents, therapeutic art activities may be a good way to help them express any feelings they might be having about the current situation.
So, without further adieu, here are some easy and relaxing activities you can do with your children. These arts and crafts are geared towards stress relief and providing a healthy outlet for kids AND adults that may be feeling the pressure of life and staying home for extended periods of time.
This one might seem obvious, but it’s an easy first step in using arts and crafts to help cope with difficult emotions. Sometimes referred to as "graphotherapy," simply drawing abstract loop-de-loops across paper over and over can help your child (or even YOU) focus on simply being in the moment and being calm. Whether you decide to draw the same loops over and over, or you want to simply let your pencil wander around the paper, just try not to have a specific image in mind. Make sure to simply focus on moving the pencil across the paper without expectations.
Humans have been making mandalas for centuries. The circular, repeating patterns are relaxing and you can find a plethora of coloring books filled with designs. Of course, if you or your children are an overachiever, you can draw your own! Because there is a methodology to creating a Mandala, it could be considered process art. As such, having your children draw their own can help to create a sense of focus and mindfulness that will help them relieve stress or anxiety. Art is Fun has a great blog post that gives a step-by-step guide to creating a Mandala.
Collaging is a very open ended craft and allows for unlimited customization. Your child can use photos, magazine clipping, natural elements like leaves or twigs, fabric, and their regular art supplies. Simply pull together a large array of supplies, cut out everything you like and just play around with piecing everything together in fun and new ways.
As an extension of collaging, you and you children can also create fun and unique postcards. This is an especially great idea if they have friends or family that they haven’t seen in a while and want to connect with. As with regular collage, let your imagination run wild and use whatever supplies and clipping you have available. If you have a specific design you particularly like, consider scanning it and making multiple copies on glossy card stock so that you can send it to many different friends.
Drawing in the Dark
Drawing in the dark is a step beyond simple doodling. By drawing blind, you open yourself up to simply experiencing the act of drawing in the moment. Without being able to see your work in progress, you won’t hold yourself back or quit early due to judgements of how it works.
Much like Mandalas, Zentangles are a more guided version of doodling. Because they have a specific methodology to how they should be approached, it can take some of the stress away of how to get started.
The general principle is to create a small, framed space, and divide it with a wavy line, or "string." From here, you then methodically fill the sections with deliberate, repeating doodles (or "tangles") without much expectation for how everything will fit together in the end. Initially, you are just trying to fill the space. Once you have filled the space, you can use pattern, or hatching, to add shading and dimensionality to the piece.
While you cannot learn official Zentangle techniques without learning from a Zentanlge instructor, there are tutorials available that can give you a good idea of where to start. A great resource for helping to understand the process, purpose, and benefits of making these design is the Zentangle website, where they also offer a step by step beginners guide to creating Zentangles, as well as a short video demonstration of the process.
Ultimately, the options for using art to express emotions and work through uncertain times are limitless. Sometimes, all you need to do is simply get out your supplies and start putting pen, paint, pencil, or whatever you prefer, to paper with no expectations.
Pinwheel Crafts Team