Draw it Out! Combine Art & Literacy to Help Children Manage Fears

The challenges of Covid are wearing our resiliency skills pretty thin these days.

Many of us know young children who are overwhelmed with pandemic stress.

How could they not be?

I’m collecting stories of children’s stress and trauma as it shows up in their art.

Do you or your teaching staff have an art experience to share?

I’ll be adding your stories to my new book Trauma Informed Art in Early Childhood which will include art stories from around the world. So far I’ve received stories from preschool teachers working in Uganda, Pakistan, England, the US and Australia, and I’d love to add your stories as well.

I’m especially interested in stories of children’s art that depicts “everyday trauma” or the accumulation of daily stress that builds up over time. The kind we all face now. The seemingly little stress that becomes big stress when it persists or if we are too young to process it.

Because TRAUMA is not just heavy trauma. Trauma is most often the result of small but repeated stress that accumulates over time. Persistent stressors, if not relieved or expressed, become toxic to us over time and are especially toxic to young children. It’s important for parents and teachers to recognize trauma is not just “the big stuff” so that we’re not afraid of it.

So we don’t turn away from trauma ourselves as adults. So we face it and name it and address it directly…so we can then help children find ways to work through it.

Because big feelings that children don’t communicate to a teacher, parent or other “compassionate witness” will come through later as behaviors we don’t want and can’t understand.

Here’s a beautiful story of “everyday trauma” that was sent to me all the way from Australia. This smart, sensitive teacher used literacy based art to help a child in need. She read her class The Color Monster by Anna Llenas (an Art Therapist and children’s book author from Spain). Check it out:

Hi Anna - I have a story about a child who is having lots of big feelings. She wants sooo badly to be good, to participate in story time, to have friends and to BELONG... but her feelings get the better of her when she feels rejected... Sometimes, something as simple as a child choosing to play with someone else can be devastating for her and result in throwing, yelling for a while, before collapsing into an unconsollable crying fit curled up in a corner.

To support her to start talking about her feelings, my team read the book 'The Colour Monster' by Anna Llenas, then invited the children to colour in their own monster identifying their own feeling. Everyone coloured their monster blue, yellow or red, describing a feeling that was identified in the book... this little girl worked very hard and tediously coloured her page in many different colours. When we asked her about it, she simply said " When I cry, I have all the feelings!” It was amazing to see this child so calmly express her feelings as a result of this experience. I'm not sure if your project includes literacy based art, but this is one of the best feelings we get as educators! It really was a breakthrough for this little one to acknowledge that her feelings sometimes get all mixed up!

Here are other picture books I personally recommend for literacy based art. There are many others, but I like these for 3 reasons: They either:

1. ADDRESS DIFFICULT FEELINGS: Grumpy Monkey and The Color Monster

2. ILLUSTRATE ISOLATION: Outside Inside, a beautiful Caldecott winner by LeUgyen Pham that shows the lonliness of the pandemic from a child’s perspective.

3. INSPIRE CREATIVITY: What To Do with A Box, Not A Stick and Not A Box which prompt us to adapt our fixed views of the world.

If you live in Los Angeles and would like me to come as a volunteer guest art teacher to your preschool this Spring, let me know. I’ll come by the classroom of your choice in April or May. We’ll read one of these books to your children and then I’ll introduce an art activity.

Together, we’ll see how your children respond. I love doing research for a new book and this will be helpful.

If you want to participate, please email me.

Please send in your stories so this Art & Trauma book will be meaningful to YOU and address real life problems and solutions. I’ll gladly send a free book to all who participate when it’s released for publication in early 2023.

You all know a few teachers who are masterful with art in the classroom. Download and forward them the flyer below, with my offer and thanks.

Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and share your experiences. I hope you enjoy connecting with like minded spirits as much as I do.

Anna Reyner,

Consultant & Trainer:
CreativePlayLA, Los Angeles California

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