Friday, May 4, 2012

Art as a Method of Calming a Toddler

Aias gets excited very easily, whether it's "happy excited" or "tantrum excited" and once he hits either of those points, it's fairly hard to calm him down.  Transitions are difficult for him at times, particularly when it comes to winding him down from a very physical activity (running around outside) or if it's just the end of a particularly busy day.  Strangely enough, activities that people have suggested I use to calm Aias down, actually have the opposite effect on him. For example, lots of people bathe their kids at night because having a bath is soothing or relaxing for the child.  Baths actually wake Aias up and get him more excited (he loves the water), so we have him take baths in the morning to help make him more alert.

In the last few months I've found an interesting way of helping Aias wind down: art.  Since he's only 2 years old, I don't mean anything elaborate.  We use crayons, markers, paints, etc, but his absolute favorite things to do are to either glue small bits onto a piece of paper or play with stickers.  His favorite stickers are the foam ones that have the pieces of paper on the back that you peel off before you stick them down.  I discovered this entirely by accident, and quite frankly, I was shocked he had the attention span to sit down and do such an activity because normally he's so quick paced and busy.  For some reason, activities where he "creates" (Lego, the train tracks, art) are really soothing and centering for him.

There are a few reasons, I believe, that this form of creating is so rewarding to him.  First, I think he loves the act of focusing on the little stickers and putting the effort into peeling the backs off.  He's not the most verbal of 2 year olds, but all he lacks in talking ability he makes up for in fine motor skills.  Second, I can tell he likes spacing the pieces and deciding where to stick them on the paper.  Third, he loves to announce what each sticker is out loud (an elephant! a fishy! etc).  Finally, he loves to show us the completed product and every once in a while he likes for us to put his art up on the wall.

Our strategy is that when he seems worked up we say "would you like to make a picture?" and normally he responds "yes!" and we follow with "Go sit in your seat at your table and I'll get the stuff." He immediately goes to his tiny kid-sized table and waits.  I bring the supplies to him; he selects his paper color and I place some stickers in a tiny bowl and voila!

I've taken some pictures of some of the projects he's done, mostly to show his family that reads the blog and because I'm sure someday they'll be filed away somewhere and I'll want to remember what they look like.

Various foam stickers on construction paper

Various foam stickers on construction paper

Tempera paint on old school dot matrix printer paper

Pen on old school dot matrix printer paper; this one is called "plane and helicopter"

Finger paints on printer paper

Various foam stickers on construction paper

Crayons on old school dot matrix printer paper; this one is called "robots and planes"

Various little bits glued onto construction paper

Various little bits glued onto construction paper

Pompoms and feathers glued onto a flat brown lunch bag

Insect themed foam stickers on a foam sheet

Princess themed foam stickers on construction paper

Sports themed foam stickers on construction paper

Retro themed foam stickers on construction paper

Under the sea themed foam stickers (a few insects got in there too) on a foam sheet. These are the ones you sent him for Christmas, mom!


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