Social and emotional learning takes place when children learn how to deal with feelings and relationships. Art can be a great way for children to explore and express social emotional concepts, such as empathy, kindness, generosity and curiosity.
Because art is seen as an activity rather than a challenge, it serves as a non-threatening and fun way to reach kids who may be resistant to other teaching strategies. For instance, art is an especially valuable learning tool for children with special needs. Art provides an outlet for free expression, encourages creativity and boosts self esteem.
Need some art activity inspiration? Here are five ways to use art as a social emotional learning tool.
You don’t have to be an artist yourself to use these art activities in your home or classroom.
Teach children how to cut out pictures of things that describe who they are or are important to them from old magazines, newspapers or family photos. Kids can use a variety of words, pictures, and even their own artwork to make a collage about themselves. This can be a great activity for kids to get to know each other while boosting their own self-esteem. While collaging, encourage each child to share why they included each piece with you or other children. Children can also learn to understand and appreciate other children’s values and perspectives.
For some children, drawing is a more effective way to express, process and understand their emotions. Ask your children to draw two different pictures of themselves to compare side by side – one drawing of what they look like when they are happy and one drawing of what they look like when they are sad. Ask your children to include drawings of things that make them happy or sad. Then, compare the drawings side by side while asking why they used certain colors or features. The goal of this activity is to help children make connections between their emotions and things they associate with those emotions while comparing what each of those emotions looks like to them.
In this activity, one child draws a scribble, and then every person in the group traces the same scribble. Next, each individual makes their own drawing out of the original scribble. Share your scribble with the group and discuss how each drawing is similar or different! This simple scribbling activity encourages children to see things from other people’s perspective and appreciate their differences.
Many kids need positive outlets to manage their emotions, and art can be a great self-soothing tool when they are stressed or anxious. Mindful coloring is a simple and easy way to teach art as a coping strategy. Encourage children to select a page from a coloring book on their own and spend time coloring while letting their minds rest. Do they feel calmer after this activity? Discuss how they felt before, during and after coloring.
Art is not only a great coping mechanism for kids but can also be used to teach kids to step outside of their comfort zones. If most children are comfortable with markers, crayons or colored pencils, try introducing a new material to draw with, such as chalk. Get outside and see what beauty you can bring to the sidewalk, street or driveway! Afterwards, ask the kids what it felt like to try something new.
Children can learn so much through art and other activities if they are willing to get creative and imaginative. Check out more activities for social emotional learning on Guion The Lion’s Let’s Play page!
Guion the Lion is a children’s book about an imaginative little lion who sees things differently from his friends. Using colorful illustrations and charming animal characters, the story portrays that new perspectives can open the door to unexpected fun. My vision for Guion The Lion is to present a message of kindness, generosity and adventure to support social emotional learning at an early age.