31 May 2023
4 Thoughts on Art as Therapy for Kids
— My Story
The My Story Tribe's Art Journal for kids have been widely recommended by South African Therapists. As a company that develops resources for Tween Emotional Growth, we have discovered beautiful, positive results and plenty of benefits when including art as a tool to facilitate growth through expression. According to Susan Magsamen, the founder and executive director of the International Arts + Mind Lab at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, creating art has a significant impact on the brain. Research shows that the process of making art activates the prefrontal cortex, helping build executive functioning skills such as planning and organizing. Other rewards to creative expression is that it activates the vagus nerve, engaging the parasympathetic systems to make you feel good.
We at The My Story Tribe often tap into the wisdom of local Art Therapist Zaitoon Ebrahim to bring perspective to the ‘art’ of using art as therapy! Here is what she says:
1. Why should a parent consider Art Therapy for their child?
I have often engaged in therapeutic art activities for children and have found that it becomes a meditative experience as well as a means to express their thoughts, feelings and behaviour. This platform also provides them the opportunity to learn things about themselves. Art therapy allows free expression and provides insight into the subconscious and unconscious thoughts of our little ones. This gives us the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of who they are, as well as any problems or challenges that they may be suppressing. It is important to mention here that as parents we should view their art without judgement as it is a safe space for them to be able to express their feelings.
2. What are the benefits for children if they use art as therapy?
The benefits of art are extensive. It can provide an opportunity to connect and engage their whole self which includes self expression, their physical body through movement in relation to their motor skills, their energetic self which speaks to the inner and outer aura or intuition which offers safety and developing mindfulness, their connection with God and their higher self, and the development of the mind, with regard to expanding their growth mindset.
3. How can kids use art as therapy in their homes?
- Start by purchasing art journals, buying various inexpensive crafts, pens and crayons. Crayons offer a brilliant tool for art therapy for release of emotion overwhelm and release.
- Set up a station to allow them a place to go to when they are experiencing stress, etc. A great way to implement is when your little one is unable to verbalise what they feel in a particular situation. At this point ask them to express what they are feeling on paper. Start the process by telling them to take a few breaths in order to centre and ground. They must imagine taking deep breaths as if they are smelling a flower. Then allow them to use whichever colour they want and just to start drawing, even if these just end up being scribbles..
- Pay attention to the colours they are using. Dark and sombre colours are often associated with 'negative' feelings or thoughts.
- While they are busy, do not hover unless they want you to sit with them.
- Consider doing an art exercise at the same table and express yourself too. This makes them feel less fearful about expressing themselves and messing up. When you are done, speak about your art piece with them and why you chose certain colours, symbols, etc, then ask them if they would like to do the same. Remember to be non-judgemental and try not to provide your personal feedback as what they could have done or should do, unless they ask you. This experience is about providing a safe space for them. Very often they just need to vent as much as adults do too.
4. Why do you love Art as Therapy?
Gosh for many reasons! It helps greatly with the expansion of the mind and what's possible. In so many ways, when we are allowed to express ourselves freely without judgement, it allows one to unpack many irrational beliefs that we have acquired over many years and in our childhood. Of course these become more impactful when done through a guided process in order to use specific techniques to anchor our thoughts.
Art helps to let go of perfection, and helps to develop our focus and patience. It develops the creative mind which enables us to deal with problems rationally and more effectively.(Zaitoon Ebrahim is the founder of Being With Purpose and facilitates Art as Therapy Workshops for both children and adults. www.beingwithpurpose.co.za )