Ayden was 18 months old, and his brother
Ashton was nine months, Kent had them
outside painting on boxes in the driveway.
Now in the fourth grade, Ayden is inter-
ested in sculpture, and dreams of being an
architect. “When Ayden is creating art, his
focus is sharp,” says Kent. “I see a difference
in his self-esteem, his calmer approach to
life, and his ability to look at things from dif-
ferent perspectives. Inviting other kids over
to make art together is an opportunity for
Ayden to socialize with friends.”
If you do art therapy at home with your
child, don’t worry if he draws only stick fig-
ures. It is the process that counts. Feel free
to jump in and make art with your child. It’s
another opportunity to connect. You may
create something more magnificent than
either of you could have imagined. A
STACEY L. NELSON, ATR- BC, is a professor
at George Washington University’s Masters in
Art Therapy Program and an art therapist for
special needs students at the Kennedy Krieger
Institute, in Rockville, Maryland.
ART AT HOME
Doing art at home with a parent can calm
and focus a child who has had a hard day at
school, or finds it difficult to settle down.
Here are a few pointers for parents:
> SET THE STAGE. Give your child
boundaries when doing art projects.
Taping off one section of a large piece of
craft paper will sharpen a child’s focus. Art
trays, on which a child can place all of her
materials, are useful. Trays can hold materials, such as paint, clay, and plaster.
> GOOGLE AWAY. Finding simple craft
projects is as easy as searching “crafts”
and “school-age children.”
> KEEP I T SIMPLE AND SHORT. Start
with projects that have three or fewer
steps (color, cut, glue, for instance).
This will increase a child’s focus and the
chances of his completing the project.
> HAVE KIDS GET UP AND MOVE
AROUND. Movement burns excess
energy and allows a child to hit the reset
button when she is getting bored with a
> USE A TIMER. It slows down kids who
have a poor sense of time, and who feel
the need to rush through a project.
> START WI TH MANDALAS. These pre-
drawn circles on a piece of paper capture
a child’s attention. Having a starting point
lessens a child’s anxiety about what to cre-
ate when facing a blank paper. Patterned
mandala designs are free online.
> JUST COLOR. Coloring is a relaxing,
non-threatening activity for children and
adults. Remember how calming it was for
you in your childhood.