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Creating Art With Your Child: How to Encourage Social-Emotional Learning

By Ciara Athy

When working with children, art has the ability to create conversation on a variety of topics, some that are tricky to talk about! When creating these types of art projects, it is important to offer familiar materials and an encouraging environment.


Expressing oneself through visual arts – drawing, painting, sculpture, and more – is a process and a journey. By tuning into a child’s behavior and language while they create, you can learn a lot about the way they perceive their surroundings.



Here are some ideas to keep in mind for promoting social-emotional learning while your child is making art:


Beginning the Art Making Process


Does the child choose a direction right away or do they take a little time to come up with ideas? If the child chooses a direction right away, encourage them to explore their ideas in the art and ask about the choices they make. For a child that is trying to get started, sometimes an example can help them become more thoughtful.


Interacting with the World in New Ways


A child’s favorite art material or the way they work with materials may reflect how they interact with the world.


  • If a child is energetic, take steps to help them recognize it’s okay to be expressive and even messy (gasp!), but we should always be considerate of our surroundings. Balancing both expressive and controlled art making would be beneficial in this case.


  • If the child works in a way that is more controlled and reserved, creating more tactile or ‘hands on’ art experiences could help encourage them to take artistic risks! Try providing sculpture materials like recyclables, use play-doh/model magic, or experiment with paint.



Evaluating and Problem Solving


How does the child react when something doesn’t go as planned? Are they able to continue working? This is directly applicable to problem solving skills in other aspects of life.


Evaluating and problem solving can come up often in art making. Drawing attention to the process and modeling how to appropriately work through problems can help the child’s develop important skills!


Above all, it is impactful when parents and professionals engage children and guide them to make connections between art making and other aspects of life. Enabling a child to express themselves through art can become a rewarding shared experience.



#Children #Families #SocialEmotionalLearning #Parenting #Art





About the Author


Ciara Athy is a lifelong resident of Chicago's southwest suburbs. She graduated from Adrian College in Adrian, MI with a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art and Psychology. Currently, Ciara is a Graduate Student at Adler University pursuing a Masters of Counseling in Art Therapy. As a counselor and art therapist in training, she is learning about the benefit of incorporating art making in therapeutic practice. She loves spending time encouraging others to express themselves through ice-skating and art.