4 tips on teaching emotional, social skills through craft

Consider the specific needs of the child when selecting materials just one of the ways to use art to benefit kids

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, a vice-president at the Chicago-based Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, an advocacy and research organization 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.”

Why does art help?

“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 Marygrace 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.”

Four ways to more intentionally integrate social and emotional learning into youth art projects, at home, school or anywhere:

1. Consider the specific needs of the child when selecting 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.

2. Give kids agency over their projects.

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 organization 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.

3. Create a lesson along with a project.

Melissa Mellor, a spokeswoman for Jodl’s commission at the Aspen Institute, recalls an art project that her first-grade son did in school that focused on learning from mistakes. The class read a book about a girl who made a mistake on a project and turned it into something beautiful. Then, each student received a piece of paper with marks already on it and, using permanent marker, was tasked with turning it into a new piece of art. The goal was to teach flexibility, problem solving, creativity and the ability to grow from mistakes.

4. 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.

Molly Sprayregen, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Four days of mediation fail to break four-month strike in the woods

Steelworkers union says Western Forest Products refuses to budge from ‘unreasonable concessions’

Vancouver Island firefighters showcased on Discovery Channel

Second season of Hellfire Heroes premieres Oct. 22

Birders flocking to Greater Victoria after rare warbler sighting

Tiny bird draws big audience to Panama Flats

Guilty verdict for man accused of setting fire to his Esquimalt rental property

Wei Li was arrested at airport with burns to face and hands

App designed to help cut waste and grocery bills

Food security advocates say addressing poverty is ultimate key

Alberta man pleads guilty, fined for hunting without a licence in North Island

It’s the responsibility of each hunter or angler to know whether they are considered a B.C. Resident.

Raiders to face Rebels in football playoffs

Island football squads on a collision course for the playoffs

Report suggests new BC Ferries terminal near YVR

Metro Vancouver currently has two ferry terminals at northern and southern reaches

Alcohol a possible factor in crash that killed 17-year-old girl near Williams Lake

A pickup truck left the road and rolled over on Highway 20 on the weekend

B.C. woman must pay $1,000 after unleashed dog bites another

Owner should never have left Bibi unattended, tribunal member wrote

Climate activist Greta Thunberg’s mural defaced in Edmonton

The eyes on the portrait were blacked out

Man seriously injured after fall from Victoria’s Johnson Street Bridge

Police say incident stands as public safety reminder

B.C. scouting group’s tent destroyed by black bear on Thanksgiving

The Richmond-based Sea Dragon Sea Scouts were camping at Mount Seymour Provincial Park

Most Read