For centuries, art has been used as a way of expression. And over the years, psychologists and scientists have authenticated that art can also be used as a therapy to tackle emotional stress and express feelings. In addition, art therapy can help children express themselves better and tackle emotional issues. According to Dr. Aarti Bakshi, Developmental Psychologist and SEL Consultant at SAAR Education, Art therapy for children allows them to show their ideas and thoughts freely without the use of words to enhance a child’s growth and development. Here's everything about you need to know about art therapy for children.
Art Therapy for Children
Children communicate in many ways. Kids who are reluctant to express their thoughts verbalise things once their rapport forms with the facilitator. This trust helps them suddenly feel relaxed, and communication flows easier. So, they talk and draw or doodle and paint and colour or playing with toys while talking. This is what art therapy does. The art-making process can improve the child’s mental health, social skills, self-esteem, and overall well-being. Different art mediums enhance creativity by what their minds want to express. Art therapy also increases focus, attention span and ability to follow instructions.
Art Therapy in a Group Session
Children learn by socially connecting with their peers. Art therapy in a group session improves focus, verbal skills, eye contact, and on-task behaviours. In group therapy, children can find peer support, gain confidence to share their experiences, and easily open to others. The core of group sessions is to prevent the child’s feelings of isolation and boost their sense of normalcy. Participants can gain inspiration and strength from the resourcefulness of those who also experience the same situation they are currently in.
The difference between art therapy and art class is that these classes focus more on the artistic outputs, unlike art therapy, where the goal is to help individuals express thoughts and renew their perspectives about life.
The Advantages of Art Therapy
Children of all ages, both special needs and not, may not have the language skills to express themselves, but they still have a voice. Art therapy awakens a child’s imagination and creativity to help him discover who he is and how to engage his senses. They also bring a sense of calm to the body and positively impact mindset, interpretation of surroundings and emotional state.
1. Emotional Regulation: In addition to being an emotional outlet for children, expressive arts therapy can help them develop and better understand their feelings. Being angry or hurt is not always easy to describe in words, but a child can put these emotions into a drawing, colours or doodle and make it easy for themselves and others to comprehend. It also creates a starting point for conversation, which can lead to a more open expression of feelings and thoughts.
2. Psychologically safe: Putting their feelings into drawing about a poem, painting a situation gives children a safe outlet for negative emotions through an enjoyable activity, which accelerates the healing and growth process. But expressive arts aren’t just for coping, they also have great effects on a child’s normal development. Art can become an alternative language for a child. For example, if a child is going through tough times due to academic failures or peer pressure, their social behaviour and their performance at school can be affected. Art therapy can become an outlet merely to express their negative thoughts and a way to understand themselves and the situation better.
3. Pride and Freedom of expressing: The process and creation of artwork gives a child as a sense of fulfilment and acts as a positive coping strategy. Bringing out those negative thoughts and memories through art allows one to point out the main problem for a therapeutic start. Paintings and drawings can be more than just a source of enjoyment and entertainment. They can become children’s diversion from the real world, where they can explore and express themselves freely.
4. Art and our Brain connection: On a deeper level, art seems to have an impact on the brain’s neural connections, which act as the wiring for learning. Whichever art form is being utilized, the senses must operate, and deep thinking is a requirement. This leads to the development of skills such as recognizing the difference between abstract and reality, understanding patterns, making observations about the world, and forming mental representations of what is real or imagined. Overall, the expressive arts help children develop comprehensive thinking capabilities through the interaction of complex thought processes.
5: Cognitive enhancement: Being creative helps us to see the world differently with a new perspective. Doing art activates regions of our brains and the frontal lobe responsible for problem solving and memory.
6. Fine motor skills development: Children can gain control over their hand-eye coordination and flexibility as they search through art materials, enhancing their motor skills. A simple paper scrunching, painting, pinching of clay, squeezing, and threading through beads exercise a child’s fingers, hands, and wrists.
Letting children engage in an artistic activity allows children to navigate the ups and downs of life and showcase their individual personalities and expression. Expressions through arts and crafts help children and adults recover from trauma and negative situations. Art therapy helps children and adults connect with their inner selves by providing activities that involve a creative process. Using art to tap into their most profound thoughts can result in unfiltered responses and honest feedback that they cannot express through words.