Helping children to understand their thoughts, feelings, and actions at an early stage can have a positive impact as they become adults, research has shown. One of the ways in which Fortis’ Child Therapists supports young people in exploring their emotions is through Art Therapy.
Children’s Art Week is taking place Saturday 8th to Sunday 16th June 2019, and we wanted to take this opportunity to talk about how art can make a positive impact therapeutically, how activities can engage children and identify what may be driving difficult thoughts.
What is Children’s Art Therapy?
“It’s widely known that children learn through exploration, visual or tactile materials and objects that have the ability to capture children’s attention. Play exploration allows children to develop their imagination, dexterity and physical, emotional and cognitive strength.” says Ellie, one of Fortis’ Associate Art Therapists.
“It is no surprise that art-making for children can tap into all of the developmental stages as there is such an array of materials to work with, such as paint, collage, drawing, 3D making, printing, clay, charcoal, and so on.
“A way in which I initially engage with children is to make the session playful and carefree. Art making is so often seen as a treat in schools and can be constricted to a specific theme within the lessons. I use paint in a free-flowing way in my first session, often pouring the paint for the bottle on to a piece of paper and using many tools to spread it about the page. The purpose of this is to collaboratively work on a painting to establish that relationship and make the child aware that this is a space for them to feel creatively free as they can be.”
Dragon’s Breath Exercise
Emilia, Associate Child Art Therapist, uses a Dragon’s Breath Exercise activity that allows for children to enjoy making a piece of creative artwork and act through a character whilst learning mindful breathing by making the dragon ‘roar’.
“Mindful breathing is important for students to understand, especially when it’s hard to know when they might need to stop and focus. When trying this activity, we thought about what might trigger them to take some time to breathe. For this, I used thought processing sheets to help highlight their ideas. Students explored materials and were creative with their ideas when designing their dragons.
“The students learn about ‘balloon breath’, taking deep breaths into their stomachs filling their upper body, lungs, and stomachs full with air, then when breathing out pulling their stomachs in. This can be done for staggered longer periods of time, for example two seconds breathing in and out and increasing it to four, six seconds.
“It enables learning a new technique combined with creating and playing with the idea of a character. Making the dragon could vary from group work to individual work, or students can pair up together to practise their breathing techniques together or on their own.
“Students play around with noises when breathing and enjoyed trying to make the dragon roar!”