Art for kids' sake

As a parent, an art therapist, and a publisher of a blog on making art with kids, I often think about the importance of art in the lives of children. Art is a universal, biological trait of the human species, satisfying our innate need to make things special and meaningful. Engaging in the creative process is life-affirming and builds self-esteem. It allows a safe space for re-authoring the past or rehearsing for the future while staying grounded in each present, tactile, colorful moment. Parents often ask me how they can facilitate positive art experiences for their children. Here are a few simple tips:

  • Present your child with developmentally appropriate art materials and activities that will help them to feel a sense of mastery while also stretching a bit to learn something new.
  • Choose quality materials and present them to your child in the same spirit as setting an inviting dinner table for special guests.
  • Allow your child the freedom to experiment with materials, to make a mess, to make mistakes, and to engage in open creative expression rather than trying to achieve a predetermined product.
  • Art is a safe holding environment for shadow material, and provides an opportunity for sublimation of dark experiences. We parents often want to brighten or smooth over negative content in the name of “protecting” our children; however this can minimize the importance of their feelings.
  • Approach each piece of art with humble curiosity, never assuming you know more than the artist about its meaning.

Art gives concrete form to often unformulated feelings, and is a natural language for children. Your child’s art holds his or her stories, emotions, worldview, and self-concept, so treat each art experience as an opportunity to deepen your relationship and each image with the same respect and love as you would treat your child.

Originally published by Allstate.