25 Fun Expressive Art Therapy Activities for Teens

Published:
June 19, 2024

Sarah Shelton

Contributor:
Sarah Shelton

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If you have a teenager you know that as they are growing they go through a myriad of different emotions that can be difficult to work through at times. Art therapy activities for teens is an easy way to help your teens work through hard feelings and express themselves.

art therapy activities shows a teen holding up her hands with paint and smiling

Art Therapy Activities for Teens

We all know that the teenage years can be difficult to navigate through, especially if there are other stressors in their lives. Art therapy activities can be an effective way to ground your teens, and bring calming and relief to them as they are sorting through tough emotions.

What is art therapy?

According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is a powerful tool that can help young people in times of crisis, grief, post traumatic stress, or even changes in circumstances. It can help them feel more in control of their lives, relieve depression and anxiety and help with emotional regulation.

Art therapy is a mental health profession that can enrich the lives of individuals and families through creative projects and making art using different mediums in a safe space. Art therapy is a way to encourage self-expression.

Visual art media can help teens express what they can’t put into words. This way of conveying emotions has a positive impact on teen’s mental health. Art therapists are trained in art and psychology, but you can do simple art projects at home that are also beneficial to your teens and other family members.

Can art therapy help with anxiety?

Yes! Art therapy is calming and can help relieve symptoms of anxiety, but taking the focus away from what is causing the anxiousness.

Even something as simple as sketching, doodling or coloring can provide a great way to ground yourself and get some calm from the racing thoughts and negative feelings.

What are the benefits of art therapy for mental health?

Art therapy has become more popular in recent years as more research comes out that there are so many benefits of doing art!.

Let’s check out these benefits of art therapy:

  • Observing art can boost serotonin and increase blood flow to the brain.
  • Helps with problem-solving skills.
  • Can calm racing inner thoughts.
  • Provides a way to express emotions that can’t be expressed in words.
  • Stimulates cognitive abilities.
  • Can help distract from chronic pain.
  • Encourages emotional expression and emotional regulation.
  • Increases positive emotions.
  • Helps to develop social skills.
  • Improves self-esteem.

25 Fun and Expressive Art Therapy Activities for Teens

We have put together a list of 25 art therapy ideas, art projects and creative activities that your teens can use as a creative, coping outlet during times of stress.

Collage Art

Collage art is a great way to help your teens with creative expression. Some teens may not feel like they are artistic and get intimidated with different art mediums like painting or drawing.

Collage art is a wonderful way to get your teens to create visual representations of what they be feeling by using different materials in creative ways.

1. Word Inspiration Collage – Ask your teens for quotes or words that inspire them and give them some examples. Maybe it could be a word for the year, or a quote or scripture. Have them search for the word or letters in magazines to create a word collage on cardstock.

2. Crazy Quilt Collage Challenge – Give your kids a blank piece of paper and stacks of magazines, old scrapbook paper or old cards and a glue stick. Set a timer for 15 minutes and challenge them to fill their paper up like a quilt by only using their hands to tear and rip up the magazines and scrapbook pages.

This is a great stress reliever as they focus on building up their page without thinking about anything else.

3. Altered Magazine Collage – Invite your teens to alter or deface a magazine photo with acrylic paint, sharpie markers or oil pastels. Fashion magazines or National Geographic magazines are great options.

4. Tissue Paper Collage – Gather up tissue paper in different colors and have your teens tear them up into small pieces. Layer them on card stock with mod podge or watered down glue. This is simple activity that is very peaceful.

Painting

If you are looking for some healthy ways to relieve stress and encourage artistic expression painting is the way to go. My daughters love painting and use it as a way to destress. It is very relaxing for them and they love seeing their finished product.

Some teens may be frustrated with learning how to paint. You could start small with cheap acrylic paint and a blank canvas, or even abstract painting or finger painting.

6. Paint Your Emotions with Finger Painting – FInger painting is a very tactile and calming art activity. Start by choosing colors that reflect your feelings.

Use red for anger, blue for sadness, yellow for happiness, or green for calm. Let your fingers guide you across the paper while you use colors to represent what you are feeling at the moment.

7. Paint a Place That Makes You Feel Calm – Instruct your teens to think about their favorite place that they feel calm in and have them paint that place. They can use acrylic paint and a canvas and hang it up so they can look at it when they need to think of something calm and happy for them.

8. Free Art Therapy Painting Activity Download – This painting activity is geared towards teens and will help them reflect on childhood, where they are now, and where they want to be in adulthood. This is a free download full of ideas for art activities for teens.

Coloring Pages

Adult coloring pages have become quite popular with teens and adults by reducing stress, enhancing focus, and bringing feelings of calm. It is a creative outlet that can help boost the mood and bring a sense of accomplishment.

9. 75 Cute Coloring Pages for All Ages – We have a huge list of cute coloring pages for all ages. Your teens may enjoy going through this list to pick some out to work on when they need a technology break and a calm moment.

10. Heart Coloring Pages – These heart coloring pages can be used for a variety of crafts, as well as ones with intricate designs. Your teens can even create their very own coloring book with them and fill the hearts in with their favorite encouraging and inspiring quotes.

11. Mindful Coloring – Mindful coloring is filling in detailed patterns and complex designs (like adult coloring pages) with color. This activity requires complete focus and helps teens stay in the moment, which helps promote mindfulness.

Drawing

In art therapy, drawing is used to express emotions, reduce stress, and explore personal issues. The act of drawing helps release emotions, improves self-awareness, and fosters healing.

12. Draw Your Own Mandala – Mandalas are fancy with super intricate designs that are very calming to draw and color in. These step-by-step instructions with a free printable mandala template will make it easy for your teens to create their own.

13. Comic Book Templates – Have your teens design their own comic book with these comic book templates. You can give them a topic, or just let them be creative and make their own story.

14. Draw to Music – Put on different genres of music and have your teens draw what they are feeling while listening to the music. Even putting on background music while drawing is calming and relaxing to the brain and body.

15. Free Form Doodling – Encourage your teens to draw whatever feels right without even thinking about it. Just have them move their hands across the paper and draw or doodle. This will help to loosen up muscles and relax. You can use different colors of pens or markers, or pencils.

Calming Art Apps

For teens that love technology, they may enjoy these calming art apps. Many of them are coloring or drawing apps, with calming music to go with them. It’s a great way to de stress when you need a quick break.

16. Color Therapy Coloring Number – Rated the #1 coloring app for relaxation and mindfulness. Digital coloring can be so relaxing and helps you to de-stress.

17. Happy Color – This app mixes digital art games with color by number puzzles for some relaxing fun with art games! There are Disney puzzles, nature themes, fashion design and more.

18. Lina Therapy App – Lina is an interesting art therapy activity app designed by art therapists. It give you simple drawing prompts and then gives you insights on self reflection, what you drew and what it could mean for you.

3D Art

Creating 3D Art is a wonderful way to help your teens think out of the box and just have fun creating in a relaxed setting.

There are so many different ways to create 3D art using a variety of art materials, and just random things that can be found around the house.

19. Build a Treasure Box – Dollar stores and craft stores have a variety of different wooden boxes with latches that make the perfect treasure box. Have them paint it or collage it with scrapbook papers or magazines and mod podge. They can use the treasure box to store notes or positive quotes or affirmations.

20. Make a Self Care Box – A self care box is a great tool to have if you suffer from anxiety or trauma. In times of stress you can reach for the box that can help you when you need grounding. The box can include fidget toys, scriptures, phone numbers of friends to call, little treats, herbal teas etc…

You can get a pretty box from a craft store, or decorate a bag, or use a treasure box that you have painted to store your items in.

21. Create a Junk Sculpture – This is a really fun way to get your kids thinking out of the box and encourage their creative process.

22. Make a Candy Sculpture – For this activity, lay out a box of toothpicks and skewers and bowls of different types of candy. Chewy candies like gumdrops, swedish fish, air heads, gummy worms, marshmallows are great choices.

23. Create Custom Jewlery – Beaded friendship bracelets are all the rage right now. During times of stress, making bracelets can be a great calming tool. You tend not to think about things that are stressing you out when you are busy sorting colors, and stringing beads.

We love this Clay Beads Bracelet Making Kit. Everything that you need comes in one nice storage box.

24. Create Paper Flowers with Flower Templates – This is a great paper craft for teens that uses pipe cleaners, buttons, beads and paper flower templates to create 3 Dimensional flowers.

25. Make Art from Nature – Being outside in nature is a must for stabilizing your mental health. Take your teens on a nature walk and have them collect pretty flowers and leaves. Then go home and get creative by creating art or sculptures with the natural materials that they have found.

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