Either way, as an adult who is knowledgeable about therapeutic activities for children that they can try at home, you are a valuable piece of the puzzle to their growth and success.
Therapeutic Activities for Children
These techniques can be used at home, but can later be used in other social settings such as school.
Please help a young child in your life find peace and balance with some of these therapeutic activities for children. You might even continue to use some of these activities yourself, as they can be useful to anyone at any age in life!
Drawing Out Feelings and Thoughts
Have you ever been in the position where someone is asking you to explain how you feel, but you just don’t have the words? Well, you are not alone if you have had moments where you verbally could not share what was going on. It happens more often than you think.
It can be frustrating when you are on the other side of the question, asking a child how they feel and they have no idea how to answer. Here is what you need to help a child in your home try out a drawing therapeutic activity that can help them express their thoughts and feelings.
- Crayons, Markers, Colored Pencils, Paint (finger paint or brush paint), Chalk (colored or white), or any writing utensil available.
- Paper (any kind), whiteboard, chalkboard, or outside hard surface.
You can encourage your child to use this method when they are noticeably upset or you can make it a part of their regular check-in routine. It is nice to have children be equipped with the proper tools for expression before they are actively experiencing behaviors that indicate something is wrong, so introducing this form of communication to children as a part of self-expression sets them up for success when they may be going through a hard time.
Sometimes children need to think deeper about their experiences and thoughts to begin the healing process or simply need an extra space to get those thoughts out. Journaling is a great way to do those things and more. Journaling can look very different for everyone, you should allow your child to decide how, when, and where they would like to journal.
Journaling is helpful because it gives the child space to get out the deeper thoughts they have in a safe way. It also provides them with the opportunity to look back on what they wrote later and recognize their personal growth.
Children spend many hours in school writing, so journaling at first may seem like just another homework assignment, but your encouragement and support can really help a child understand the freedom they will feel when letting the thoughts from their heart endlessly flow. If your child struggles with knowing what to write at first, there are different prompts you can give. Here are a few journaling prompts that might be helpful.
- What is something you enjoyed today?
- What is one thing that you disliked today?
- Who did you talk to the most today/this week?
- What friend would you play with every day if you got the chance and why?
- What was the weather like today?
- What is your favorite/least favorite scent? What does it remind you of?
- When did you get to relax today? What did you do?
- When you woke up today, what did you think your day would be like?
- What do you hope for this week?
- When you are scared, what do you do?
- What is one thing you think someone else should know today?
- What emotion did you experience the most today/right now?
An older child may want to write out their thoughts in something that looks and feels more like a diary that only their eyes see, so you might want to have a conversation about what privacy looks like for them based on their age. If you are concerned about unsafe thoughts and behaviors, talk with them about the importance of sharing those thoughts with a trusted adult (preferably you) so that they are not struggling alone in silence.
There are digital platforms specifically for journaling or your child might want to use their phone or tablet to do some journaling on the go. Either way, the goal is to get your child writing out their thoughts. Encourage them to find a Journaling method that works for their personal style, and maybe you can even join in with them on their journaling journey.
Children sometimes have the words in their head that they would like to say, but are too afraid to say them. Practicing different things such as riding a bike or tying your shoes is helpful when learning how to do it well, and role-playing is no different because it gets the child in the habit of interacting with others through practice until they feel confident enough to try it out on their own.
It doesn’t take much, just the child and you is enough. Here are some examples of scenarios where a child can benefit from practicing their communication skills through role-playing.
- Bullying at school: Gaining skills for conflict resolution.
- Peer pressure: Learning to say “no”.
- Shyness: Growing your confidence.
- Anxiety: Overcoming your fears.
When role-playing with your child, find out the specifics of the situation they are dealing with and use your best acting skills so that they can get a feel for what the real-life moment may be like. Try using different tones and expressions so that they can respond naturally to you since this is practice to help them feel confident doing this with many different people in various settings.
Prayer or MeditationPrayer or meditation can be therapeutic for a child who is able to connect the two with their faith. Children have their own ideas of what they believe and why, so getting them to a place where they understand the healing power in prayer or the relaxing outcome of meditation is beneficial.
Children might begin by listening to you pray or another adult, but eventually, they can learn how to pray on their own. Meditation usually is led by someone, so you can begin by teaching your child how to sit and listen to the words of the meditation and then guide them into the act of meditating.
You can use your own belief system to help your child understand the purpose and benefits of prayer, but there are also some basic scriptures that can be used therapeutically in prayer as well. A few of the scriptures are listed here.
Now hear my prayer, listen to my cry. – Psalm 88:2
Listen to my prayer; rescue me as you promised. – Psalm 119:170
Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer; answer me, for I need your help. – Psalms 86:1
So today when I came to the spring, I prayed this prayer: ‘O Lord, God of my master, Abraham, please give me success on this mission. – Genesis 24:42
O Lord, hear my plea for justice. Listen to my cry for help. Pay attention to my prayer, for it comes from honest lips. – Psalms 17:1
Listen to my prayer for mercy as I cry out to you for help, as I lift my hands toward your holy sanctuary. – Psalms 28:2
These scriptures may sound complicated to a child without explanation from an adult, so helping them understand how they are applicable to their needs will be a first step for them to be able to go to prayer and trust that their prayers will be heard as well as be effective in achieving peace and healing in their life.
Peace and calmness can also come from meditation. Here is a short meditation idea that is kid-friendly and will keep them engaged.
Simple Meditation Idea
- Explain what the purpose of meditation is, how it is the child’s choice to participate if they want to, and what it might feel like when they are meditating.
- Start in a quiet place.
- Suggest that your child closes their eyes (it is okay if they decide not to) so that they can focus on their breathing.
- Begin with slow and deep breathing and ask them to join you.
- Ask your child to think about a place where they like to relax (for younger kids ask where they like to have fun and replace the word “fun” for “relax” throughout the meditation).
- Ask them to imagine that they are in that relaxing place.
- Ask them to think about what they see, smell, and hear in the relaxing place.
- Suggest that they think about their emotions in this relaxing place (do not force them to move to their emotions, but allow them to choose this option if they want to).
- Ask them to take a slow deep breath again.
- Let them know that when they are ready they can open their eyes.
- Ask them about their meditation experience.
Children, just like adults have days where they may feel overwhelmed and tired. They will need to take breaks and learn how to care for themselves at times when they need care the most. Again, just like adults, children have stress and worries that can emotionally wear them down.
How do we help children be proactive and learn how to help themselves before a crisis? We teach them about self-care and it benefits. Children can learn from an early age to be intentional with their time and engage in activities that bring them joy. Here are a few self-care suggestions for children that will make sense to them and be easy to do on their own.
Daily Self-Care for Children
- Color (in a coloring book or free drawing).
- Listen to music (bonus; sing along).
- Watch funny videos.
- Play with friends.
- Play an instrument.
- Go swimming/exercise.
- Cook something simple.
- Sit in nature and enjoy the scenery.
- Go for a walk in your neighborhood (with another person, if too young to travel alone).
- Paint your nails.
- Read a book.
- Do a puzzle.
- Take a nap.
- Take a bath.
- Play a video game.
Self-care is a valuable concept that children should learn while young so that they can get into the habit of doing things that they enjoy, are relaxing to them, and will keep their stress levels down.
As adults we are sometimes not in the position emotionally to support the children in our lives because of our own lack of self-care, so the suggested self-care ideas above can be done independently by children without any help at all. Encourage children to think about how they feel after they do some of the things listed above or come up with their own list of things that promote a positive mood.
The goal is to get children thinking about how their actions can be preventative or responsive. Either way, their care for themselves is important and can have long-lasting positive effects.
Should Your Child See a Therapist?
As you are thinking about ways to therapeutically support your child through activities at home, you may believe that a little more is needed. A session with one of our therapists at Seattle Christian Counseling might be the next step in helping your child through whatever situation they are struggling with.
A therapist will help you and your child work through ways to continue some of the work you have already started and find new ways of achieving wellness together.
“Happy Boy”, Courtesy of Frank McKenna, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Pink Blossoms”, Courtesy of Karl Fredrickson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Young and Sweet”, Courtesy of Jordan Ropwland, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Coloring”, Courtesy of Rawpixel, Unsplash.com, CC0 License