Hello! Welcome back to HeadStart for Life’s blog, Beyond Therapy.
Art can be a good bonding activity between parent and child. Working together on an artwork facilitates interaction and creates shared experiences. Art also presents an opportunity to reinforce fine motor skills and introduce concepts in a fun way. Despite so, some children find it difficult to enjoy art time. Parents who observed the resistance might not attempt art activities with their child at home. This week I try to outline some reasons why these children “don’t like art”, and offer a few suggestions to engage them in art activities.
Art is often a popular and effective medium to work with children. Above many other benefits, the most important factor to me, is being able to create an imaginative and sensory experience for the child. Art is a great way to address the different sensory needs of a child. It provides different textures with different materials (e.g. sliminess of paint, stickiness of glue, sandiness of glitter powder); movement outputs when coloring, drawing and painting; and visual stimulation with colors and shapes.
Exploring painting with hands.
Art can help with the integration of different senses. It allows for an opportunity to create, and cultivates a sense of control and awareness of one’s body. Art is also a platform for the child to express and relate to events in their world. Creating something together with your child means quality time spent interacting and understanding each others’ worlds.
A line that I hear very often when a child rejects the crayon is “I don’t like!”. Here, the child expresses a clear dislike for the activity. Before we decide on what to do, we need to understand where the rejection is coming from.
Children with Sensory Processing Disorders can find it difficult to tolerate certain sensations. For example, some children dislike the slimy texture, some dislike the feeling of getting their hands wet, while some just does not like looking at specific colors. Different children have different sensory needs. Exploring art materials is one good way to help increase their tolerance of these sensations. Perhaps the child works better with markers instead of crayons, or a sponge instead of a brush. Children may not always know their preferences, and that is why they should be exposed to different mediums so that they can find out what they like and dislike.
We can help the child explore different materials by being flexible with the artwork. Prepare a range of different mediums to explore. Crayons can be replaced with markers, color pencils, chalk pastels, crayon rocks, watercolor, or paint. Paint brushes can be replaced with a sponge, cotton balls, hands, feet, fruits, toys, or almost anything else. Paper can be replaced with pebbles, card, wood, glass, fabric, or cups. The possibilities are limitless. If we get creative with the materials we use, we may also inspire the child to be active learners and explorers of their world.
Bonding time using art activities should not be done as a task. Instead, it should be a fun and engaging process. While we need to facilitate the project by guiding the child with instructions and steps, we can also make the activity more engaging by providing options to the child, or asking the child “what to do next?”. The artwork does not need to look like how it should be as it is the process of the interaction, and not the outcome of the artwork that matters. Aim to create a fun and exciting time with the child. Embrace spontaneity, and encourage the child to explore with their hands, feet, and the things they see around them.
Another reason why some children reject art is because it can get tiring some times. Art activities such as coloring sometimes require rigorous movements and coordination of the fingers, hands, and arms. Hence, it can be challenging for children with poor fine motor skills. These children may not have adequate strength in their fingers to coordinate the required movements when coloring large or smaller spaces. With the lack of strength, the children may hold the material loosely, or color with their arms lifted from the table. This can make coloring tasks effortful and less enjoyable.
There are tools we can use to assist the child in holding the instruments. For example, pencil grips can be put over the regular pencil or color pencil to help the child with their grip. We may also stick a blob of play doh or blue tack around the pencil to indicate the position to hold. Another way is to attach an elastic band or string from the end of the pencil to the child’s wrist as a guide for the tripod grip. Alternatively, let the child practice their grip using instruments with thicker bodies such as markers, chalks, jumbo crayons and pencils.
Fine Motor Activities.
Children with weak fingers tend to skip out on using their finger tips. They avoid exerting pressure with their fingers by switching to grasp the pencil using their palm and four fingers, or moving their arms instead of their wrist and fingers when coloring. There are several exercises aimed at strengthening finger movements and colouring is one of them. To help the child with their coloring, we can also use other fine motor activities to engage them in using their fingers. Consult and discuss these needs with your Occupational Therapists for more tips on exercises that may benefit your child.
Children who have visual processing difficulties may find it difficult to visually analyse the different areas on a coloring worksheet. When asked to trace a picture of a bear, they may find it difficult to focus on which tracing line to look at out of the entire given picture. In this case, it may help to provide them with visual guides to start with. For example, we can indicate the point to start tracing and the point to end using a different colored marker. When coloring, we can section a large area into smaller parts. We can outline the area to be colored using a darker color and ask the child to color the different sections one at a time. We can also break down the art project into several simpler steps, list out and go through the steps prior to starting the artwork (e.g. 1-trace, 2-color, 3-glue, 4-paste).
Lastly, art is a fun way to work with the child. However, it is only one of many others. Other creative arts activities such as music, dance, and puppetry can also create quality bonding time for the parents and their child. It will be an exciting journey exploring the different types of activities with your child. Nevertheless, it is paramount to recognize the individuality in each child and acknowledge their interests and preferences.
Have fun & happy bonding! If you need more advice, come by to HeadStart for Life! And see you at our next post!
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Emery, M. J. (2004). Art therapy as an intervention for autism. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 21(3), 43-147. Extracted from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ682598.pdf
Kearns, D. (2004). Art Therapy with a Child Experiencing Sensory Integration Difficulty. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 21(2), 95-101. Extracted from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ68
Lacour, K. (2018). The value of art therapy for those on the autism spectrum. The Art of Autism. Extracted from: https://the-art-of-autism.com/the-value-of-art-therapy-for-those-on-the-autism-spectrum/2598.pdf
Samuelsson, I. P., Olsson, M. A. C. B., & Wallerstedt C. (2009). The art of teaching children the arts: music, dance and poetry with children aged 2–8 years old. International Journal of Early Years Education (17), 119 – 135. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09669760902982323
Ways Child Care Providers Can Encourage Children Who Don’t Like Art. (October, 2015). Extracted from https://articles.extension.org/pages/25841/ways-child-care-providers-can-encourage-children-who-dont-like-art