Why Is Art Therapy Effective for Kids and Teens?
Here are the primary ways art therapy has proven to be effective in improving the overall well being of kids and teens:
Cognitive development and creativity - Research has shown that art therapy supports cognitive development. Such activities can encourage individuals to explore their thoughts in a safe environment. For kids and teens, art therapy works to improve memory, focus, and problem-solving skills.
Emotional expression and regulation - Therapeutic artistic activities have also been associated with better control over one’s emotions. Mindfulness art therapy, specifically, can promote healing and increase self-awareness by utilizing visual creativity and freedom of self-expression. In a safe and supportive space, teens are free to explore their inner thoughts and process unresolved emotions through different art mediums.
Sense of accomplishment and self-esteem - Art therapy can also significantly boost an individual’s self-esteem. These activities help struggling teens understand themselves better from a fresh perspective and explore their unique talents. This reinforces feelings of self-worth, acceptance, and competence.
Art Therapy Exercises and Techniques For Teens
Here are some fun and unique ideas to welcome teens to the world of art therapy:
The simple act of drawing can be a relaxing experience. Whether it’s expressing your inner thoughts or just doodling a favorite TV character, drawing can help nurture mental health.
#1 Freeform Doodling
Freeform doodling is where you let the artist’s hand take the reins. Encourage them to draw whatever feels right without giving it much thought. They are free to move their hand across the paper, untethered by any requirements. This can significantly help them loosen up their muscles and relax.
#2 Collaborative Drawing Games
Collaborative art therapy activities for teens encourage teamwork and help develop their social skills. An engaging activity is to divide them up into teams and instruct one person to make an incomplete drawing on a piece of paper. Ask the next team member to continue it according to their understanding, and so on. Encourage everyone to think outside the box and let their imagination run wild!
#3 Emotional Color Wheel
Coloring can be a calming activity, but it can also open a window to an individual’s emotions. Making an emotional color wheel allows teens to visualize their feelings. Present the student with a circle divided into sections, each representing a color and a corresponding emotion. Ask the teen to draw whatever comes to mind for each emotion, encouraging them to access their deepest feelings.
#4 Sketching Emotions
Sketching emotions is about associating different lines and shapes with feelings. In this activity, teens are encouraged to sketch whatever comes to mind to express their current emotions — anger, excitement, fear, joy, etc. This activity increases their self-awareness and helps the artist get in touch with their emotions.
Painting is a great way to engage the mind and improve cognitive function. It can also be a freeing experience — swirling the brush around the canvas, exhibiting the mixing of colors, and creating whatever you feel inside.
#5 Watercolor Expressions
This therapeutic art activity empowers teens to let their emotions flow freely. Start by asking them to close their eyes, imagine what they are feeling, and picture what colors and images bring up that emotion. Then, encourage them to recreate those depictions on a canvas. Owing to the highly blendable and unpredictable nature of watercolors, students can express their emotions on a wide spectrum of hues and depth.
#6 Finger Painting
Finger painting is a wonderful form of self-expression, unencumbered by any type of equipment. It engages all the major senses — tactile, auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. All the artist needs to do is dip their fingers in the paint and let out their feelings.
#7 Abstract Emotion Painting
Abstract art is a form of creative expression that doesn’t require a realistic representation. Instead, it uses colors, gestures, and shapes to form a visual creation bearing spiritual and emotional connotations. Abstract emotion painting is an effective way to process difficult emotions. Let the artist’s imagination and feelings run free.
Mindful Painting Techniques
Mindfulness painting is a spur-of-the-moment activity — a therapeutic experience that allows the artist to gradually become aware of the present. It enables them to tap into their intuition and let it guide the painting.
#8 Painting to Express Yourself
Painting as a means of self-expression is where the artist tunes into their emotions and thoughts, and transfers them onto their canvas. In this activity, you can ask them to paint a picture of themselves to practice self-acceptance. The focus is on the journey — observing the physical, spiritual, and emotional sensations while creating the painting. It can help the teen communicate unfulfilled needs and buried emotions.
#9 Blending Colors to Represent Emotions
An artist can become absorbed in the present as they focus on the ways different colors blend to create new hues. This mindfulness-based activity can foster a sense of calm while improving the teen’s state of well-being. Choosing colors that complement their feelings — for example, cool blue hues if they feel stressed — can make the process more engaging.
Clay and Sculpting Activities
Using clay as a means of expression can stimulate emotional recovery and calm the mind. These activities engage the major senses, including touch, sound, and smell. They help artists connect with their inner selves by representing their emotions in tangible form.
#10 Simple Clay Figures
Ask the students to create basic clay figures to the best of their abilities, such as flower pots, bowls, and vases. The feeling of accomplishment by creating a working piece can be wonderful for building self-esteem and improving mental health.
#11 Building Miniature Worlds
Creating miniature settings from clay can be a great outlet to express the artist’s inner creativity. Taking care of tiny details while recreating a setting that means something to the artist can help channel their deep feelings and thoughts.
Group Art Therapy Activities
Group art therapy activities for teens involve a team setting where each member brings their own creative expression to a project. These activities are designed to improve social skills and reduce feelings of seclusion. Here are some example activities:
#12 Team Murals
Groups can create large-scale murals on a canvas or a wall with a central theme designed to spark creativity. Collaborating to create a single piece of art can enhance their communication skills and the ability to work in a team setting.
#13 Mandala Drawing
A mandala is a set of repetitive patterns and shapes in a circular boundary. Creating mandalas is believed to enhance relaxation and awareness. This group art therapy activity involves students taking turns to fill a circle with their desired shapes, patterns, and colors. Each student is given a canvas with a circle and a set amount of time to fill it with their creativity. The drawings are then rotated to the next student until the circles are complete.
#14 Storyboard Sharing
This activity involves creating and sharing visual narratives in a storyboard format. It’s a unique outlet where students can express their feelings in a structured manner and learn to engage with their peers. For this activity, provide a storyboard template to each student, encouraging self-expression. When they are done, allow each student to share their story with the group, explaining the emotional significance behind it.