Making for Mindfulness

After the tough couple of years our children have had, taking time out is more important than ever. Arts and crafts is the perfect way to do that!

Children have been through some thoroughly unsettling times over the past couple of years. A global pandemic, lockdowns, remote schooling, bubble closures and isolation. So it’s no surprise that children’s mental health is so high on the public agenda.

Engaging in arts and crafts can be a great way to take the mind off stressful situations. It promotes mindfulness, by allowing you to take the time to focus just on the moment and what you are doing. Did you know that when we are being creative, a natural anti-depressant (dopamine) is released by the brain?

While little ones enjoy arts and crafts on a more regular basis at pre-school and during Key Stage 1, as children (and teens) get older, there is less chance to be creative at school, so it’s even more important to allow creativity to happen at home.

Katie Jones is the founder of Berkhamsted’s The Canvas Crew, which runs art workshops, clubs and parties for adults and children. She says: ‘Drawing and painting – in fact any creative activities – are brilliant for giving our poor brains a break. If we don’t put pressure on ourselves to create the ‘perfect picture’ it’s a much-needed chance to play, explore and express ourselves. I know from being contacted by lots of parents that making art, over the past year in particular, has made a huge difference to many children’s confidence and happiness.’

The Canvas Crew has been running parent and child workshops, which brings us to an important point. There’s no reason why you can’t join in the fun too. Seeing you having fun, being bold with your creations and willing to try, even if you make mistakes, will give them the confidence to be creative and adventurous.

Give it a Go

Jo Kidd, director of Berkhamsted Arts and Crafts in Lower Kings Road, offers some creative ideas for children and teens to try this autumn

  • To practise any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it! (Kurt Vonnegut)
  • Our mental health is as important as our physical health and there are all sorts of things we can do to help keep our brains happy and my favourite way is what most of us do naturally anyway – doodling!
  • Living Magazines HappypotamusZen Doodling is the art of drawing structured patterns and once you have seen some examples it’s easy. You already have what you need (any pen and paper) and anyone can do it. It’s great for relieving stress and infusing some much-needed creativity into a child’s busy life. An example is seen in The Happypotomus, written by Lazarus Gubbins (Jo Kidd’s husband)
  • Colour is a power which directly influences the soul (Kandinsky). There are so many ways to be creative with colour, but when I think about colour I think tie dye – it’s one way to have fun and achieve awesome results that can be worn.

For little ones

Make monsters from junk: glue googly eyes, tissue paper tongues and cardboard arms and legs to old cereal boxes. Or make towers from things in the recycling!

Have fun with paints: potato printing, finger painting, hand prints – there’s lots of fun ideas for making pictures with feet and hand prints online.

Making pom poms: You just need two cardboard circles and some leftover wool. Those pom poms can become fat birds, Christmas puddings, planets – use your imagination!

Living Magazines Knitting

For older ones

  • Teach them (or find someone to show you both!) how to knit or crochet.
  • Learn macrame – this 70s knot-tying craft is making a comeback.
  • Make bracelets from paracord

Colouring for mindfulness: there are lots of books or downloadable colouring sheets online. For older kids and teens who are way past their colouring in days, this can be a surprisingly soothing activity.

Lino prints: For older kids and teens as you need a sharp blade, but you can get surprisingly impressive results.

Clay: Whether you use a basic air drying clay or the colourful soft modelling dough (such as FIMO) that has to be oven baked, you can make all sorts – pots, pictures, jewellery, ornaments and more. Tactile activities such as using clay or modelling dough, can help children to feel grounded and more connected with life, especially in our ever-more digital world.