Does art therapy for kids really work? Yes, I see it everyday! As someone who has been teaching art for nearly twenty-two years, I can personally speak to the therapeutic affects of art on children. More and more, children are engaged in mental and physical activities all day long. Their brains are rarely able to rest due to the pressures of school, social engagements, sports, and the draw of technology. Even though our children use technology for a sense of retreat, it is not a way for the brain to rest and re-set. Art, however, works wonders for re-centering children, calming their nerves, and giving them a boost in their day.
I teach at a prep. school with an accelerated curriculum that challenges even the most gifted students. At my school, students are required to take Latin in junior high, and they are given the dense texts of western society's greatest scholars to read and digest. The math and science curricula are equally accelerated, culminating with physics their junior and senior years. These students are put under enormous pressure to succeed in these courses, and they compete in athletics as well as extracurricular activities after school. Fortunately, since we are a liberal arts school, studio art is a requirement for all of our students. As they come into my classroom and begin to work, I can see their shoulders relax. The stress on their faces softens into smiles and soon the worries of their busy lives are sloughed off. This is due to the naturally therapeutic process of making art.
If we take the making of a painting as an example , the power of art becomes clear. As one begins a painting, the canvas is a pristine white rectangle. It is empty, representing pure logic and order. Gradually, through the process of painting, the artist creates disorder and chaos on the canvas. There is always a moment in painting, when one wonders if they have any talent at all and if there is any possibility of the painting working out. It is a messy process and layers of paint need to be added before order is resolved. But, gradually with effort, the painting does begin to resolve. In a landscape painting, leaves begin to a appear, a sky begins to sit back in the distance, and colors begin to work together. It is so rewarding to see this happen. For students, there is a sense of accomplishment as well as a sense of peace at creating order in an otherwise disordered life. While they are painting, they relax and are able to just focus on developing that sense of logic back into the canvas. Many students tell me that art is the best part of their day and plead to be allowed to stay, even after the bell has rung.
Of course, there is more to art therapy than the daily rewards of making art. Art therapy has been used for years to help children and adults cope with and communicate challenging circumstances. Teachers can use art therapy in their classrooms to connect with children and support their emotional needs. Bellow is a nice little article further explaining the value of art therapy. It also offers some insights for general ed. teachers to instill art therapy into their classrooms. Everyone can benefit from doing a little art!
If you have had a positive experience with art therapy, either as a teacher or student, I would love to hear your comments.
Author: Bruce Black
Welcome to Life Reimagined! I am a professional artist and long time art teacher, Over twenty-two years teaching and still going! I have painted all my life and love to inspire others to reach their creative potential. I hope this blog brings you inspiration!