Using Process Art to Help Ease Childhood Anxiety

Our increasingly busy, over scheduled  world is having an effect on our children. From my experience as a teacher and parent, I see so many more children plagued with anxiety issues. While there are many ways to help, including therapy, regular exercise, and a healthy diet, I have seen some pretty significant results, including in my own son, by using process art to help ease childhood anxiety.

Process art is open-ended, totally driven by the child, with few expectations on the end result.  Children work with a variety of materials and use their own creativity and problem solving skills to create as they please. Their play is slow and thoughtful and guided completely by their own curiosity.

But isn’t process art for preschoolers?

Most of us start out as toddlers making scribbles on paper with whatever is in reach- crayons, pencils, markers, bananas…..It is a blissful time, no pressure to produce in a certain way.  Our squiggles of paint are lovingly framed by our parents or given as gifts to relatives.

But, unfortunately as kids grow older there is more of an emphasis on the product.  Many kids give up creating at this point because the world puts a more critical eye on them. They think their art should look a certain way. Many art classes  tell kids exactly what to do, every brush stroke to make, so that everyone’s painting looks the same. While there are some benefits to the more product driven approach–development of fine motor skills or exposure to materials, the benefits of process art are infinitely greater.

So how does process art help anxiety?

The kinds of creative experiences that have helped us quell anxiety fall mainly under the category of process art.  My son can spend an hour or more, engrossed in creating with clay or painting a large thrift store canvas.  Often with no real product to show, the materials are just placed back in the jar for next time. Working with his hands and driving his own creativity is so amazingly calming to him.

Process art allows kids to escape in the moment.  It can be extremely meditative as kids paint, play with clay or just draw.  Creating can easily put them in “the zone” teaching them to live in the moment. They are continually free to make their own choices and answer only to themselves.  This can be freeing for any child, but especially anxious children who may feel criticized or perform to please adults.

Process art allows children to play. The benefits of open ended play are countless.  Play builds imagination, self confidence, and concentration. Older children and even adults can benefit from play. Play is relaxing and fun, it can get kids away from thoughts that may be troubling them.

Process art encourages 21st century thinking skills.  Kids are learning throughout the whole process of creating. Our world is calling for people to be more inventive than ever and process art allows children to develop those thinking and problem solving skills. Children explore freely and create something totally unique.

Process art allows kids to express their unique gifts and talents. With no pressure to perform in a certain way, process art lets kids create with their own personal vision. They build confidence in themselves and begin to see their own unique qualities. Creativity allows for kids to get to know themselves on a deeper level.

Process art takes little to no prep. Just grab a few supplies and have a go! This is makes is a low stress activity for the whole family.

How can we do this at home?

There are lots of ways to get your kids creating and it’s easier than you think.  It certainly does not take much money or effort to get the ball rolling. Here are a few ideas to have to creating in no time.

  • Make sure you have materials readily available to your kids. Start by thinking about what your child gravitates to naturally. If they do not like to get messy or touch icky stuff, then start with drawing materials. A simple pad of paper and colored pencils or markers can go a long way.
  • Dedicate a shelf for all of your supplies or use an art caddy to hold some simple supplies. Each child can even have their own personal drawing pad.
  • Plan a time to work as a family.  It often helps a reluctant artist to see someone else having fun in the process.  Once they know there are no set expectations, they will feel more comfortable.
  • Set out supplies in plain sight and see what happens. Start a Saturday morning ritual of having some supplies set out to inspire your kids when they wake up.
  • Appeal to their favorites.  My boys still love sensorial art activities.  I have lots of clay and play dough available to them.  Making  slime is still a favorite of theirs and builds some kitchen skills as well.
  • Keep at it.  It may take some time for kids to feel comfortable or hit their stride.  They may have to get over the initial fear of failure.  Keep it low stress. Give lots of encouragement.  Emphasize the playful ness of the activity.

More suggestions for process art activities:

Process art activities are something we come to again and again.  Even as my boys grow older, they never tire of a good, albeit sometimes messy, art activity.  Here is a list of our all time favorites:

Do you have any favorite process art activities?  Do you use process art to ease childhood anxiety? Please share in the comments-I love to see what you’re up to!

This post does contain some affiliate links of our tried and true favorites. If you purchase an item with my link I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.