“Look what I made for you, Momma!”
I started to tear up.
My ten-year old son had been in the hospital for several days and was very, very ill. But one of the things he looked forward to every day was participating in “art therapy.”
“Here you go. I know you’ll want to frame it.”
He was right. In the picture he drew of the two of us, we were both smiling.
It felt like a sign of better things to come.
Now that he is home and feeling much better, I have been thinking a lot about his hospital experience. One bright spot for him was daily access to art supplies and instruction.
In the past, my son has avoided art, almost entirely.
A perfectionist through and through, he would sit down, see the blank sheet of paper, and immediately become anxious.
“I won’t be able to do it right.”
“It’s not going to look good anyway.”
“Just forget it.”
For years, his anxiety has overwhelmed his desire to create.
Looking back, I can see it was probably due in large part to my putting a blank page in front of him and saying, “Draw something.” (In my defense, it worked for me as a child….)
My son already struggles with the executive function necessary to complete basic tasks. I am pretty sure that blank piece of paper felt like an insurmountable obstacle.
Armed with a little bit of success and more information, I wanted to find something that would work for us at home, but give him direction and coaching to help him feel more successful.
Sparketh.com has been an excellent resource for us.
Online Art Lessons For Kids
Sparketh.com provides art lessons for children of all levels and ages. Divided into beginner, intermediate and advanced, my son now has access to art instruction in many perspectives.
From drawing a straight line to creating an abstract minimalism portrait, these lessons cover it all.
But although I am impressed with the excellent offering, in truth, this matters very little to my anxious little artist. For him, other features of Sparketh.com make the biggest difference.
Art For The Anxious Child
Every lesson is presented in a quality video. For my profoundly dyslexic son, this makes a significant difference. There are no written directions to decode. He loves that he can maneuver about the lessons and the site freely, without the stress of reading.
Step by Step Instruction
Sparketh.com’s video lessons show the art mentors completing every single step in the process. From a blank page and selecting a pencil, to the final product, every single action is shown. This has helped my son’s anxiety immensely. Not only does he visibly relax and create (a true benefit of art for the anxious child), but he no longer worries about failure. All he has to do is complete simple steps in the order demonstrated. He can pause the video if he needs more time, and then proceed at his own pace.
Personal Introductions to Art Mentors
My son loves that he gets to know the mentors during the course of the videos. Each mentor has a profile, which gives you little tidbits of information about why they enjoy creating art. At the start of some of the videos, there is a montage with the mentor talking about why he/she chose the particular subject to draw for the day. This personalized approach makes a big difference to my child. He likes feeling like he knows and has a connection with his mentor.
When we first pulled up the website, my son immediately saw a lesson on drawing a tree frog. He was hooked. The first lesson he chose to complete was drawing and coloring in a snake. Because he can draw the things that are actually of interest to him, he loves learning art through Sparketh.com.
Having relevant, enticing subjects to create makes a significant difference for the anxious child (and any child, I think). It motivates and inspires even the most hesitant child to try.
My son has really enjoyed using Sparketh.com. He calls it “art therapy” and I have to agree. I find that when he allows himself to be creative, he relaxes. When he is enjoying art, he is less anxious and more engaged.
If you are considering adding art to your child’s day in a way that is friendly and easy for even the most anxious child, now is a great time to try Sparketh.com.
Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.