Learning to be yourself and not hide who you are is an important part of growing up (and, unfortunately, something many of us still struggle with as adults). The creative arts are a great way for kids to explore who they are and express themselves freely. And the stories and characters in books can provide role models for kids, prompt self-reflection and discussion, and inspire new action.
In the third part of the creative bibliotherapy series, I have three books about the theme of being yourself and expressing who you are.
In this cute story a man lives in a neighborhood where everyone’s house looks the same and everyone seems to value fitting in and being like the others. But when a “big orange splot” is spilled on his roof, it sparks the man’s creativity, eventually leading the whole neighborhood to embrace the idea of creatively expressing who they are through their houses.
Activity – Decorate your own house to express who you are and what you like. You can draw one, use a template (see end of post for a printable template), build one from cardboard or other materials, or decorate a snack/cereal box house. Have plenty of colors and embellishments available. If you are doing this with a group, you can set up a neighborhood of all the houses to facilitate joining together.
With my kinder SEL group this year I used inside out snack boxes, based on this cereal box house idea – https://www.creatingreallyawesomefunthings.com/big-orange-splot/.
A scribble feels left out and judged by the other types of drawings who think things need to be a certain way. But then they all learn that they can have more fun when they accept each other and create together. This book touches on themes of acceptance, being yourself, and empathy for others.
Activity – What can you make with a scribble? Make lots of scribbles then turn them into creatures, pictures, etc. Focus on a playful mindset of having fun and being creative. Or use scribbles to create your own various scribble characters. (My copy of the book came with stickers to add faces to scribbles. You can also get resources from the author at https://www.dianealber.com/pages/nationalscribbleday)
This is a book that I’ve had in my office for several years and the story (and illustrations) have always been engaging for my child clients. A young girl who is worried about what others think of her develops a mysterious condition that causes her appearance to change in relation to what other people say or expect. It turns out that the cure is to be herself and do what she loves.
Activity – Create a self-portrait. It can be silly, creative, show what others expect of you, or represent the things that you love and that make you special. For some of my younger kids, I provide body and face templates that they can use for their portrait. (My kinder SEL group loved this one so much that they each created 2-3 different self-portraits.) See below for some printable templates.
Did you miss the other creative bibliotherapy posts? Be sure to take a look.
Creative Bibliotherapy Part 1: Exploring Emotions
Creative Bibliotherapy Part 2: Healthy Relationships and Coping
If you’re thinking about ordering any of these books, remember that shopping through affiliate links on the post help support the blog. You can check out my book list on Bookshop.org to support both the blog and independent bookstores. Or find any of these books on Amazon.
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Do you have another idea how you would use this activity therapeutically? And if you give it a try (either with client or for your own fun art-making), I’d love to hear how it goes.
Carolyn Mehlomakulu, LMFT-S, ATR-BC is an art therapist in Austin, Texas who works with children, teens, and families. For more information about telehealth and online therapy, individual therapy, child and teen counseling, and art therapy services, please visit: www.therapywithcarolyn.com. Carolyn is also the author of The Balanced Mind – A Mental Health Journal, a guided journal that combines writing and art prompts to support your mental health.
This blog post contains affiliate links and I earn a small commission for your purchases. This blog is not intended to diagnose or treat any mental health conditions. All directives, interventions, and ideas should be used by qualified individuals within the appropriate bounds of their education, training, and scope of practice. Information presented in this blog does not replace professional training in child and family therapy, art therapy, or play therapy. Art therapy requires a trained art therapist.