With the pandemic, many things have moved online. Is your child’s brain fried by the end of the school day? Do they try to decompress by playing video games, watching YouTube videos, or browsing Instagram? This kind of break may feel natural, but research has shown that kids and teens who spend a lot of time in front of screens are more likely to have eye problems, weight problems, trouble with reading and language, problems with focus, and other physical and mental health issues. Help them find alternatives! Expressive and creative activities can get your kids and teens unplugged.
To take action, first help your child or teen take stock of how they are using their time. Together identify small chunks of time, such as 10-15 minutes, where your kids might be willing to put down their device and engage in healthy activities like doing something physically active outdoors or engaging in an expressive or creative activity. Next, identify what interests your kids might want to develop. Maybe your child loves to write, run, paint, dance, or play with the dog. Finally, look for ideas for activities or projects that incorporate your child’s interest and try some of them out. Use a process of trial and error to identify strategies that work for your child. Be patient. It might take some false starts until you find something your child is motivated to do.
Creative and Expressive Activities
Collage. For children or teens who may be hesitant to draw or paint, collage offers an alternative way to express oneself visually. All you’ll need are a piece of paper for the base, a pair of scissors, glue, and some scrap paper like magazines, newspapers, and/or other materials such as yarn and old maps that can be cut up and pasted onto paper. To begin, your child can look through the materials you’ve gathered together and cut out colors, images, and words that they like or that they find interesting. Then they can arrange their cut-outs on the base paper and glue them into place. If your child has a blank book or journal, they can create a daily or weekly visual journal using collage and/or other visual art methods. With a journal, they can periodically look back at their creations, reflect, and review their journey.
Expressive Writing. For children or teens who enjoy writing, expressive writing offers one way to express their feelings in written form. Expressive writing differs from creative writing. With creative writing, you make up a story. With expressive writing, you write whatever is on your mind, stream-of-consciousness style, without censoring your thoughts. This is best done with pen and paper. Start by setting a timer for 10 minutes. Then write whatever comes to mind without stopping, keeping your hand writing the entire time. This helps bypass the inner critic. Encourage your child to be as specific as possible when they write, but not to worry about spelling, grammar, or punctuation. This is not English class. Just let it rip! Finally, let your child or teen keep their expressive writing private. This allows them to have a safe place to express pent up feelings and process difficult thoughts when needed.
Homemade Music Band. Does your child love to sing or make music? Perhaps they would like to compose a song. You don’t need real instruments to make a band. Spend a few minutes helping your child gather household objects that can be used as instruments, such as empty milk cartons, rubber bands, pots and pans, cereal boxes, spoons, forks, and tin cans. This one is best practiced after work hours, as it might be loud for a while! But oh, the enjoyment! If they enjoy lyrics, they can write out words to go along with the music. Alternatively, they can make vocal sounds or tones. Singing helps regulate the breath, releases endorphins, and is a natural pick-me-up. When your child is done composing, they can record their piece of music and give it a title.
Blackout Poetry. Blackout poetry is a fun, easy way to express oneself with poetry when you feel like you can’t find words to express what you want to say. Start with a piece of paper with printed words on it. It could be a page from the newspaper or a magazine. Then take a black marker and cross out all the words you don’t want to keep, leaving only those words that speak to you or that you find interesting. You can also add illustrations using different colors, drawing over areas you don’t wish to keep. Voila! The leftover words make an instant poem.
Choreograph a Dance. For those movers and shakers out there, dancing offers many benefits, such as increased body and emotional awareness, empowerment, and confidence. Encourage your child or teen to pick out a piece of music they enjoy. As they listen and tune into the melody or lyrics, they can move their bodies and experiment with different moves that feel good. Then they can rewind, review the parts they liked, and fill in from there. In this way, they can slowly piece together a dance. If they wish, they can put on a show or record themselves dancing and give their dance a name. If there’s not enough space inside, dancing outside offers double the fun!
Theater Games. Kids need opportunities to be silly, engage their imagination, and play. Theater games offer just that. Similar to dancing, theater games also offer the chance to develop body awareness, emotional awareness, and confidence. There are plenty of theater games that can be done with more than one person, but there are also games such as tongue twisters and pantomimes that can be done solo. Tongue twisters can serve as a warm-up or the main event. Search online for “tongue twisters” to find some examples. With pantomime, your child can pick a personality trait or activity they want to act out. They might want to grab some props or paint their face for added effect. To warm up they can practice in front of a mirror to try out and refine their moves. When they are ready to perform, it’s showtime!
At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults, and their families. If you think you would like some extra support, we’re here for you.
By Debby Urken, LMSW; Child & Family Therapist at Intuition Wellness Center