Art is Naturally Therapeutic!
Art has naturally therapeutic elements to it. It calms and allows students to tap into the “right” side of their brain—this often can help them process their emotions (knowingly or not).
I’m writing this in 2022. After all that children have been through with schools closing and the world changing so rapidly in 2020, children need our support more than ever in this way.
Studies show that creating art stimulates the release of dopamine, the chemical that’s responsible for making us feel happy. Artistic activities such as sculpting, painting, or drawing lower stress levels and promote calmness. It’s been shown to help people, kids especially, deal with challenging emotions like anxiety. Art can also help young people grow in confidence and develop social skills.
Art can help!
In this post, I’ll share with you the various activities I created and the creative opportunities I provided for my students at my Christmas events. You might also like my Calming Activities for Your Classroom Using Art blog post.
What Age are these activities for?
The activities I created were designed for ages 8+. However, many of these activities could EASILY be used for ages less than eight or adapted for younger children. There is no limit in age because I had students as old as age 15 and the parents of my students. Some of the parents stayed and enjoyed themselves as much as the children.
I hope you will be inspired to try an idea (or two) from my activities. Or that you will be motivated to create Christmas events for your kids, including stations/centers with freedom for children to create, explore, relax, and celebrate the season.
1. Santa Scavenger Hunt
Objective: Observe artwork and write descriptions of artwork where Santa was found.
As students arrived, I gave them a piece of paper that had seven gift packages drawn on it. I told my students that I had “hidden” seven Santas in the artwork around my studio. I instructed my students to find all seven of the hidden Santas. Students went around, looking at the art in my studio (my main objective with this activity). Each time they found a hidden Santa, they wrote a description of the artwork on a gift package (great for working with adjectives). When they found all seven, they came to me for a scratch-off ticket (available on Amazon HERE).
I had five winning tickets shuffled throughout the deck. If students won, they got a prize of the very popular DIY snowman kits. (Found on Amazon HERE). If they didn’t win, they got a bag of candy as a consolation prize. This was a favorite activity, for sure! At my next Christmas events for kids (or non-holiday-related events), I’m definitely going to create another scavenger hunt.
They loved this!
Bonus: This was a great activity to get kids moving around through the rooms, and it helped a lot with people arriving at different times. If you are familiar with my TPT writing and coloring activity, “Santa in Famous Artwork,” you will see where I took inspiration for this activity. In this activity, children write about what Santa sees as he travels through famous artworks.
2. Chalkboard “Toy Store”
Objective: Students will color and draw on the chalkboard to finish a toy store design using their fine motor skills, creativity, and teamwork to accomplish this task.
For this center, I drew the front of a “toy store” on my chalkboard and I invited my students to help me finish it. If you’d like to see a time-lapse video of me doing the drawing, you can see it on Instagram HERE. I invited my students to color in the various parts I had drawn and to add to my drawing. I included a lot of windows, hoping they would draw toys in the windows (which they did). My favorite part of this activity was that one of my students drew hopscotch into the bricks I had drawn on the bottom. Something only a kid would think of and exactly why I wanted to do this with them. They amaze me!
You can do this too!
I wanted to share this center with you because you could do this ANY TIME with your students and for any reason. Simply draw (or have one of your students draw) the start of an idea and let your students finish. Children, as you know, love to draw on the chalkboard!
Watch the time-lapse video HERE.
3. Artist Trading Cards
Objective: Students will make mini artworks that can be traded with others. To create these mini artworks, students will use a variety of art supplies with no formal instructions, providing them with an endless opportunity for creativity!
This center was about allowing my students to create—free of rules. I provided 3″ x 4.5″ pieces of paper and plenty of art supplies; my students did the rest. Since this is a great activity all year round, I’ve made a full blog post dedicated to artist trading cards that you can read HERE.
This project is excellent for children of all ages, and the adults loved doing this too! In fact, at my Christmas events, I had a lot of parents who sat down and made artist trading cards alongside their children. It is special for children to sit and make art with their parents, no matter how old they are!
Think of the set-up as a big family feast. If you have everything on the table, children can reach for things they want to explore, ask their classmates to pass supplies, and much more. I set out the markers, paintbrushes, stickers, etc. I put them all in the middle of the table to invite them to make art and excite them about using my art supplies. While making art, children talk to each other, calm, relaxed, and free of all digital screens (yeah!).
The therapeutic elements of art can’t be ignored. This lesson will help your students in so many ways!
Artist Trading Cards Blog Post HERE.
4. Infinity Coloring Holiday Designs
Objective: Students will strengthen their fine motor skills (coloring) while working with others to create a collaborative artwork.
My infinity coloring pages are fun because each page has its own design. However, each page fits with the other designs included, no matter which pages you decide to connect together. For example, one student can color the Happy Hanukkah page, and another can color the Merry Christmas page, but they connect seamlessly when they are put side by side together.
My kids loved using this resource, and the no prep aspect for me was wonderful! What an amazing idea, Jenny K. I love it!” — Michelle (Valentine’s Day Infinity Coloring)
Children can work independently on a page, or you can preassemble the pages (as I did for my Christmas Events For Kids). Doing this is fun because it becomes like a large coloring page, wallpaper, or wrapping paper hanging on the wall.
Kids love the idea of getting to “color on the wall” as well!
I have included designs/pages for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, holidays, and winter in hopes that you can use all or some of the pages to fit the needs of your students.
My Students are currently using this resource when they complete their lesson work! We are also using it as a fun activity during breaks and lunch!” — Elizabeth (Holiday Infinity Coloring)
See Holiday Infinity Coloring Pages on TPT HERE.
5. Santa Zen Garden
Objective: Students will play with a Santa zen garden while using small Christmas-themed toys to arrange scenes and imagine stories with the option to share their stories with others.
In my art studio, I have a small mini zen garden. It’s usually set out for students to play with. It rarely sits idle when students are around. It’s a favorite.
For my Christmas events for kids, I thought making a zen garden with Santa and his friends would be fun. I started looking to get white sand (my zen garden has blue sand). I soon realized it was expensive to buy as much as I needed. So, instead, I bought 10 lbs of sugar for less than $5 at the grocery store. It worked perfectly.
The day I brought it into my studio, I promptly dropped it on the floor (because, yes, of course, I was trying to carry too many things in at once). The bag broke, and sugar spilled everywhere. Luckily, I was not going to have the kids eat the sugar or use it for its intended purpose. So I just scooped it up and kept right on going.
I ordered little toys for my Santa Zen garden and my students loved this station. They also LOVED making time-lapse videos of it with my phone (yes, a little sugar got on it, but all is okay).
Zen Santa Toys on Amazon HERE.
6. Hanukkah Candles
Objective: Students will create candles using wax and wicks. Students will be creative with their candles to vary their sizes, use various colors, and practice rolling and cutting the wax to achieve their desired outcome.
Wow, this center was a hit! When I ordered the Hanukkah candles kit from Amazon, I wasn’t sure how the kids would like them.
I MASSIVELY underestimated their creativity (shame on me!) and assumed my students would think it was boring to wrap the wax around the wick and worried that they’d do this activity quickly.
Oh no, the kids sat there for a long time creating the most intricate and creative of candles. I mean, of course, they did. They never stop amazing me.
They even made little min-candles. Parents enjoyed them — this was a big hit!
Hanukkah candles on Amazon HERE.
7. Holiday Wreath
Objective: Students will create a holiday wreath using pipe cleaners and top-fold sandwich bags. They will follow step-by-step instructions (helping them work on sequencing). Students will exercise their fine motor skills by tying the bags. Students will work on team building by working together and helping each other.
Years ago, I made wreaths with my students using wire clothes hangers and top-fold plastic bags. For this Christmas event, I wanted to come up with a center/station where I could print instructions and put the steps on a bulletin board. I wanted to do this so my students could be completely independent with the activity.
It worked great, and my students were very successful. I wrote a blog post about this activity. The post has all the details, but it also has a free downloadable PDF with my instructions in case you would also like to print them and create an independent station like I did. You can click below for that post.
Find the full blog post HERE.
8. Stacked Rocks
Objective: Students will stack wooden “rocks” to create different designs. Students will utilize fine motor control when trying not to knock over the stack each time they add a new block. Students will practice focus and being steady during this activity, evoking calmness, stillness, and patience.
In an attempt to make my Christmas events for kids calming and relaxing for my students, I also included some wooden “stacked rocks.” I had purchased these as a gift for my 2-year-old niece, and then we decided as a family (I am one of five kids) that we wouldn’t do gift exchanges this year for all the little kiddos. So, I included the stacked rocks in my event. They were a lot of fun, and students enjoyed the challenge of seeing how high they could stack them. Since they are made of wood, they don’t hurt when falling or make a loud noise like real rocks (that helps keep the atmosphere calm!).
You can find these on Amazon HERE.
9. Magnet Building
Objective: Allow students to build three-dimensionally either on their own or in collaboration with others.
I thought I would end up with nine centers for my Christmas Events for Kids party. I was striving for ten ideas for this day, so I looked for another activity my students could do. I wanted something less focused on the final outcome and more focused on the time spent creating/making.
That’s when I remembered the magnet blocks that my daughter once loved and that every child who has ever come to my house has also loved. I brought them from home into my art studio for my tenth station.
My event was four hours long. For 3 hours and 40 minutes, I thought this was a station/center I wouldn’t use again for any Christmas Holiday events for kids. It sat untouched.
However, in the last 20 minutes of the day, when kids were finishing up and parents were showing up, a group of kids gravitated to these blocks and had THE BEST TIME laughing and building together. The magnets allowed them to be together, talk, and laugh, giving them a purpose. I would now include these again in the future because I saw how much they loved them.
You will find these magnet blocks on Amazon HERE.
10. Ornaments in Rice
Objective: Allow students the sensory experience of reaching into the rice and pulling out a smooth clay ornament as a keepsake from my Christmas Events for Kids.
I have a small kiln, so I REALLY wanted my students to make something with clay, but I had to be reasonable about this wish. I knew that even if I had the clay bisque fired and kids did the glazing at my Christmas event, it would be a big chore to fire the pieces and get them back to each child. This is an obstacle you might be able to overcome if you are planning a Christmas event for your students at a school early enough that you can get the ornaments glazed and given back to students before their holiday break.
I decided to make them all myself ahead of time, and I hid them in rice (that I colored with food coloring). My husband and daughter were gracious elves and helped me make all of these for my students.
I don’t know where ideas come from. When I was planning my event, I was trying to think of a way that students would enjoy receiving their ornament. I remember when my daughter was very little, I colored rice in rainbow colors, put the rice in a bin, and then hid toys inside (something I did again for another big school event (details here) years later). So I colored rice red and green and hid the final glazed ornaments inside the rice.
As the children were leaving my event, they got to reach into a bucket of rice and grab an ornament. Whatever they pulled out was the one they got to keep. I stamped the date on the back of each ornament so they could hang their ornament on their tree and remember our fun, relaxing, and festive Christmas events for kids!
You can do it too!
If you are planning Christmas events for kids at your school — be it large or small, I hope one or more idea from this post is helpful to you.
I would love to see your students’ work if you decide to create anything from this post with them. Feel free to tag me (@artwithjennyk or #artwithjennyk) on social media so I can see what they make! You’ll find me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!
Thank you for reading and for all you do!
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