Visual arts are a strong tool in preventing children’s problems, as well as helping them change and grow. Art is a way for children to figure out and let go of their feelings, rather than keeping them inside. It helps children think creatively, divergently, take on risks, fail, and cope in a flexible way. It allows them to discover that part of them which is unique and special. In this way, art can be particularly helpful to problem children, because it helps them develop better feelings towards their schoolwork, themselves, and others.
You can facilitate this emotional growth through a number of processes: (a) providing a structure within which children can discover their own way; (b) letting children choose the art materials they feel most comfortable with; (c) accepting and trying to understand what children’s art means to them; (d) reflecting children’s feelings back to them or simply providing support and encouragement; (e) accepting all the feelings and fantasies children express, and making it clear these are only make-believe and not real; (f) prizing everything they do which is genuine; and (g) setting reasonable expectations and not leading children into producing work which you think would look nice in the front hall display (Rubin, 1984).
Ideas for Art Projects
- Scribble drawing–helps children get over any inhibitions of drawing, and subdues their desire to create something perfect. Similar activities are finger painting and sculpting an unthing.
- Draw yourself: how children think other people see them, how they’d like other people to see them, how they are–uncovers interesting comparisons between how children perceive themselves and how they think others see them.
- Draw a feeling–helpful for a child who is unable to say what he feels.
- Draw the worst picture you can–allows children to express aggression and anger.
- Do a collage–let children choose their own themes; this can be a source of discussion later on.
- Draw with your left hand–gives you an opportunity to observe how a child handles frustration.
Another idea related to art is having children start up hobbies. Collection hobbies are especially helpful for hyperactive children because they require patience, organization, and perseverance. Also hobbies have an end-product, something children can show off to other people and be proud of. If you’d like more ideas on visual art activities, read Art for Exceptional Children (3rd edition), 1984, by D. M. Uhlin and Edith DeChiara.