The way a child feels about themselves impacts every aspect of their life - from the ability to build connections with peers, to their interest in learning and confidence to try new things. Meaning, the better we can make a child feel about themselves, as parents or teachers, the more they will get out of childhood and beyond. Here’s how art can be used to provide fun and accessible confidence-boosting opportunities at home or in the classroom:
The ability to express ourselves freely is key to our wellbeing and day-to-day success at every age. To thrive, we all need to be able to voice our feelings, share our needs and express who we are. Art can be the perfect place for self-expression - there are no rules!
It can be tempting to prescribe creative activities to our children, with a focus on crafts ‘worth’ pinning on the fridge and little regard for their own self-expression. To avoid this, try presenting your children with plenty of open-ended invitations to create. Forget about a presentable outcome, it’s OK if colours and forms are unrealistic and messy! Watch as they learn how to explore their own interests and enjoy the artistic process as a way to communicate themselves.
One form of self-expression particularly crucial for healthy childhood development is the safe expression of emotions. The big emotions of our children can be hard to understand, for them and for us. Art provides a safe space to visualise and express their feelings and to release negative thoughts. It could be they are able to illustrate bad experiences to help them fully process these, or that they can physically release aggression through a big scribbly picture, scrunching paper or throwing paint at a canvas.
Encouraging a child to explore their emotions through creativity helps promote the acceptance of all feelings, rather than ignoring the negative emotions we all deal with. Of course, art is a lovely way for children to cement and celebrate their positive experiences too!
Use art to solve problems
Children are born problem solvers; getting creative is a great way to allow our children to showcase their natural capabilities and encourage problem-solving they will be proud of. Instead of swooping in to show your child ‘how it’s done’, step back and encourage them to try to solve this problem. To boost their self-esteem, use questions like “how to do you think you could make that colour?” or “how do you think you could create that texture?” and acknowledge their efforts when they succeed.
Make it sensory
Sensory play boosts many aspects of child development, including fine and gross motor skills, cognitive growth, language development and social interaction. Allowing our children to get messy and really experience the materials allows shows we respect their capability and value the importance of engaging the senses and having fun! Set up your creative space so you can allow them to be as experimental as possible without worrying about mess or safety hazards.
Discuss their works
Children seek our attention, validation and praise, and art provides the perfect platform to give all three. The key is to focus on the creative efforts of our children rather than the final outcome. Pay attention to the way they apply their creative thinking and the attention/concentration they put in. Do they pay attention to detail? Do they use confident, bold brush strokes? Are they inventive with colour? The more we praise our children for their efforts and ideas, the more confident they will feel in their ability to overcome any challenge!
To boost self-confidence further, ask your child to seek their own validation rather than outside approval. You can do this with questions like: What is your favourite part? Which bit are you most proud of? Which bit was the hardest to do?
Experiment with new things
Experimenting with new materials, tools and creative techniques gives children a safe space to try new things and experience new sensations. Whether it’s handling clay for the first time or layering paint on a canvas, allowing our children to try new ways of creating not only provides them with a sense of respect and responsibility but it builds and strengthens neural pathways to allow creative thinking into the future.
If you like this blog you might also like: 8 Reasons Creativity in the Classroom is Worthwhile
Don’t forget our FREE resources page provides a range of techniques to try with children, why not show them the Resources page and allow them to choose a topic to explore.