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5 Great Projects for Art Therapists to Utilize With Children

Art Projects That Can Help Therapists Reach Troubled Kids

  • Mood boards
  • Postcards
  • Affirming objects
  •  Puppets
  • Sculptures

Art therapy can be used to help children cope with stressful or traumatic events. Rather than forcing them to talk about their feelings out loud, art therapists can encourage them to paint, print or paste their emotions on a blank canvass. The therapist just has to select the right kind of art therapy projects to draw the child out of their shell.

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1. Mood Boards

A mood board is a collection of words, images, and objects that describe a particular feeling. They can be a great way to help non-verbal children express themselves, especially if the child in question has cognitive issues that make them "see" the world differently. A mood board will give them the chance to share their unique vision through collage-style art that doesn't have lines or limits. All they have to do is follow their mood and create something that reflects it.

2. Postcards

Making postcards can be therapeutic in a variety of ways. If the child has anger issues, they can symbolically destroy a postcard bearing their negative thoughts and emotions; this will allow them to both vent their frustrations and channel their destructive urges in a harmless way. If the child is struggling with loneliness, a postcard sent to a friend, relative or pen pal can make them feel a little more connected to the world. Postcards can also be used in conjunction with things like color therapy. In an article titled "Color and psychological functioning," researchers found strong links between color and mood.

3. Affirming Objects

Art therapists are usually employed to help a child deal with negative emotions like stress, grief, guilt, fear, and anxiety. Positive affirmations can help them focus on something other than their own turbulent thoughts, especially if they cut, paint, glue, chisel or bedazzle their affirming message onto an object that they can carry with them. For example, they might create a beaded necklace that spells out "love" or "courage," or they might paint a stress ball with a motivational quote.

4. Puppets

Puppets serve two purposes in art therapy. For one, they can offer a glimpse into the child's worldview, especially if they're creating puppets that look like themselves or their loved ones. Do the puppets accurately reflect appearances, or do they have exaggerated features that suggest problems with self-image or self-confidence? Secondly, puppets can be used to role-play difficult scenarios in a safe environment. Even if the child isn't comfortable talking about their feelings directly, they might be willing to use a puppet as a proxy.

5. Sculptures

Sculptures will offer art therapists a lot of options when it comes to materials. While most commonly made of clay or putty, sculptures can also be fashioned with things like paper mache, so therapists can choose the best option for their particular patient. If the child has anxiety issues, they might respond best to Play-Doh that can be molded and re-molded after mistakes. If the child could use something permanent as an attachment object, they might like forming their own creations and putting them into a kiln.

These are just a few art therapy projects that can be used to help children overcome emotional issues. Whether they're working through a trauma or learning how to process the world despite a developmental disorder, they might not respond well to traditional therapy techniques. They might need an art therapist to break through their barriers and show them the way.