Art therapy plays such an important part in our everyday lives. Having the ability to create something meaningful as well as connect and explore the thoughts inside of our heads is extremely important. Whether you’re looking for art therapy ideas to help your kids connect and explore their emotions or you’re an adult trying to manage addictions, here is a list of activities to get you started.
What is art therapy?
The American Art Therapy Association tells us that, “Art therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change.”
Art therapy is so important for both children and adults. There are always times in our lives where we feel stressed and sometimes even lost, art therapy gives us a way to hone in our thoughts and emotions in a positive and healthy way. Art therapy can help kids explore their emotions and understand the things going on in their life. On the other hand, art therapy can also help adults improve their self-esteem and even manage their addictions by transitioning it to different hands-on activity that reduces stress.
Art therapy is a mental health service and is performed by professional art therapists. If you’re not in search of an art therapist, there are still many art therapy activities for you to practice at home to help both kids and adults feel more grounded.
Read More: Exploration of play therapy for children
Art Therapy Ideas for Children
- Picture your Emotions
Children experience so many different emotions that they cannot comprehend. Sometimes they will encounter a situation like arguing with a sibling, and although they can say that they are angry, they may not know exactly what that looks like. Having them “picture their emotions” and draw it out is a way for the children to see their emotions as a separate entity instead of feeling it in whole.
This can show your child that they are not their emotion, giving them the ability to control how they feel. This can be done with almost anything from crayons to paint!
- Nature Art
Being surrounded by nature is hands down one of the best things for children! The benefits to being outside are endless, but according to the Child Mind Institute being outside can “build confidence, promote creativity and imagination, teach responsibility, provide different stimulation, and it helps keep kids moving and thinking”.
There are so many art therapy ideas that involve nature! One of our favorites is creating their own tree and bugs. Start by going on a nature walk, whether it’s in your own neighborhood or in a blooming park. Have your child pick out different leaves, sticks and flowers to create their own tree or forest. Take this time to talk to your child about anything that is on their mind, and how growth is important!
Once your little one has collected all the natural items they like, print off a black tree and have them glue the items onto their own tree. This helps promotes thinking and planning ahead, while also being connected to nature.
- Inspirational Canvases
When it comes to thinking of art therapy ideas, you’ll want to focus on something that will not only help children explore their emotions, but also improve their self-esteem. Talking to your child about what’s going on can give you a better idea of the types of things they need to hear. Once you’ve figured out the words of affirmation they need, hop on Pinterest, and find a few inspirational quotes! Print off the letters, and have your child stick them on a canvas and paint over them.
It’ll be extremely therapeutic for your child to physically touch and create the words of affirmation, and they’ll be able to hang it up in their room every day to see and hear the words they need.
Hands down one of the best things to incorporate into your art therapy ideas is music! Music is known for evoking emotions and oftentimes we rely on songs to help us feel a certain emotion. Just think of going to a baseball game and “We Will Rock You” by Queen comes on. Everyone in the stadium feels a sense of closeness as you belt out the song and get pumped for the game to continue on.
Psychcentral tells us, “More than any other stimulus, music has the ability to conjure up images and feelings that need not necessarily be directly reflected in memory.” So if music has a way of connecting us to emotions and giving us the ability to picture things in a clear manner, then why not connect it to art therapy ideas?
Ways to incorporate music could be to pick up a new instrument, have a dance party, or ask your child what they’re feeling and search for that emotion on Spotify for a playlist created just for that mood.
- Dual Self Portrait
Sometimes, kids feel that the way people see them is completely different than the way that they’re feeling on the inside. Connecting those two into art therapy ideas can help them create one person to help your child identify who they are and who they want to be. It shows the child the importance of inner beauty, as well as being able to identify areas and ways to build their self-confidence.
Start by having your child draw out their face. Draw a line down the middle and ask your little one to draw on one side how they see themselves and the other side how they think other people see them.
Art Therapy Ideas for Adults
- Inspiration Stones
Just as getting outside is important for children, it’s also extremely important for adults as well. Take a nature walk of your own, and find different types of stones. Choose a few key words that you need to hear or words of affirmation, and paint the stone with those words on them.
Some great words of affirmation to paint on your stone could be “Hope, Trust yourself, Strength, Acceptance, Fearless, and This Too Shall Pass”. Once you’ve created your inspirational stones, you can set them in your garden where you can grow alongside your flowers, or place them in a bowl to draw one each day for a pick me up!
- Forgiveness Box
As adults, we often get caught up in our own heads. Someone at some point has upset you, and it can drive you crazy or cause more stress than needed. In some cases, that person can even be yourself. The process of creating one is stress relieving and a creative outlet. You can find a random shoe box and paint it, or even pick up some wood from a local hardware store if you want it to be better quality.
Once you’ve created the forgiveness box itself, you can place a number of things inside. Items can include photos, letters, poems, or even the name of the person you’re trying to forgive. This activity can help you find forgiveness and navigate through anger you may not be able to sort through yourself.
Read More: The power of forgiveness
- Mandala Art
You’ve likely heard of mandalas, but incorporating them into your art therapy ideas is simply one of the best things you can do. Invaluable tells us that, “In Hinduism and Buddhism, the belief is that by entering the mandala and proceeding towards its center, you are guided through the cosmic process of transforming the universe from one of suffering into one of joy and happiness.”
If that doesn’t scream art therapy, then I’m not sure what does. You can create your own mandalas, or you can even buy books for coloring them in! As you’re creating your mandala, think of the parts of life you’re struggling with and turn them into moments of joy to release the stress they cause.
- Draw your Ideal Future
This is one of the art therapy ideas that can be done with any art instrument including pencils, crayons, or paint. If you’re suffering from addiction or have been through a trauma that you feel controls you, creating your ideal future can help you find the right path. You may be surprised at what comes up in your ideal world, but visualizing and writing it down on paper can help give you the courage and strength to continue fighting for the things you want in life.
One of the most important parts of art therapy is being consistent with it. You can’t expect results or the ability to navigate emotions without doing them often. So when you’re thinking up art therapy ideas, make sure to think of things that you can incorporate often. A doodle-a-day is a perfect idea for those who live a busy lifestyle but still want to work on art therapy. The process is simple – create a drawing every day!
*Bonus Idea – Create a weekly or monthly theme for your doodle-a-day to get even more creative!*
When you begin to create these art therapy ideas, remember to get creative! This is something that is meant to help guide you through the different emotions that you’re experiencing and improve your self-esteem – you shouldn’t feel limited within a certain space. If you’re not feeling great doing an activity with a pencil, pick up a paintbrush instead, you never know what creative outlet will be perfect for you until you try.
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