Utilizing the power of expression through art and play is an important part of creating a relaxing atmosphere for children. Relaxing sensory play is a simple way to support your child through nonverbal activities perfect children feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
We wanted to compile a list of relaxing art and sensory activities that you can do with your little ones either to process through a specific issue or feeling, or just to try to relax with some soothing art activities.
Art is such a wonderful way to work on specific aspects of development. Many art therapists do powerful work by tapping into the inherent creativity of young children at all levels of development. Utilizing art as a therapeutic activity can be as simple as a sensory activity geared towards soothing your child. These activities are some things you and your little one can do at home to unpack emotions, practice mindfulness, and wind down.
This first activity from Moms Have Questions Too is a fun and easy way to introduce expressive art making. The premise is simple- play music and create to it! Start with creating a comfortable environment to work in, then choose music that perhaps has some kind of significance to your little one or something that strongly expresses an emotion or feeling (really upbeat, chaotic and loud, soft and slow). Listen to the music with your child for a minute or so and then begin painting! Make sure all of the materials are easily accessible from your little artist’s spot so they can easily grab new materials and colors. Afterwards you can talk about what the music made them feel and why they chose to use certain colors. Repeat this as many times as your little one is engaged with the music and art!
The next activity from KinderArt is similarly freeform, and as abstract as your little artist wants it to be. Encouraging your child to practice expressing emotion through art can be a positive experience exploring different emotions and the power of artistic expression, as well as a way to express their emotions at a later time when they might be having a hard time verbally communicating with you. The beauty of expressive art is that when verbally communicating is too hard for an overwhelmed child, abstract painting can help you work through what they’re feeling with them. Take some cues from the art lesson attached, warming up for the exercise by talking about different emotions, different colors and lines, and then dive right in!
This lavender cloud dough from Growing a Jeweled Rose combines the well documented positive and calming effects of lavender scent with soft dough to make for a fun and relaxing sensory activity to calm your little one down.
Tactile bins are a perfect sensory activity that can be tailored to fit your child’s needs, and this is a great list of resources and tips from Little Bins for Little Hands. Fill a bin with soft, squishy, crunchy, cold, warm, wet, dry, any texture or temperature material and allow them to play in it for as long as they’re interested. Some bins will work better than others and you’ll begin to get a sense for what texture and smell excites or calms your little one.
Discover more ideas for sensory activities on our blog here.
This activity from Kristina Marcelli is perfect for introducing breathing exercises to your little one, or just becoming more aware of our breath! Create a “mindful breathing wand” by attaching colorful string, ribbon, or streamers to the end of a toilet paper tube and explore how breath makes these attachments move. Talk about how breathing deeply and evenly can help calm us down, and use the breathing wand as an accessible way of visualizing breath.
These art and sensory activities range from directly engaging with expression and art, to practicing mindfulness, to simply relaxing with a fun sensory experience. Employ these activities when your child is struggling with processing their or others’ emotions, or just when you want to start a conversation about feelings.