Art based therapy or expressive art therapy is an innovative tool and medium of therapy that has been proven to be beneficial to all, and especially children. Children, more often than not, prefer to use their actions rather than their words. This is generally due to the fact that either they may be too young to fully articulate things or they may think that the adults do not take them seriously. Sometimes these are also used in circumstances where the child has suffered grief or abuse, to help them deal with their emotions. Whatever be the reason, through art, many children find it more effective in communicating what they are feeling. As adults, we may not think much of the tiny minds, but they conjure up worlds of their own, which can seem incomprehensible to us and perhaps can be better understood with art therapy. Thus art based therapy is becoming a popular choice among parenting tools to better understand and empathise with the child. This is also great for developing many other life skills in children, which can prove to be beneficial in their future.
Art based therapy has shown a remarkable effects on children with special needs like autism, speech impairments, developmental problems, ADHD and other physical and psychological conditions. However, it should not be brushed off as a form of therapy only for special circumstances. Every school curriculum has art and craft classes deeply embedded in their routine from the very early years. This is because any form of art – whether it’s music or painting or writing or any creative activity – is known to help overall development in children.
As discussed before, children may not always have the verbal skills or the vocabulary to effectively express themselves. However, creative art has no such barriers and the kids can express their energies and their emotions however they deem right. Being in this safe space, among other kids, and being able to create something without judgement not only builds confidence but also helps in peer bonding, both of which are necessary skills in life. Creative art appeals to their creativity and imagination and also calms the mind. These art activities are also often carried out in groups and thus help them build their social skills. All of these combined together also makes them more empathetic towards others, thus making them better prepared for the days to come.
Another positive aspect of art therapy is the building of cognitive skills. Through the medium of art (whatever be their art of choice), children learn the meanings of colours and shapes and also learn more about (by witnessing) cause and effect, consequences, problem solving and decision making. They may also learn to use visual mediums and how to communicate through the same. Art also requires the active participation of the brain and thus helps develop the cognitive skills of the child. They learn to discern between reality and imagination and also become observant of the things around them. By observing things, giving meaning to them, associating them with energies and emotion and ultimately visually representing the same, builds a complex neural network of thinking capabilities, reasoning and more, which is an essential skill in children as they grow up.
Art based therapy also has impacts on the emotional well being and the emotional development of the child. This can not only help them understand their emotions but also grasp the world around them. When they express themselves through art, it begins a conversation about the thoughts, imagination and creativity in their little heads. This gives them the confidence to express themselves and also encourages them to learn more. Expression through art gives them the confidence to not only embrace but also express effectively what they are feeling, thinking or facing.
Art is also beneficial for a child’s physical development. Hand-eye coordination, improved motor skills and muscle development can occur when the child is involved in art that involves physical movement like dancing or theatre. While the other arts like painting or writing may not require much physical effort, they too help in developing the smaller muscle groups and also improve coordination skills.
With so many benefits and so much joy to offer, it is no wonder that art therapy is becoming very popular among parents and kids alike. However, before you start buying all the art supplies, it is a good idea to speak to their teacher or an art therapist who can recommend the activity based on the child’s interests and needs. As a parent, you too must actively partake in the activity to learn the impact and lessons from the child’s art. You can consult their teacher on their observations and how to interpret art better – this will help build better communication between you and your child, one which may not always need words. And most importantly, make this an activity for encouragement and fun, and never criticism.
Art therapy as a parenting tool can be used in both pleasant and unpleasant situations. To reward good behaviour or encourage positive developments, you can sit with them to create something that they can be proud of – this may involve new supplies and quality parent-child time, in ways that they understand. If they have tantrums, or seem upset, you can encourage them to express their feelings through their choice of art. This will not only help them understand themselves but also put them in a calmer head space. Moreover, being involved in creative experiences in day-to-day life and spending quality time with the parents has a positive effect on the child’s development and behaviour. This can lead to better communication, less tantrums or mood swings and also help in overall development. With encouragement and active learning, children can become happy, social beings who understand themselves and are capable of being empathetic. All of these skills put together, help raise a child, who is much more confident and well prepared for the life ahead. So, go ahead and get those art supplies – it’s time to have some quality time with your child!