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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Thornhill’s future takes centre stage at June 2 public hearing

The current community plan was adopted in 1981

Class will look different at Coast Mountain College this September

The college is embracing a distributed learning model

City council considers easing food truck restriction

Food trucks limited to four hours public parking, may increase to six hours

VIDEO: Injured bald eagle rescued in B.C. First Nations community

Bird suspected injured in fight, whisked off to Coquitlam rehab

Facing changes together: your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Toronto Raptors’ Ujiri says conversations about racism can no longer be avoided

Thousands have protested Floyd’s death and repeated police killings of black men across the United States

‘I’m afraid’: Witnesses of wolf attack on senior near Prince Rupert worried about safety

Frank Russ shows where the unprovoked wolf attacked his father

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

Protesters prepare to rally against racism in front of Vancouver Art Gallery

Rally is in response to the deaths of black Americans and a Toronto woman

Protesters rally against anti-black, Indigenous racism in Toronto

Police estimated the crowd to be between 3,500 and 4,000 and said there was no violence

Feds earmark $1.5M to support recovery of B.C., Indigenous tourism

B.C. money will be split between Vancouver Island and Indigenous tourism

Most Read