Art to Soothe the Savage Child

Your four year old is having a hard day. He’s whiny and uncooperative, and even a hug and a tickle won’t lift his mood.

Time to bring out the sand painting.

That’s what Michelle Kahan of Bedford, MA does when her almost five-year-old daughter gets cranky. “It’s like magic if she’s in a bad mood,” says Michelle. “It makes her feel better instantly.”

There’s a reason: sand is nature’s way of calming us. Imagine how you feel when you’re on the beach, digging your toes into the sand, letting the grains run softly through your fingers. Remember tirelessly building sand castles, carving out moats, and watching the water fill them and then sink away. Think how the sand invites you to lie down on it for hours, listening to the rhythm of your own heart.

Art sand has that same ability to soothe and inspire. Sand painting requires no tools or glue: colored sand is applied directly with the hands onto sticky canvases and then rubbed gently to make it stick. This tactile activity enhances the sense of touch, building and improving fine motor skills while it helps kids slow down and enjoy the process. And they love the colorful results, which can be different every time.

For a child, painting with sand can be a satisfying way to soothe himself when he is upset. It can also help him communicate how he’s feeling. Sand canvases have a simple picture cut into the top liner – a friendly dog, for example. The picture can turn out differently depending on the child’s choices. He peels off parts of the liner, pours colored sand on the sticky, and rubs the sand gently. As he gains mastery over the basic steps, he will learn ways to create more complex pictures that reflect his own mood – the dog becomes a sad-eyed beagle alone in a room or a big red dog romping in a field of flowers.

Sand painting works to calm kids down because:

  • it’s sensory, bringing together physical energy with imagination
  • there’s a natural rhythm to it – peel, pour, and rub – that is comforting
  • the picture tells a story that helps kids talk about their feelings
  • it’s easy to be successful: even very young children can make colorful, pleasing designs

Get the most out of sand painting with your child by scheduling art as part of daily “down time” for the kids. Keep a supply of favorite sand canvas images on hand. Get involved! Work together with your children, even if they already know how to do it, so you can talk about the pictures together as they create their masterpieces.