26 Apr Using to Childhood Art Techniques to Relieve Adult Stress
Pablo Picasso famously said: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” As adults, stress is all too familiar, but it could be that rediscovering some childhood art techniques could still calm us – if we can just channel our childhood artist selves. So what childhood art techniques can we use to help our adult-sized stress and why?
While we have all seen the trend for adult coloring books in recent years, here is why it helps. Psychologist Gloria Martínez Ayala found that by using fine motor skills and concentrating, we lower the activity in the amygdala. This is an area of the brain that controls our emotions, and which is negatively impacted by stress.
Whether you indulge in drawing on an iPad or actually pull out paints and spread the paint around on a page, the connection between our eyes and our hands is strong. For millennia humans have painted on the walls of caves and found pleasure in creating something from nothing.
As a child you probably created those square folded ‘fortune tellers’ to amuse your friends. Maybe that no longer appeals, but you could look for origami videos on YouTube and learn how to make something else. Again the focus required and the tactile experience of folding the paper helps calm us down.
Chalking on the Ground
You probably played hopscotch or drew shapes on walls or driveways as a child, marvelling in the way the chalk moved over rough surfaces. As an adult perhaps you could indulge in chalk lettering for a sign. There are online course, and no doubt a YouTube video or two to help you with the forms – or get a bucket of kid’s chalk and practice on the sidewalk!
Building with Sticks and Bricks
As a child you probably spent time making things with sticks, whether those you found in the yard, or purchased sticks or matchsticks. There is something oddly satisfying to see a three dimensional shape take form because of your actions! There is a lot of repetition involved in constructing forms, and it is just that which helps calm us.
Modelling With Clay
At some point someone probably sat you down with some kind of modeling clay to play with. Whatever you made you were suing your strength to make the clay soft enough to use, and also your fine motor skills to then shape it into something recognisable. Using your body helps relieve stress, so maybe it is time to get some colorful clay and see what you can make as an adult?
Playing With Sand
Whether you made trails in the sand tray at school or sandcastles on the beach, you probably played with sand – or dirt – at some point as a child. Feeling the sand in your hands and watching how it moved again engages and engrosses our minds, letting the stress slip away. As an adult how about playing with colored sand, and either layer it in a jar or bottle, or make a pattern with it?
Cutting Out Paper
The sound of safety scissors cutting through construction paper is one of the most familiar in schools! Learning how to manipulate scissors is one of the rites of passage for children, and it was another activity that engages our mind and fine motor skills. As an adult how about paper cutting? You can start with an easy design and small scissors to cut away the background, or if calmer, use an X-acto knife to cut away the extra paper!
You possibly saw your first a mobile as a baby, hung over your crib to waft in the breeze and amuse you. While you may not have made a mobile as a child, consider making one now, and hang it so its movements catch your eye and give you a few moments rest.
Making Paper Chains
As a child I loved the run up to Christmas when packets of paper strips with gum on one end would appear at school. The technique to make paper chains is simple, create a circle by licking the gummed area and overlapping it over the other end of the strip. Put the next strip through the circle and create a new circle with it. Soon you have along length of paper chain to hang from the ceiling. You could cut out and color paper dolls and decorate them outrageously as an adult!
You possibly had a glove puppet or finger puppets as a child, and learned to pretend to make your hand into something else entirely. You may even have been taken to a puppet show to become engrossed in a tale told by the puppeteer. How could you create puppets now? What would they look like, and what tale would you want them to tell?
When I taught, one of the favorite creative activities was to delve in the ‘junk’ box and make a monster from an egg carton and yogurt cups. Children would spend ages looking for the perfect piece of ‘junk’ to make the dragon’s nose or the train’s wheels. As an adult what do you have easily to hand that you could use to create your own sculpture? Maybe the answer lies in the recycling bin!
Clearly using our hands is a great way to calm our minds, and the more we can engage our body the better the calming effect becomes. If we become engrossed then our mind has the chance to stop spinning so fast and so we calm down. It is so easy to understand when we are calm, but so hard to remember when we are stressed!