Happiness is…the BIG Picture!

I don’t know if you guys have read (although I wonder if that’s the right word for that book) Ralph Lazar & Lisa Swerling’s latest book called ‘Happiness Is…’. It is a simple yet heartwarming book which gave me a great idea for an interactive/collaborative art project for my room. I stripped down my massive pin board to bare and, in colourful letters, wrote the prompt, ‘Happiness is…’. And really, that’s all that was needed.

The little and not-so-little ones I work with, and their parents, my friends, clients, colleagues, the young, the old…this simple but visually obvious prompt on my pin board did not fail to pique the curiosity of whoever entered my room. Since then, I have had a series of absolutely delightful contributions, in all shapes and sizes, in words as well as in doodles, in song, and in lyrics. I have bemusedly watched adults get to the task with childlike glee, even asking for coloured markers! And children spouting inner wisdom that has left me humbled.

happiness is

Here are the many, many ways interactive and collaborative art projects are a great idea when working with little and not-so-little people:

  • Art has huge therapeutic benefits. It generates enthusiasm, while also having a relaxing effect on our physiology. It alerts as well as calms. Collaborative art also has the added benefit of teaching kids to work with others, to pick up from where others have left off.
  • Doing a collaborative project means learning to wait. I may have done my little bit but I need to be patient while the rest of it comes together, bit by little bit.
  • Helps them see the bigger picture. When working on our individual bits, we tend to take a worm’s eye view, focusing on every little detail yet working within our comfort zone. As soon as I put my little bit into the larger whole, it becomes something else altogether. The whole is always bigger than the sum of its parts. A wonderful lesson in perspective taking.
  • Kids get to learn so many new ways of thinking and responding to the same thing. “I used to think happiness lies in playing video games alone, but hey, many people my age seem to think doing art makes them happy…and some say sports..and for some simply humming a tune seems to do it..hey wait! That one makes me happy too!”. For therapists working with children, such projects open up a world of insightful discussion and peer-modeled skills.
  • It is the process rather than the product, that matters. It is how the project comes together, how another person’s idea triggers off something in this one’s mind, how some kids jump straight into theirs while others labour painstakingly through theirs, wanting to get it ‘just right’. These are the processes that reveal the greatest insights and stay on, lingering long after the project is done and dusted.

Go on, start one today and be surprised!


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