How to Introduce it – Keep paper and crayons/colored pencils around so they are easily accessible. The trick to these activities is that they should seem spontaneous and informal. You may have been waiting for the perfect moment all week to try these out; but to your child, it will seem like you just came up with a fun doodle game out of nowhere.
How to do it – Draw a line anywhere on a piece of blank paper and slide it over casually to your child, hand them a crayon and gesture to the paper. Maybe even give a choice of colours, saying ‘purple or green?’ this gives them less of an opportunity to decline. Depending on the age of the child they may understand that you mean to just draw one line each at a time or they may begin scribbling or making a picture, or they may scrunch up the paper and throw it at you……Whatever happens, you follow their lead.
With the turn taking game of one line each, you can gradually make your lines closer to their lines or even join up with their lines and watch what their next move is. If they start to back away on the paper, give them space, making your next line further away. If they cross out your lines, you could be playful and cross out one of their lines. Or make nurturing, protective marks around what they have drawn to contain the emotions. Go with your intuition on this.
Child wanted to do his own picture all by himself with caregiver watching
If they start to make a picture, try working on it too. If they are scribbling angrily, you can validate this feeling by doing the same right beside them. If they tear the paper up, try once more and then let it go for another time. If they scrunch it up and throw it at you, this could be a great opportunity for a spontaneously fun paper ball fight! (Be careful about this one, in cases where the child has a history of physical abuse, they may be triggered by things being thrown at them, even in fun)
These games can also be adapted for more than two people. Sometimes this can be more successful with foster siblings involved, sometimes other issues come up. Whatever happens, be curious about and respectful of the child’s reactions as these directly reflect their feelings.
Collaborative art is a great starting place to invite and validate these feelings and to reach out to your child in a safe, no-pressure way.
Examples of turn taking with single marks (shows different stages of trusting relationships
Thanks for reading and I hope this was helpful!
Vicky Wallace, Play and Expressive Arts Therapist