April 16, 2024

Unlocking Feelings: Using Art to Express Emotions in Homeschooling

Adults have complex feelings, and oftentimes have trouble expressing them. Why should we expect children to behave differently?

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While young children may not possess the full vocabulary to articulate their feelings, they have an innate capacity for creative expression. This is where art can be used as a powerful tool for children to bridge the gap between their inner thoughts and feelings, and the world around them.

Unlike other forms of communication, visual arts transcend the limitations of language, allowing children to express themselves through colors, shapes, and textures. Through artistic exploration, they can navigate the complexities of their emotions, process experiences, and develop a deeper understanding of themselves and their world.

Learning how to express emotions in art at a young age can become a healthy coping mechanism as they grow and move through the world. Creating art can help build self-awareness and coping skills, elevate self-esteem and confidence, increase cognitive and motor function, reduce stress, and strengthen communication and social skills.

Getting Started

Opt for activities that are developmentally appropriate, utilizing the tools and materials readily available in your home. For younger children, simple drawing activities using jumbo crayons or markers on large sheets of paper can be a great starting point. As they mature and their motor skills increase, introduce new materials like paint, colored pencils, collage materials, or play dough.

Giving your child the emotional and physical space to create is important too. Can a corner of their bedroom or playroom be made into an art studio? Are their supplies easily accessible at their level? Making these changes in their space will make it more likely that they’ll turn to making art on their own.

Unlocking the Inner Artist

Help spark your child's creative spirit and encourage them to express themselves through art:
•. The Pet Portrait: Children often have deep love for the animals in their lives. Drawing or painting their beloved pets or imaginary creatures provides an avenue for children to explore their relationships and express how they feel. Encourage them to use colors and details that represent their personal connection with their pets.
•. The Family Portrait: Ask your child to draw the members of their family. Leave it open ended – you may be touched by who they consider to be family!
The Self-Portrait: Creating self-portraits empowers children to explore their identities and self-perception. Set up a mirror by their art station. Ask them to observe their physical features, focusing on shapes and colors. Encourage them to include details that represent their personality, hobbies, what they like to wear, and their favorite places. Through this portrait, you’ll get to see how they see themselves.
•. Imagination and Puppetry: Life often informs art. Transform everyday items like socks, paper bags, yarn, paint, and buttons into puppets. Let their imagination dictate the characters, stories, and emotions they want to portray through these creations.
•. Change it Up: If your child loves creating, consider our monthly Art Box, which ships each month with all supplies included, and a new art technique and book to help your child learn new ways to express emotions in art. In fact, the May 2024 box is focused on expressing emotions through art!

Embrace the Mess

Art is messy. The key to fostering artistic expression lies in creating a safe and encouraging environment. Let go of expectations of perfection and embrace the mess! Allow your child to explore freely, experiment with different materials and techniques, and most importantly, have fun. This freedom fosters a sense of ownership and empowers them to express themselves authentically.

Of course, we’re not suggesting that your child shouldn’t clean up at all or take responsibility for the mess they make. Always communicate expectations with your child by giving them parameters, like when art time will be, how long it will be, what activities are coming next, and what specifically needs to be cleaned up when they’re done.

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Open the Doors to Dialogue

While creating art is a deeply personal experience, engaging in open-ended conversations with your child afterwards can provide valuable insights into their creative process and emotional landscape. Ask open-ended questions like, "Tell me about the colors you used in your painting" or "What story is your puppet trying to tell?" These questions can help you connect with your child, further understanding their perspective and worldview. Don’t forget to display their work when they’re done, communicating that you think their time, energy, and creative efforts are worth it!

The journey of artistic expression is a lifelong process. By providing your child with the space, materials, and encouragement to explore their creative side, you're not just nurturing their artistic talents, but also empowering them to express their unique selves and navigate the world with greater confidence and self-awareness.

About the Insider’s Club

The Outside the Box Insider’s Club is a monthly digital membership that includes videos, downloadable curriculum/project plans, and tips to make it easy for parents to do art regularly with their kids! If you know someone who would enjoy this, please share the Outside the Box Insider's Club. If you have been a box subscriber for a year or more and have accumulated a large stash of art supplies, you may want to switch to the Insider's Club digital membership.

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