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The Beauty of Waste: Recycling Art

“And that is the scary bit, bins -especially recycle bins convince us we don’t need to be resourceful…So how can we reuse? Because let’s be realistic those tin cans, spaghetti boxes and milk cartons aren’t going to be going anywhere soon”

This has to be one of my favourite topics. For a long time I could never reconcile my two passions for art and the environment. But once i started working with children, i realised how important it was not to pass down the habit of using toxic and wasteful materials, many of which are plastic based. These days I never look at the recycle bin the same way (and I have to get in first before my puppy!). It is not secret that our consumer habits and waste is getting pretty out of hand. My mumma tells me memories from when she was younger and remembered her parents and grandparents being extremely resourceful. Post-War England had no option but to be. Now? There is a bin for that. And that is the scary bit, bins especially recycle bins convince us we don’t need to be resourceful. The truth is we need to be resourceful now more than ever. Precisely because there is so much waste and so many products on the planet. It is best to be an advocate for reduce and reuse before recycle. So how can we reuse? Because let’s be realistic those tin cans, spaghetti boxes and milk cartons aren’t going to be going anywhere soon. This week on Instagram I posted some fun art and craft ideas straight from your household recycling. (it won’t be my last recycling art inspired stint of posts, so head over and follow me if you’re interested in a dose of inspiration). To recap i posted ideas for toilet roll animals, robots, letterboxes and a time machine- check them out here.

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How Scribbling Increases Imagination

The best thing about scribbling is that it not only boosts the imagination but it can also be a way to connect. I use these scribble activities to break the ice, build rapport, have a giggle, get my brains and hands warmed up and connect with others

So If you are a parent, teacher or you happen to be in possession of the family archives you are sure to be in ownership of a hefty amount of scribble artworks. We all know children scribble a lot. They get themselves through reams of paper and sometimes choose to delight you with some on on-the-wall versions. Scribbling is part of kinaesthetic development, meaning that it is a means of developing body awareness and awareness of movement. Kinaesthetic feedback is required to draw, write and engage in motor activities and tasks. Baghban, M (2007) also points out that scribbling development underpins a child’s ability to story tell. Drawing directly creates symbolic cues used for storytelling.  So next time you get handed yet another page of scribble, remember that the chaotic (and lovable) mess of lines is the building block of drawing and writing.

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Superheroes Get Sad Too

It is much less confronting to talk about superheroes or popular characters at least to begin with. Superheroes come in handy, they assist in talking and exploring strengths, difficulties and emotions

Lately I have been thinking a lot about Superheroes.  I have also spent a few too many hours down the rabbit hole of internet googling. I can now share that Batman’s biggest strength and also weakness is that he is human, ironman can heal his own armour and that elsatigirl stretches herself so much she is vulnerable to getting stuck in doors! My recent (and admittedly first) interest in superheroes makes a little more sense if I explain the title of  my recent art therapy workshop; “Superhero’s Get Sad too”. Since updating my knowledge of superheroes and sneaking in a few non-traditional (but  popular) characters  into the planned activities, I have been interested in why kids are so naturally apt at idolising fictional characters.

Without getting too technical; children’s social and emotional development is shaped somewhat by how they make sense of the world around them. Children use a mixture of imagination and observation to construct and explore their reality and to distinguish self and other. Continue reading Superheroes Get Sad Too

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Angry Volcano

Volcano’s are the perfect metaphor for anger, they bubble, spit and are scorching hot. Really the sky is the limit with this art activity but here is the basic method and some variations to get you bubbling (!)

It’s been a little while since I added an activity to the blog. But an angry volcano is a long time art activity favorite which I am very excited to share. An angry volcano can be crafted many different ways and can be adapted to make a big multi-stage art project or you can whip up the basic materials for a bit of instant fun. I have used this activity countless times in my Art Therapy practice, because it’s interactive and a great conversation starter about anger.

Angry Volcano

Really the sky is the limit with this art activity but here is the basic method and some variations to get you bubbling (!). Younger children may need some extra help, but it’s  suitable for any age. Continue reading Angry Volcano

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What to remember about communication and mental health in children

 It can be distressing to have a child who is struggling and it’s even more bewildering when you feel like you’re on the streets of suburban Rome speaking one language and waving your hands frantically in the air, while your child frowns and speaks another.

Imagine you have traveled to a foreign country. You wake-up and stroll out into the street of the picturesque little village that will be your home for the next two weeks. You are ready to take on the day as the new Simon Reeves; cultured adventure awaits!  But first you need to just pop into the local supermarket, pharmacy or bank. Maybe you like to travel last minute, or without plans or maybe you’re just poorly organised or communication was last on your list of worries. Either way you haven’t planned ahead for internet access and there is no free Wi-Fi. The backup plan when Google isn’t an option is simple; ask a stranger for help. I mean, surely it can’t be that hard to find someone who speaks English. So you stop and ask a few locals; an elderly man, a young mum with her two children and a couple walking their dog. But they all shrug and smile awkwardly, repeating something in words that you do not understand. No one speaks English. While your stomach is starting to flutter with a rising concern you consider what to do next.  What do you do? I have been in this situation in the outskirts of suburban Rome. I was looking for a supermarket and asked a lot of people. I tried miming, rather hilariously, a shopping bag and eating. My two travel companions tried their own versions and eventually a young woman pointed down the road, signalling some directions, her charade game on point.  To end the story; we never found the supermarket. My sense of direction is atrocious and I had the feeling with all her frowning that the supermarket was more than a short stroll away. At least I learnt about my own assumptions and naivety. Continue reading What to remember about communication and mental health in children

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Ultimate Play Dough

Play dough is a multi-stage process which means it is a great holiday activity for children who are learning how to follow methods and sequences. Involve your child in the whole process

If your a regular reader of this blog you will find that I love nothing more than to discuss the serious and at times messy topics of art therapy and mental health.
But I have decided to start a regular addition to my posts in the form of a creative activity. I’ll annotate activities, recipes and ideas with emotion related titbits and variations. I am hoping these activities offer something practical for parents, caregivers and anyone who spends a lot of time with children. Creative activities for children help them develop fine motor skills, sequencing and problem solving abilities and encourage development in imagination, sensory processing and confidence. The playful, fun and creative aspects of childhood are often the most essential to development. So without further rambling, my first activity to share is a classic- Play dough!

Play dough

While I had grand plans to test a whole range of play-dough recipes and then tweak them until I had the ultimate recipe, I was in fact saved by The Imagination Tree. Anna’s  award winning blog is all round amazing and I definitely recommend it as a resource. I love this recipe in particular because it is no-cook, soft and lasts a long time (like months and months). It is the only one I use. I usually keep play dough in ziplock bags to keep it fresh, but you could use an airtight container. I have used the recipe without glycerine and it is still is the best recipe!

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Little Worrier: How Children Express Worry and Anxiety

So when I started this train of thought about anxiety and worry, I did what we all do: I googled. A definition on each should establish the conversation nicely I thought. The bizarre thing is that both anxiety and worry are used to describe each other, in one kind of ambiguous loop

It took a little Instagram square to get me thinking about the difference between worry and anxiety. I was taking a photograph of a worry doll to caption with ideas on how children can express worries and I started reflecting on some recent conversations about the maze of diagnosis and treatment options for children’s mental health concerns; in particular anxiety in children. The subject matter is too much for one blog post but I thought I would collate a few thoughts on the topic and share a few strategies to help children express worry and anxiety.

As much as we would all like mental health concerns to fit neat and tidy in a small box, they appear in all shapes, sizes and even sometimes disguises. I like to think of mental health as a continuum. Down one end of the continuum is health at its best and down the other end is illness at its worse. We all sit somewhere on the continuum and move along it all the time. Anxiety and worry can also be thought of as a continuum; low grade worry at one end and debilitating anxiety at the other. A continuum is defined by having two extremes and a less perceptibly different middle ground which together form a whole. In this instance worry and anxiety form a whole experience but they can also be differentiated. Continue reading Little Worrier: How Children Express Worry and Anxiety