What art therapists know about making art with kids that the rest of us don’t.

what art therapists know about making art with kids

Today I’m happy to be asking my friend Annette–a mom of 3 and trained art therapist–what she knows about making art with kids that the rest of us don’t. Please welcome her to the blog!

You’re a trained art therapist. What does an art therapist do?

Art therapy is sometimes also called creative therapy or expressive therapy. It’s basically fun counseling. Instead of the usual “talk” therapy, the client explores issues through more expressive (and often more revealing) ways like art, play, and drama.

As an art therapist, what do you know about making art with kids that other parents don’t?

It’s about the process, not the end product! Many times you will not make anything to display. You might just cut or tear paper for the fun of it.

When a kid draws a picture, your response should not be, “What is it?” It might not be anything at all. A better response would be “Tell me about your picture.”

I’ve learned to ask more open-ended questions. For example, a kid draws a bridge or road. You might ask, “Where are you on this bridge/road?” “What two things does this bridge connect?” or “Where does this road lead to?”

Let them play! There is no right or wrong in art. Although staying in the lines does show control, I never tell my kids to stay in the lines. I encourage plain paper first so they can create their own pictures.

Create a time and a place so they can get messy sometimes.

Never judge someone by one piece of artwork. Art therapists look at a body of work over a period of time along with what the artist/client has told them.

What are your favorite supplies to keep on hand?

Variety is always good. If you can, use good quality art supplies. We want products that work and work well. So do kids. The process and end product are much better with the right tools and surface.

We keep basic materials: Pencils, crayons, play-doh, watercolor crayons, watercolor, acrylic paint, old magazines for collage, stamps, and sidewalk chalk. Good paintbrushes with different tips. I save applesauce cups for mixing/pouring paint in.  Some materials like toilet paper rolls, plastic bottle tops, buttons, etc. I have collected over the years. Various beans or noodles are always fun for mosaics or necklaces. My girls enjoy pouring and playing with dry beans. I could go on and on. Storage and organizing is helpful! I have a cabinet and some baskets.

What’s a favorite (art) activity that you and your girls like to do together?

I have one daughter that asks to paint frequently. One of my favorites is barrel marble art. Start with a large plastic container. I have used ones that have held pretzels or whey protein in it. Place paper, paint, and marbles inside. Screw top on and shake, shake, shake. No mess, but loud. Little ones enjoy it too. Remove paper and let it dry. Then you could take it a step further and make a collage with all the pretty paper you have made! We even have done this on a larger scale with a plastic baby pool, large paper, and various large balls. My two daughters and I moved the pool to make the balls roll in the paint across the paper. We then used it as wrapping paper.

Where do you get your ideas for kids’ art projects?

Mostly blogs in the past. More and more it is Pinterest. I search Pinterest with whatever material I have, like “popsicle stick crafts.”  Here’s a list of blogs I’ve chosen projects from.

In the process of linking these, I have now pinned a few projects on Pinterest! Ha ha!

What advice would you give parents who feel lost/overwhelmed/inadequate when it comes to doing art with their kids?

Explore it with them. Everyone is different and therefore will create different things. Don’t worry about what it will look like in the end. Little kids don’t seem to think about that. They just play.  If you don’t enjoy one medium try something different. I don’t like to draw, so I don’t. Maybe you would rather try paper plate weaving, stamps, or collage. Or sticking tissue paper to contact paper and hanging it in window for sun to shine through it.   Check out the web and Pinterest and be inspired to create something with your children.

About Annette:

Annette is married to Tony, and they have 3 daughters together:  Bay (6), June (5), Piper (8mths). She has a M.Ed in Expressive Therapies but is currently a stay-at-home mom. Her passion is creating things, whether that is art, cooking, baking, or building. For great ideas and inspiration follow Annette on Pinterest and Instagram @AnnetteStandrod.

What kind of art do you like to make with kids?

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  1. I love the pool idea! My daughter loves art, me I am more of a craft type person. I might not do art with her all that often but I do make sure she always has a steady supply of paper felts, pencil crayons, crayons, scissors, glue, and 100% access to the recycling bin. For Christmas now that she is older I have decided to purchase her an art kit of sorts made out of water color paints and pastels, real canvas and paint brushes, I am hoping to gather most of the supplies on sale or with coupons over the next couple of months. I want to also include a gift certificate for her first art lessons with a mom in town who loves art and shares her talent with kids.

  2. Jillian Kay says:

    What did moms do before Pinterest? I love it when my kids get bored — I just hop online and search for something fun to do. There are so many creative ideas.

    The pool idea sounds fun — that might make a good idea for Christmas wrapping paper.

    Great post! Thanks!

  3. Tim says:

    What about fingerpainting? That was my fave in kindergarten. Now when we work with little ones it seems that sidewalk chalk is always a big hit. Writing, drawing or just making piles of chalk powder – there’s tons they can do outside with chalk.

  4. Thanks for the reminder that creating is about the process and not necessarily the product at the end. I’m learning to be more intentional about having a messy part in the day. I don’t always do that.

  5. Jessica Heights says:

    I actually almost focused my studies in Art Therapy…but veered in a different direction. Ima big fan though.

    This is great advice – I actually follow a very similar method when making art with my own kiddos! 🙂

  6. Thank you so much for this post – I tend to avoid doing anything like this with my 3 y/o son because it just seems like so much *work*, and he never seems that interested.

    (For example, “work” = get the crayons out, find paper, encourage him to color/draw/whatever while I’m trying to fend off his baby sister from grabbing crayons/ripping paper/annoying her brother. Five minutes max later I’ve got to round up all the crayons to make sure they don’t get eaten/tracked onto carpet/otherwise made into a giant mess. Just seems like why bother?)

    He’s recently started finding sidewalk chalk lots of fun, so we do that often, and not much of anything else.

  7. Elizabeth Kane says:

    Really like your idea of having kids tell you about the picture instead of asking “what is it?” And the blank sheet idea is a good one too. Kids need more blank slates to make their own creations! I like seeing what they come up with – their pictures are usually full of much more interesting stories, people, and places than structured coloring books give them.

  8. Tonya Ruehlen says:

    Wow! I Love these guys! I must say the artworks looks much better in real life than on the computer. The colors are SO vivid & stylish. If you trully love someone get them this perfect gift. It will look great on any wall. Amazing! BTW, you can ask the designers of Fine Pop Art to custom the artwork to your flavor & style, or, just let them do their magic.. they really know how to do it!

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