Many children find a level of peace and relaxation in art.
It focuses their minds. It also helps them to look at the world around them in a much more engaged way.
Art and mindfulness are strongly linked, and in this article, I’m going to look at the best mindfulness art activities, including:
- Drawing Around Bodies Meditation
- Coloring Nature
- Happiness Scrapbook
- Mindful Glitter Jar
- Puddle Art
- Making Lava Lamps
- Drawing In Malleable Substances
- Giant Drawing Or Painting
- Messages On Seed Paper
- Mandalas With Mirrors
- Painting Emotions
- Drawing To Music
- Leaf Printing
- Leaf Weaving
- Breath Drawing
- Nature Drawing
- Portraits With Loose Parts
All of these art therapy exercises are great for children between the ages of about 3-8, but also adults can definitely do lots of them too!
Get your art materials, leaves, puddles, glitter jars, and everything else ready! These are a beautiful selection of mindfulness based art therapy activities.
A couple of quick points before I begin:
To be truly mindful, the creative process, not the end product, is all-important.
This is similar to the classic mantra of ‘the process is more important than the outcome.’
This is one-hundred percent the case where mindfulness is concerned.
The important things in art mindfulness are:
The experience of creating…
And the moment of creation.
OK, here we go with the mindfulness activities:
1. Drawing Around Bodies Meditation
This beautiful activity mixes art, mindfulness, and stillness.
You either need pens and some massive paper-like wallpaper for this, or you could do it on the floor outside with chalks.
The children are going to be either in pairs for this.
One child is going to lie down on the paper or the ground (whichever you are using). Ask those children to close their eyes. You could put relaxing music on.
The other child is then going to get either a pen or chalk, and they are going to draw the outline of the other child, tracing around their body.
Then when they have finished, swap roles.
As well as encouraging stillness, this art therapy activity makes them aware of how our bodies are created.
2. Coloring Nature
Coloring nature is one of the most relaxing mindful art activities on this list.
Many people, both adults and children, enjoy coloring in as a therapeutic and mindful exercise.
Of course, there are all sorts of fantastic sheets that you can print out that aid this process.
But there are also many different things in nature that you can also find to color in.
Some great examples are:
Children enjoy following the natural lines in different objects. It really teaches them to experience these textures.
The important thing is what to use on them. Normal pens and colored pencils don’t really work, and the thing to use is oil pastels. They seem to be able to color on pretty much any natural surface.
Children can also try painting all of the above objects.
3. Happiness Scrapbook
Scrapbooking or art journaling is a beautiful way to document happy memories and practice mindfulness.
It could be of time spent with friends, days out, Christmas…these photos or drawings make us smile and remember how we felt in that moment.
Scrapbooks are a great mindfulness tool for developing a feeling of gratitude for our lives. They are such an incredible mindfulness tool that may help us when we are feeling down, reminding us of happier times.
An easy and quick way to do this is to create one big scrapbook for everyone. These can be filled quickly, and provide value pretty much straight away.
Alternatively, you could have one scrapbook per child. This then becomes more of a long-term effort.
Whichever way you do, scrapbook and art journaling can be contributed to in the following ways:
Ask parents and carers to contribute material from home.
4. Mindful Glitter Jar
This is quite a well-known resource, but it feels like a selection of art mindfulness activities without it would be kind of missing something. This is one of the all-time greats.
To make a glitter jar you need the following ingredients:
Add the warm water to the jar until it fills about three-quarters of it. Then pour in the glitter glue, and mix it with the water.
Put in three drops of food coloring and stir.
Pour in the glitter!
Then top up the jar with warm water so that it is almost all the way to the top. You just need a little gap at the top to help the mixture move and shake around.
Screw on the lid, and you are ready to go.
The idea is that the children shake the jars, and then watch the swirling patterns. This art activity is good for helping relaxation, and also simple mindfulness.
5. Puddle Art
This mindfulness activity can get a bit messy, but it’s a beautiful way of using puddles for learning.
There are different ways of doing it.
You could get a pallet of paint, and try swirling the paint through the puddle with brushes.
Another way is to squirt the paint directly into the water.
In the end, they almost always go brown, but up to that point, there are all sorts of opportunities to observe the fantastic swirls and effects of painting and water combining.
6. Making Lava Lamps
Making lava lamps is one of the most fun mindful art activities on this list.
Have a jar with a lid, and some oil of some sort for this. Any oil will work – baby oil, vegetable oil, corn oil, or whatever else.
To start with, take the lid off the jar, and fill it about halfway up with oil.
Have some pots of water with a bit of paint mixed into it.
Use pipettes to squeeze up some of the colored water and drop it into the oil in the jar.
It will create all sorts of mysteriously colored blobs on the surface of the oil. Squirt hard, and the paint will go deep into the oil before floating upwards.
You can put the lid on the jar and shake it, and see the effects that happen from this art therapy exercise.
There are other things that you can add to this jar to make different effects. Bubbly tonic water will be an interesting addition, for example.
7. Drawing in Malleable Substances
There is something simple and powerful about drawing with fingers straight into substances.
Sand is great for this. You can draw pictures straight into it.
Other substances include:
As well as all the mark-making children get from this art therapy exercise, there is also the experience of touching and maneuvering the substance. What does it feel like on your finger?
8. Giant Drawing Or Painting
There is something very liberating about either drawing or painting on a big scale.
This is a very simple concept. Provide some kind of huge surface.
Draw (or paint) straight onto the surface. Encourage freedom of expression and big movements.
9. Messages On Seed Paper
Seed paper does exactly what it sounds like it should do – you can grow seeds on it.
This magical paper can first be decorated by the children. They could do any of these things (depending on their age):
Plant seeds on the paper, and watch the shoots grow over the next few days and weeks.
10. Mandalas With Mirrors
Mandala activities could be pretty much a whole book by itself.
Mandalas are symmetrical assortments of shape and colors.
One of the best ways for young children to start with them is by using ‘mirror books.’
This is a very simple idea. You get two safety mirrors and tape them together so that they can open out like a book.
Stand them up on a table, or on the ground, so that they are roughly open at about 90 degrees.
Then you put something inside the mirror book. Whatever you put in will be reflected multiple times in the mirrors, creating a gorgeous mandala.
Some great things to put in include:
There are lots of things going on at the same time. There is all the curiosity and ‘awe and wonder’ that this mindfulness-based art therapy generates.
There are also a lot of mathematical concepts going on. There is all the symmetry going on. It is also a visual introduction to multiplying.
If you put the mirror faces much closer together, you are able to multiply the image many times over. Put them much wider, and you only get a few reflections.
11. Painting Emotions
Painting emotions is another incredible art therapy to practice mindfulness.
Art also helps many people understand their emotions better.
This is a very open-ended mindfulness activity. Pick an emotion to try to paint. It could be ‘sad’ for instance.
Select some colors that remind you of sadness, and then try
Although many people associate sadness with greys and blues, this is really subjective. Many children will pick unusual colors, like bright sunny yellow.
It is best for them to make their own decisions, and craft their own artwork based on their independent ideas. Don’t worry if it looks a little odd.
12. Drawing To Music
Music can portray some really strong emotions.
These can be conveyed through lines and drawings.
Select some kind of classical music for this, particularly a piece that changes in mood frequently. A good example of this is excerpts of ‘The Rite Of Spring’ by Stravinsky. This fluctuates between passages of serene beauty with moments of extreme anger.
Have some kind of large surface to draw on – such as wallpaper.
Put the music on, and let the children just have a go of ‘drawing the sound’.
They can close their eyes, or just look at what they are doing.
This is very open-ended, and the process is definitely the most important thing.
13. Leaf Printing
This is a classic game from the repertoire.
Get a range of leaves, preferably of different sizes and shapes for a bit of variation.
Get some paint on something like bowls or plates.
Dip the leaves into the paint and then print them on large paper.
A great way of exploring how the leaves are constructed, as well as mixing colors.
14. Leaf Weaving
This is a simple hands on activity that combines nature, fine motor, and mindful weaving.
For this, you need leaves, some hole punches, and some string.
Quite simply, punch some holes in the leaves. Then get a piece of string probably about 18 inches long. Try threading it through the holes.
Of course, children love taking selfies and photos of their friends.
But you can also show them how to take photos of the world around them too.
Photography is extremely accessible for children now. They can use cameras on tablets or iPads, or even use a child-friendly camera.
Taking them on a photography walk is a good way to start.
Try taking photos of some of the following:
- The bark on trees
- Plants and flowers
- The clouds
- Animals such as squirrels or birds that you find
- Anything with an interesting texture, like a wooden table
This is great for mindfulness because it really gets them to look at the world around them.
They become more present in their environment.
16. Breath Drawing
This art therapy is an activity best done with a group to start with.
Have a big surface for everyone to draw on at the same time – something like massive wallpaper would be perfect, with some big pens to go with it.
All take a deep breath in, and then when you breathe out, draw some kind of line on the paper.
Then stop, breathe in, and breathe out once more, doing another kind of line.
You could do:
- Wiggly lines
Or just basically anything that the children can come up with. One of the best mindful art activities, this is a great game for controlling their breathing and calming them down.
It’s also a super way of doing a bit of simple early writing in a fun way.
17. Nature Drawing
There is a huge amount of mindfulness going on in very simple activities, such as observing parts of the world around us and drawing them.
Some great things to draw include:
- Our friends
- Anything that the children can see in their environment
Drawing really hones the skills of observation. Children really start paying attention to the world around them and being more strongly fixed in the present moment.
18. Self-Portraits With Loose Parts
Loose parts offer all sorts of mindful exploration of color and form.
For this simple activity, for each child doing it you need a mirror, an empty picture frame, and a tray of loose parts.
Take a look at yourself carefully in the mirror, and then try to replicate your face from the loose parts.
The picture frames really help to make the activity really engaging. They provide a simple canvas to make the pictures on, even if you’re creating them on the floor.
You can make simple picture frames by gluing or taping four sticks together.
Any loose parts would be great for this, but think about things such as:
- Clothes pins
- And anything else the children can find!
If you want to find out many more loose parts activities, then check out my ultimate guide of the best 40 here.
Mindfulness is important for a child’s overall wellbeing. It calms and relaxes, and helps children to learn much better.
By introducing children to mindful art and art therapy, you instill the importance of focus, stillness, and the present moment.
If you have found this article, then you’d probably also be interested in some of my other mindfulness blogs, including: