There is a lot of invention and also trials and tribulations that get worked out in the creative process of making art. Teaching kids social and emotional skills is getting renewed attention, and arts and crafts are a good way to do that, at home as well as at school.
“Anxiety and depression are on the rise for young people,” says Melissa Schlinger, Vice President at the Chicago-based Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, an advocacy and research organisation that tries to make social and emotional learning a priority in education.
Jacqueline Jodl, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development, concurs. “Families and parents are requesting help with social and emotional learning,” she says. “Teachers also are really starting to express demand for it, and the business community continues to express demand for students with a broader cross-section of skills.”
“Because there is a lot of invention and also trials and tribulations that get worked out in the creative process, a child can learn how to manage frustration,” says Mary Grace Berberian, a licensed art therapist and clinical social worker. “They’re also learning to connect to more emotional aspects of themselves that are not necessarily encouraged in other aspects of their lives.”
Here are a few tips to intentionally integrate social and emotional learning into youth art projects, at home, school or anywhere. Always consider the specific needs of the child when selecting the materials. “Art materials range from being controlled to very expressive,” Berberian says. A child seeking control might benefit from beading or pencil drawing, for example, whereas a child who needs to let go and be more expressive might learn more from working with paints or clay, which encourage spontaneity.
Giving the child agency over her/his project is also essential. Give students the freedom to “interpret a project or prompt through their own experience and perspectives,” says Christian Ortiz, senior manager of studio programs at Marwen, a visual-arts organisation for youth in Chicago. For example, Marwen hosted a printmaking class in which students were asked to create small patches depicting what was important to them, he says.
Berberian advises parents not to dictate how a child should do an art project at home. Rather, they should be “affirming the child’s process” through dialogue. Ask kids about their creations, the decisions they made and why.
It is also a great idea to make art together. “When people make art together or engage in creative processes together, it’s a natural form of empathy-building because you’re doing something together, mirroring each other and celebrating each other’s artistic practice,” says Berberian....