Children's Mental Health Week

Today marks the start of Children's Mental Health Week (Monday 7 - Sunday 13 February), with this year's theme being Growing Together. We all know that young people have felt more isolation in the past two years than ever before and that's why, this year, Place2Be is encouraging children (and adults) to consider how they have grown, what they need to help them grow and how they can help others to grow too.

At Forest Arts Centre in New Milton, wellbeing is a huge focus, with an excellent and broad participation programme year-round that helps cultivate better relationships with your self, mind and body. For Children's Mental Health Week, Forest Arts are hosting a free Playing with Paint workshop, which allows individuals ages 5+ to thrive artistically free from criticism, distraction and pressure. The world is your canvas!

Though the event has seen great demand and has sold out in venue, we would like to share with you the resources to replicate the therapeutic fun at home - expressing yourself through colours and materials is one of the best ways to give yourself a mental wellness break, after all!

Step 1. Find some materials
You can use paint, pencils or other art materials. If you want to be a bit resourceful within the home, you can even use food items such a spices, sweets or create homemade paint!

To create homemade paint, blend half a cup of flour with half a cup of salt. Add half a cup of water and then mix until smooth. Divide it up into three sandwich bags and add a few drops of food colouring to each bag.

Another fun recommendation is painting with Skittles - the paint is easy to make and produces a glossy, delightfully-scented paint that kids will love to experiment with. It is also completely edible! Gather a big bag of rainbow-coloured Skittles, some corn syrup (the clear kind) and five small containers. Separate out your Skittles into colours within each container and cover each pot with enough syrup to submerge the sweets. It won't be long before the sweets start to lose their colour, and your corn syrup takes its new, colourful form ready to be used as paint!

Step 2. Find a ‘blank canvas’
This can be anything - the kitchen table (if using removable materials) or a piece of paper. You then need to find a ‘brush’; you could use sponges, twine, burlap, felt, feathers, pipe cleaners, and a children's favourite, fingers!

Step 3. Set the scene
Set up the canvas and the materials in a quiet room with hardly any sound or stimulus. This allows your child to paint organically without distractions. For example, if you set the canvas up in front of a giant image of a cat, they may start copying the cat… You want to allow them as much creative freedom as possible.

Step 4. Remove all pressure
Play with the materials, try to avoid talking about the artwork itself. This is key! We tend to change our mindset when speaking about our image we are creating - in this case, we just want to play. Engage with your young person, but not about the image itself that they are creating - have a good old natter! It is important to remove all pressure, competition and criticism from this process.

Step 5. Have fun!
Replace the paper frequently or wipe away frequently. Remember, it's not about the product but the process! This allows your young person to move freely when creating! Make sure you have fun and emphasise letting loose.

Please tag Forest Arts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in your creations - we would love to see what fun you have!

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This article was written by:
Author image

Jasmine Taylor

Community Programme Coordinator at Forest Arts Centre in charge of Classes, Workshop and Community Outreach projects to engage and enrich the local New Milton Community.
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