Teaching Children HOW to use Art to express themselves

Children haven’t had it so hard in a long while as they do now. The idyllic phase of a few years ago when they grew up peaceful at their own pace, away from the harshness of th

e world has now turned into growth that is sudden, fast and has also opened up an awareness in them that the world can be dangerous and they need to fight for their survival.

Among the various factors threatening the innocence of our children, is SEXUAL ABUSE. A recent April 2014 compilation of Sexual Abuse research findings has shown that;

  • 1 in 20 children under 12 years of age, have been sexually abused.
  • Over 90% of children who have experienced it, were abused by someone they knew.

David Elkind, professor of child study, Senior Resident Scholar at Tufts University, and author of The Hurried Child: Growing Up Too Fast, Too Soon (1988) also points out another factor that is equally dangerous. “Our society is compressing childhood more and more to where children are not children for very long,” he says. “Children are under tremendous pressure to ‘be mature’ and to ‘grow up’ when they have not had the chance to develop emotional maturity.” This is a trend not only in the United States but throughout the industrialized world, including Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan and Britain. “It’s a difficult time for parents,” Elkind says, “because there are so many pressures from society that are unhealthy.”

What we have taken for granted all this while, ‘The innocence of our children’, is slowly getting threatened by the harsh realities of the world around them.

In such a scenario, it is important to equip them with certain tools by which they are able to handle themselves, express what they feel and throw out at least a part of that emotional turmoil that they experience without letting it get to a stage where subtle, irreversible damage can happen to their emotional and physical state.


The freedom that they get, to throw out their feelings and emotions through painting and art, especially in a way that is so frank and easy, can be a wonderful way for them to have an outlet for anger (a strong emotion that most children don’t understand), aggression (a way to show uncontrolled emotions), sadness and depression (yes, children display subtle signs of this which often-times go unnoticed.

Follow these few simple steps regularly, anytime of the day, whether at home or school, and watch these little miracles you will see come out of it.

  1. Give a child a wide variety of art supplies. These maybe pens, markers, pencils, crayons, paper, scissors and paint colors. Just give them all the tools, and you never know when inspiration strikes and what kind of work can be inspired by it. Be ready for anything that may come up.
  2. As you give the child art tools, keep talking softy to them and ask them to think about how they feel and express that in any way on paper.
  3. Once you guide them initially, just step back and let the child do his thing.

DON’T comment on what the child must do.

DON’T give guidance of any kind.

DON’T correct or point out something is right or wrong. Probably the hardest part, this is an ABSOLUTE MUST!

As adults, we are always programmed or think it is our duty to guide and correct the child, but in such a case, it can be counter-productive. Remember, we don’t want them to be masters just yet. All we are trying to do, is showing them a way to express themselves. In this exercise, as a parent or a teacher, it is only our duty to supply the necessary tools and let the child find their way on their own.

  1. At the end of this entire process, you will be surprised at what the child can come up with. When left on their own, children dig into a well of emotion so deep that they can make beautiful, sometimes complex creative artworks.
  2. When a child completes their painting, give them lots of positive praise. It doesn’t matter WHAT he/she has painted. What matters is, they have used some tools to bring out what’s on their mind. This encouragement will boost a child’s confidence like no other, because they will now come to realize that emotions can be expressed through ART, and it is not something restricted to only a few people.

A VERY IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER, is that correcting the child on technical aspects is not the goal of this exercise. Because this work was entirely about emotions, any correction about the painting and focusing on technicalities may make a child clamp down their emotions in the future and focus entirely on producing a “perfect” picture.

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