While art is often used as a form of play or a way of keeping children busy, there is substantial research that supports that creative expression is not only fun, it can also be therapeutic and can build confidence. The interrelationship of fun, creative expression, therapy, and empowerment lead me to include coloring or drawing pages in each of my guided journals. After all, journaling is not restricted to writing words! I also include an art project in my classes and workshops.
Laura Clay, a licensed clinical professional counselor and owner of Forward Emotion in Lisle, Illinois, has 10 years of experience using art therapy as part of her practice. As this month's guest contributor, Laura shares the mental health benefits of art.
Would you believe me if I told you that we are all born creative? Think back to your childhood, when you were free to let your mind wander and live in the land of make believe. Your imagination was the spark that ignited creativity! You might have created your own game or played out a story that you made up. That is being creative! You took what was in your head and made it tangible. The same thing is happening when a child draws, colors and scribbles, turning their imaginary friend, the friendly octopus, into art!
When children are being creative and use art, they are doing so much more than just having fun. Art making can help children improve fine motor skills, increase their ability to analyze and problem-solve, and even learn math. It helps them to feel good and improve their self-confidence. Making art is also a way to express themselves in a healthy way. It can be a way to calm down, to focus on something else, and to decrease anxiety. I remember thinking my kids were being too quiet (wondering what were they up to?), only to peek in their room to see them intently coloring something!
As an art therapist that works with adults, I can’t count how many times I have heard “I am NOT creative” or “I don’t have a creative bone in my body”. I have found that as we grow up, our creativity and artistic abilities are often halted because of being criticized, being made to feel ‘not good enough’ or ‘creative enough’, or being scolded for coloring outside of the lines. So make sure you praise your child’s creativity and works of art. It will help them feel good about themselves, encourage them to keep creating and see art making as a positive, useful part of a happy life.
Remember that there are many forms of art. My son enjoys drawing very detailed pencil illustrations of buildings and cars, while my friend's daughter creates colorful illustrations of animals. Others enjoy photography, jewelry making, pottery, cartooning, or woodwork. Acting, singing, and dancing are art forms. Be creative along with your child! After all, art is not only for kids!