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8 Art Therapy Activities for Kids [Recommended by Therapists]

Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that helps people of all ages become more self-aware, express themselves, develop social skills, and reduce their anxiety.

Of course, your child can gain some of the benefits of art therapy without visiting an office. Try this list of therapy activities you can do at home to help them learn how to identify and regulate their feelings.

1. Marble Painting

Marble painting craft by Artful Parent

Carolyn Mehlomakulu, an art therapist and psychotherapist, recommends having children roll marbles in paint as a form of process art — art that focuses on the experience of creating a piece rather than the result. Kids can explore movement, color, and the process of creating a painting with this marble painting by Artful Parent.

To make a marble painting, you’ll need:

  • Marbles

  • An art mat

  • Paint

  • A muffin tin, an egg carton, or small bowls

  • Spoons

  • Paper

  • A shallow cardboard box or a baking dish

How To Make a Marble Painting

  1. Cover your work surface with an art mat. Put paint in the muffin tin sections or egg carton cups.

  2. Place a sheet of paper in a shallow box or baking dish.

  3. Drop a marble into each muffin tin section or egg carton cup.

  4. Stir the marbles in the paint with a spoon to coat them with paint.

  5. Transfer the paint-covered marbles to the paper.

  6. Lift the baking dish or shallow box and tilt it. The marbles will roll around and leave trails of paint on the paper.

  7. Remove the marbles and paper from the baking dish or box when you have finished your painting.

2. Breathing Stick

Breathing stick by Social Emotional Workshop.

On her website, Social Emotional Workshop, Laura Driscoll, a school psychologist, recommends that children create “breathing sticks” to help them reduce stress and practice calming strategies. To make a breathing stick, you’ll need:

  • A pipe cleaner

  • 4 – 6 beads

How To Make a Breathing Stick

  1. Thread the beads onto the pipe cleaner.

  2. Curl one end of the pipe cleaner so beads can't slip off.

  3. Twist the other end into a heart, circle, or square. Using a square shape helps teach children box breathing.

How To Use a Breathing Stick

  1. Have your child sit comfortably and breathe normally. Tell them to pay attention to how their bodies move when they inhale and exhale. Encourage your child to breathe deeply and make their chest and stomach rise.

  2. Move all of the beads to 1 end of the pipe cleaner.

  3. Have your child put their finger on the first bead and inhale as they slowly move the bead to the other end of the pipe cleaner.

  4. When the bead reaches the end of the pipe cleaner, have your child exhale slowly.

  5. ​​Have your child breathe deeply as they move the rest of the beads to the end of the pipe cleaner. They should focus on keeping their breathing slow and steady.

  6. Once all the beads are on one side of the pipe cleaner, repeat the exercise while moving the beads back to the other side.

Worry Balloons drawing from Art of Social Work.

On her website, Art of Social Work, Kristina Marcelli, a mental health therapist, shares a “worry balloons” drawing that teaches children a deep-breathing meditation technique and helps them recognize and let go of their worries. To make a worry balloons drawing, you’ll need:

  • Markers

  • Small balloons

  • Paper

  • String

  • Tape

How To Make a “Worry Balloons” Drawing

  1. Have your child draw themself on a sheet of paper.

  2. Cut another sheet of paper into small slips. Help your child write or draw their worries on the slips of paper.

  3. Place a slip of paper inside each balloon.

  4. Have your child slowly blow up the balloons. Tie the balloons closed with string.

  5. Tape the balloons to the paper above your child’s drawing.

Altered magazine photos by Shelley Klammer.

Shelley Klammer, a psychotherapist, recommends that teens alter magazine photos as a form of therapy and self-expression. To create altered magazine photos, you’ll need:

  • Oversized magazines

  • Oil pastels

  • Acrylic paint

How To Make Altered Magazine Photos

  1. Cut out black and white images from the magazines.

  2. Have teens draw and paint on the pictures using oil pastels and acrylic paint.

This blow paint monster art by Therapy and Beyond helps children learn oral and fine motor skills and labeling. To create a blow paint monster, you’ll need:

  • White paper

  • Paint

  • Water

  • A drinking straw

  • Googly eyes

  • Glue

  • A black marker

  • Paper towels

How To Make a Blow Paint Monster

  1. Dilute the paint with water.

  2. Put a quarter-sized drop of paint on the paper.

  3. Use the straw to blow the paint around the paper to create a monster.

  4. Once the paint is dry, glue googly eyes on the monster.

  5. Draw body parts on the monster.

Painted tape name craft by Your Therapy Source.

This painted tape name craft by Your Therapy Source helps children develop fine motor skills and muscle strength and encourages tactile input. To create a painted tape name craft, you’ll need:

  • Low-adhesion painter’s tape

  • Paint

  • Paper or an easel

How To Make a Painted Tape Name Craft

  1. Create a design or write a name with painter’s tape on the paper or easel.

  2. Paint your child’s palms.

  3. Have your child press hard on the paper or easel with flat hands to cover the tape with paint.

  4. Once the paint has dried, have your child remove the painter’s tape to reveal the design.

Black glue mandala by Counselor Keri

This black glue mandala by Counselor Keri helps children practice mindfulness. To create a black glue mandala, you’ll need:

  • White cardstock

  • Watercolor paints

  • Brushes

  • White glue

  • Black paint

  • Cups

  • Long metal straw

  • Water

How To Make a Black Glue Mandala

  1. Drawing a mandala on the white card stock paper with a pencil.

  2. Mix black paint into the white glue. Use a long metal straw to stir the paint into the glue.

  3. Lightly trace the mandala design with black glue. Try not to leave globs of paint on the paper.

  4. Let the mandalas dry for several hours.

  5. Use watercolors to paint inside the mandala. Children can use specific colors to express certain feelings or experiences.

Texture pattern craft sticks by Heather Gruetman.

On her blog, Growing Hands-On Kids, Heather Gruetman, a certified occupational therapy assistant, recommends making texture pattern craft sticks to teach children about textures and pattern recognition. To create texture pattern craft sticks, you’ll need:

  • Texture foam sheets

  • Glitter foam sheets

  • Sandpaper

  • Small craft sticks

  • A hot glue gun

  • Scissors

How To Make Texture Pattern Craft Sticks

  1. Cut strips from each type of foam. The strips should be the same size as your craft sticks. Cut out two strips for each craft stick.

  2. Glue a piece of foam to each side of the craft sticks. Press down on the sticks to make the glue flatten and hold.

Try these art therapy activities to help your child explore their feelings and environment

These are just some crafts your child can create to express themselves artistically and emotionally. Speak with other artists in your community to learn more about activities you can do with your child.

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