Suzi Norris
by Suzi Norris
Published on Jul 01, 2024
0 min read

Encouraging creativity in children through art therapy

Art therapy is a type of psychotherapy where the primary mode of expression is art making, alongside talking. As an art psychotherapist I always have a wide range of art materials available to use, for the children I work with. Some dive straight in and others need some direction, suggestion or encouragement. In order for art therapy to be effective I often begin sessions by encouraging a calm and open attitude towards each child’s creative process. Creativity is the use of imagination or original ideas to create something. Below are a variety of ways to encourage creativity and some of the reasons behind its importance.

Creating a safe place

A lot of research has shown the importance of feeling safe to reach our potential. Feeling safe means our brains are curious, connected and regulated. Creating a safe and none judgemental place for art therapy to begin is crucial.


Allowing choice of materials for children shows me their preferred medium. If I see a child is comfortable using felt-tips or 3D modelling, I can begin to formulate ideas about the support I provide and it also starts the process of building trust in the therapeutic relationship.

Gradual exposure

Introducing new material gradually I can observe how a child reacts and I helps me to assess their readiness for change.


I often join in or model in art therapy sessions to demonstrate approaches, providing visual examples. This can help demystify new material and again show that it is ok to try new things.

Using prompts and themes

In some sessions I will suggest themes for art making to inspire creativity. This is also a way to find out more about the child’s inner world, their family, likes, dislikes and experiences.


Allowing children to make choices about their art making is important in allowing control and ownership of their experience, which in turn continues to strengthen the  relationship and feelings of trust.

Mindful exercises

I often incorporate mindful exercises into my sessions to help children be more aware of themselves in the present moment. This can include breathing exercises to reduce anxiety and can be embedded to use in their every day. Doing this in a creative way helps the memory and body retain the feeling and supports focus.

Sensory engagement

Allowing children to engage with different textures, colours and materials provides new sensory experiences which can be helpful to reduce the need for repetitive actions for some children, and in turn can reduce anxiety.


When particular images appear in a child art making I can begin to help them reflect on meaning. This can increase focus and engagement.

Building confidence

The therapeutic process in art therapy, using creativity, focuses on the child’s strengths rather that limitations. They begin to experience success and gains which in turn builds confidence.


When a child has more confidence in their creativity they are more easily able to tell their story, connect with others and feel they can be understood. The act of creativity is not about creating a finished masterpieces it is about the journey of self-expression and discovery.

Throughout history human beings have uses music, movement, mark making to create stories for enjoyment, survival and heritage, culture.  In time of adversity and destruction we still have the ability to create, whether it is baking a family recipe in times of sadness, stories in times of war or art in times of celebration.  

The art of creativity has also shown to be beneficial for self-care. Try bringing creativity into your daily life, in whatever form you feel connected to. Sing in the shower, add a skip to your walk to work or pick up a pencil and doodle on a scrap of paper. Most importantly enjoy being creative.