Edible Finger Paints
If your infant or toddler can't seem to stop himself from exploring with his mouth, you may want to think twice before giving him any type of art supply store finger paint. Although most finger paints are child-safe and non-toxic, they are not fit for consumption and should never go in the mouth. That said, you don't have to avoid painting with your young child simply because you are afraid that more eating than art making will go on. You can make your own edible finger paints out of food products to help your child explore the process. Fill a few paper cups or bowls part-way to the top with plain yogurt or vanilla pudding. Add one or two drops of food color to each, creating a rainbow palette of edible finger paints.
Instead of giving your infant or toddler all of the colors that he wants, help him to explore the arts by making his own palette. Pour four golf ball-sized pools of finger paints onto an art-only tray or a piece of thick scrap cardboard. Use the three primary colors -- red, yellow and blue -- along with white. Your young child can use his hands to mix and blend orange, green and purple, or throw in some white to make any of the colors lighter.
Make finger painting into an even more tactile experience than it already is. Add different items and ingredients into regular finger paint to make a textured concoction. Craft sand or glitter will make the paint coarse, while baby oil will make it slick and slippery. Simply place your chosen material into the paint and have your child mix it in with her hands. Other items to try include separated cotton balls, crushed fall leaves or sequins.
Although the paint is certainly prime when it comes to finger painting, don't forget about the paper part. Instead of only using plain construction paper, switch it up to create a more unique experience for your infant or toddler. Use regular kids' finger paints on kitchen foil, wax paper, corrugated paper or cardboard. For a more colorful (pattern filled) art activity, use wall paper sample scraps, child-friendly newspaper or magazine pages, and fabrics or felt.
According to research conducted by the Childcare Education Institute, "art offers children an important outlet for emotional expression and the assurance that their feelings are valuable," which is particularly critical for disadvantaged children whose feelings might have never been validated. Expressing emotions such as anger or fear through artistic expression such as dance or writing allows children cope with aspects of living in a healthy, safe space. It also enables them to release difficult emotions instead of repressing them.
Art can be used to teach children how to demonstrate appropriate behaviors, which is a more effective technique than subjecting children to punishments that only attempt to eradicate the negative behavior without teaching them new skills, according to the Partners Resource Network. For instance, parents, teachers and mental health workers can introduce conflict resolution concepts to children, such as anger management and compromise, by having children draw images of themselves playing independently to calm down after a conflict.
The American Art Therapy Association suggests that art therapy helps to increase a person's self-esteem, which is essential for disadvantaged children whose self-esteem is threatened by socio-economic and environmental stressors. Through artistic expression, children are allowed to process difficult emotions and become more self-aware in the process, which helps to increase self-esteem and temper disruptive behaviors.The Kennedy Center's Arts Edge, a cultural and educational resource, states that the arts help to instill pride in children, increase opportunities for self-expression and help kids develop real life skills, which also contribute to healthy self-esteem.
Improves Academic Performance
Art helps disadvantaged children's academic performance, helping them master reading, improving their problem-solving skills and, ultimately, decreasing negative behaviors, according to the Americans for the Arts organization. Art also helps to lower dropout rates, which hits disadvantaged children the hardest, according to the organization. Personal achievement that is gained through academic success can encourage disadvantaged children with behavioral issues to focus on their accomplishments, and realize the benefits of performing well academically while redirecting their maladaptive behaviors.
Expressive Arts Basics
Expressive arts for teens at risk of delinquency can be effective in both group and individual settings. Art therapies rely on image and symbolism, which many art therapists let the teenagers explain on their own. In expressive arts treatments, teens can draw or create symbols of their behavior. “When the negative behavior is illustrated, it is then external to the individual, and the behavior thus becomes the problem, not the individual,” explains Shirley Riley of the Phillips Graduate Institute. Thus, for teens who have been labeled as delinquents, expressive arts can help them redefine themselves as individuals who are more than the sum of their behaviors.
Expressive arts is a growing approach to psychotherapy that can be particularly effective with teens who are reluctant to work through their problems verbally. Teenagers often shun traditional talk therapy because they fear it might damage their standing with their peer group. Thus, expressive arts can be an alternative tool that allows teens to express their emotions in a way that feels less threatening than traditional talk-based psychotherapies. Additionally, licensed clinical social worker Don Phelps, Ph.D., explains that expressive arts therapies can help children find meaning in their negative life experiences. This can be particularly useful for children who display delinquent behaviors in response to trauma.
Strengthening Educational Communities
Expressive arts therapy can be particularly useful for troubled teens working together in group settings. It can encourage “group identity, group cohesion and cooperation,” explain Judy Sutherland, Gwenn Waldman and Carolyn Collins in the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association. Moreover, Sutherland, Waldman and Collins found that teenagers who participated in art therapy groups were more likely to feel connected to their school community and continue their education.
Expressive arts can be useful for teenagers with delinquent behaviors because the process of creation can be empowering. Art therapist Patricia Isis explains that not only is art therapy non-threatening, it can also lead to expression and exploration of personal identity. These qualities can improve a teenager’s self-image, emphasize his strengths and create a therapeutic alliance that is cooperative and non-coercive -- essential qualities for building rapport with troubled teens who may be mistrusting of adult authority figures.
Basic Coloring and Painting
For older kids and teens who love to doodle, there are a variety of basic coloring and painting tools available online. Simple online programs such as art.com and Tate Kids' Tate Paint and Colour Colour provide kids with a blank canvas and a variety of painting tools. Kids can choose between a variety of different brushes and paint colors to create a truly custom masterpiece. These programs replicate real-world paintings without any of the mess. Kids can save their works of art or even print and frame.
Graphic art provides older kids and teens with the ability to create unique designs that are simply not possible on canvas, possibly leading to a career later on. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated 279,200 graphic design professionals in 2010 with a steady increase of 13 percent expected for the next 10 years. Programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW are used throughout the industry and can be purchased for home use.
If your child prefers abstract or modern art to traditional drawing or painting, try sites like Jackson Pollock Online, which gives kids the opportunity to create their own abstract Pollock piece online. Pollock is known for his unique form of painting called drip painting. Bomomo allows you to create abstract pieces of art by coloring with mini floating orbs. The orbs float around the screen and place color on the page when you hold down the mouse. You can change the sweeping patterns of the orbs to create a truly unique piece of art work. Picasso Head allows kids to create their own Picasso-style portrait, placing various shapes together to form their very own work of art.
Touchscreen smartphones and tablets have brought art to a whole new level. There are a variety of apps that provide a canvas for children to create art. Adobe Ideas allows you to integrate your Adobe Illustrator files straight to your tablet. With a variety of drawing options and tools, you can create just about anything on Adobe Ideas. Bamboo Paper allows your child to sketch on the go. You can simply use the touchscreen and a stylus to create your drawings and then save them in your virtual notebook. Drawing Pad -- known as the "mobile art studio," allows you to choose the type of paper you prefer and the type of tools you would like to draw with such as crayons, pens, pencils, markers, paint and a variety of brushes.
Adolescence is a time when teens explore who they are and what they should become. Oftentimes, the answers aren’t readily apparent, and some discovery and soul-searching is in order. Help teens determine their identity with art projects designed to help young adults reflect and represent the characteristics and features that make them who they are, or want to be. Collages, self-portraits and murals can all foster reflection and representation of self-identity. Encourage teens to be creative when representing themselves artistically and to think about how colors, descriptive language and symbols might help express who they are at heart.
The teenage years are a time of emotional ups and downs. Increased independence and autonomy, new relationships with peers and the “storm and stress” that hormonal changes bring can lead to emotional highs and lows. Art projects can help teens sort through their emotions in a healthy and expressive way. If asking your teen to represent her emotions with paint and canvas seems too broad, narrow the topic by challenging him to represent a specific emotion he’s experienced, such as love or anger.
Music makes an appropriate, relevant art topic for teens in several different ways. Firstly, children discover the joys of music as a form of expression in the early adolescent years, and one would be hard-pressed to find a teenager who doesn’t deeply enjoy and connect with it. As an added bonus, music can be quite challenging to represent through the visual arts, which makes it a challenging topic that promotes creativity and critical thinking skills.
Teenage interests vary, but one thing most teens have in common is that they enjoy telling others about what they like and what they do. Inspire your teen to choose an art topic that expresses or demonstrates his personal interests in some ways. If your teen is on the baseball team, for example, he may enjoy working on a collage that incorporates team colors and personal stats. Or, if your teenager is developing a big interest in environmental conservation efforts, she may find purpose and take deep satisfaction in painting a portrait that envisions the outcomes of global warming or over-fishing.
Want to foster a love of nature in your children? Get creative, literally! Adding natural elements into the mix during art time gets kids interested in the world around them. The summer months are a prime time for implementing this idea.
The first step is to select a small, accessible area at home to openly house your materials. We started small by using a sectioned off puzzle box (and temporarily relocated the puzzle pieces to plastic baggies), but you could create an entire nature station if you have the space.
The idea is simple: mix nature finds with art supplies, provide very little direction, and see what the kiddos come up with. Combining these things in an attractive way will be an open invitation to play that the kids won’t be able to resist. In fact, you’ll be surprised by the unique ways they find to explore the materials.
Try to include art supplies that the kids can manipulate in different ways. Here are some ideas:
● Use leaves, rocks, feathers, pine cones, and anything else with an interesting texture to make imprints in play dough.
● Cover leaves with a sheet of paper and rub crayons over the top.
● Dip leaves into ink and use them as you would a stamp.
● Use flowers as paint brushes.
● Dip leaves into paint and place them face down on paper, cover with a towel and press. Peel off the leaf and repeat to make interesting prints.
● Use markers, paint, and even googly eyes to decorate rocks and pine cones.
You can also use natural elements as the art supplies:
● Try coloring with bark or painting with berry juice.
● Use flowers and leaves to color textured paper (like watercolor paper). Lay the leaves face down, cover with a towel, and bang away with a hammer until the pigments seep into the paper.
If you have a space in your home where you normally display your children’s masterpieces, consider converting it to a nature board for a while. Then, when you’re outside with the kids, ask them to help you find items to hang on the board. Later, the kids can try drawing or painting the items on display.
Photo Credits: Stephanie Morgan