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Peg Dunn-Snow on children’s art therapy

by Jean Van't Hul
March 21, 2011

PegDunnSnow_Pic1 Dr. Peg Dunn-Snow is a children’s art therapist in Florida. She is the owner of Children’s Corner: Art Therapy for Children, and is the past president of the American Art Therapy Association. Please join me in learning more about Peg and art therapy for children.

***Note: Readers will have a chance to win a selection of art materials that Peg offers to some of her child clients at the end of this interview.***

JEAN:  Will you tell us a bit about your background and why you were drawn to children’s art therapy?

PEG:  I first became interested in art therapy while working as a special education teacher, I incorporated a strong art program in my curriculum and regardless of their learning disabilities, my students could always compete with the school population, winning blue ribbons and certificates for their art projects. Art leveled the playing field for my students, allowing them to experience a sense of achievement and success.

I hold a Bachelor’ degree in Elementary Education, a Masters in Art Therapy and another in Special Education and a PhD in art education with a specialization in art therapy. I am also a licensed and board certified art therapist and mental health counselor. I maintain a private practice, Children’s Corner: Art Therapy for Children in Fort Lauderdale and teach the course Art Therapy Throughout the Life Span as an adjunct faculty member in the distance-learning graduate art therapy program at Saint Mary of the Woods College in Terre Haute, Indiana. I am the former director of the Barry University art therapy and clinical psychology graduate program and have a background in exceptional student education, school guidance and hospital/ homebound instruction in the public school system. I have served as conference chair, secretary, and president of the Florida Art Therapy Association, and as the national conference chair for the American Art Therapy Association. Currently I am the immediate past-president of the American Art Therapy Association.

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JEAN: How does art therapy work with children? and why is art an appropriate way for children to communicate their thoughts and feelings?

PEG: Art is an appropriate way for children to communicate for many reasons that include the following:

Art is a language and promotes verbal language

Art is a critical- thinking activity that evaluates strengths and growth

Art can express visual memories

Art can hold a permanent record of thoughts and feelings

Art is not a linear language The past, present, & future can all be held in one image.

Art is universal and a normal activity of childhood

Art allows children to distance themselves from their thoughts and feelings

Art gives children the ability to place their thoughts and feelings outside of themselves

Art give children a way to “handle” their thoughts and feelings by containing them within the boundaries of a canvas or piece of drawing paper, miniaturizing them to a manageable size

Art allows children to set goals and plan for their future

Art allows children to relate to their environment and relationships while identifying their support system and safe places.

Through self-portraits art allows children to explore the issues of identity and roles and allows children to learn about their heritage and culture

Art-making provides practice in making choices

Art allows children to express their thoughts and feelings “when words are not enough”

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JEAN: Thank you! Do you have any tips for parents who want to connect with their children through talking about their art?

PEG: When talking about their art:

1.      Have the children describe the art in their own way and words.

2.      Ask the children to tell more about specific parts of the art…describing actual forms, objects, and people.

3.      Ask the children to describe the picture in the “first person”.

4.      Ask the children about their use of colors … remember colors can be used realistically or idiosyncratically and can be used in different ways at different times. Many times young children do not use colors realistically.

5.      Help the children own what has been created or said about the art…gently ask how the art fits with any part of their lives.

6.      Have the children describe the process of doing the art… what were their feelings about doing the art before, during, and after the art-making lesson or playtime.

7.      Look at and comment on the patterns and/or themes in the children’s art

I would also recommend the following books for parents:

  • Creative art for the Developing Child by Clare Cherry (Simon & Schuster)
  • Windows to Our Children by Violet Oaklander (The Center for Gestalt Development)
  • The Creativity Handbook: A Visual Arts Guide for Parents and Teachers by Carolyn Boriss-Krimsky (Charles C. Thomas)

JEAN:  Anything else you’d like to add?

PEG:  Children’s artwork is an extension of who they are and is linked to their self-concept no matter what the art image represents. As an extension of the child, the artwork should be treated with the same concerns that you have for the child.  Also, remember, young children draw what they know and not necessarily what they see.

Encourage children to please themselves with their art-making

JEAN:  Thank you, Peg! I appreciate you sharing your expertise with us. I like what you say about children’s artwork being an extension of who they are and how it is linked to their concept of self.

***Giveaway***

Readers who leave a comment by Thursday, March 24th at 12 midnight EST will be entered into a random drawing for a selection of art materials that Peg offers to some of her child clients.

The random number generator picked #69, so congrats go to Karrie for winning the art materials.

I love practicing art myself and found it very therapeutic. It was helpful to see all the reasons to use it with my children as well.

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