Looking for creative pain relief for kids? Using art with children is a great way to distract kids who are experiencing pain or discomfort. In the right situations, it can help when you can’t give pain medication. By tapping into the healing power of art, parents can help their children cope with difficult situations and improve their overall well-being.

Why use creative pain relief for kids

Using art as an intervention with children can be beneficial when they are uncomfortable or experiencing pain. Engaging in art can also help children process their emotions surrounding feeling discomfort or illness.

Many pediatric hospitals use some version of a craft cart that they use to help comfort and entertain sick children. Oftentimes, they will offer several projects to choose from. Sometimes a volunteer or a parent assist with the process. 

Benefits of Using Art

Art projects give children something to focus on other than the pain they are experiencing. As they become more involved in their activity, pain becomes background noise vs being front and center in their mind. Many alternative approaches to pain management utilize distraction.

Reasons you should give art a try

  • Art engages multiple senses 
  • Art allows children to look at things from a new perspective
  • Art allows children to express themselves in creative ways
  • Art is a great way for visual learners to process new ideas
  • Art encourages children to use their imaginations
  • Art can facilitate collaboration and bonding
  • Art can boost your child’s confidence 
  • Art can give your child a sense of accomplishment
  • Art can encourage relaxation

You’ve already got what you need!

Colorful art supplies for kids. Paints, scissors, paper, and glue. All these supplies are excellent tools for initiating creative pain relief for kids.

One of the great things about using art as an intervention with your children is that you probably already have most of the supplies you need. You don’t need a bunch of expensive kits to use art as a pain intervention. Look around your home and see if your have any of the following basic supplies. 

Top 8 art supplies you should always have in your home

  • Pencils
  • Colored pencils
  • Paper
  • Crayons
  • Markers
  • Tape 
  • Glue 
  • Child safe Scissors 
  • Paint

With these 8 items alone, the possibilities are limitless. If you are looking for ideas of what to do, the internet has endless ideas. 

Fun supplies to add

  • Pipe cleaners
  • Felt
  • Googly eyes 
  • Ribbon 
  • If you want to try some pain and illness related art, here are some ideas of things you can experiment with.
A child's artwork.

Creative Pain Relief Ideas

Drawing Ideas

  • Draw me a picture of yourself today. Show me how you are feeling.
  • If you were a flower what would you look like today?
  • If you were a house what would you look like today?
  • If you could be any animal, what would you be? Draw it for me.
  • If your pain was an animal, what would it look like?
  • If your pain was a monster, what would it look like?

Creating art is a great way for your child to process how they are feeling. It can help them to express difficult emotions that can be difficult for younger children to verbalize.

Painting Ideas

  • Ask your child to pick a color of paint that represents how they feel. Have them do several free paintings with just this color. 
  • Encourage your child to paint a relaxing scene like mountains, the ocean, or a lake.
  • Help your child paint a picture of a magic potion that treats everything. Have them use lots of colors and tell you what goes in the potion. 
  • Have your child create a new super hero that fights pain. Have them come up with the hero’s special powers. 

Creating Crafts With Medical Supplies

In the hospital setting, we let children play and craft with medical supplies to help them become familiar and more comfortable with items that are used to help them. Allowing a child to play with a bit of bandaging before a dressing change was a great distraction. Letting kids squirt their nurses with a syringe of water always brought a smile.

When you are helping a sick kid at home, you can use medical supplies to create art to entertain and distract your kids. Here are some ideas of things you can try.

Play with Bandaids

There are tons of tutorials online that show you creative ways to use bandaids to create art. You can also give your children a prompt and then let their imaginations run wild.

Bandaid Challenges

  • Make a flower
  • Make a building or a house
  • Make a person (Adding googly eyes can be fun)
  • Create a bandaid creature
  • Create bandaid vehicles

Play with tongue depressors and popsicle sticks

  • Create a magic healing wand (Use glitter if you dare)
  • Make stick people
  • Create silly animals
  • Make different types of trees

Play with Q-Tips

  • Create a tic tac toe game (Challenge each other when you are done)
  • Use the q-tips as a paint brush to create dot art
  • Make a q-tip snowflake
  • Make a q-tip skeleton

Play with tape

  • Experiment with tape paintings
  • Use colorful tape to make different shapes
  • Create a rainbow with different colors of tape

Creative therapy for mental health

Make an appointment with a certified art therapist

If you have a child that needs more help than you can provide by yourself, making an appointment with a certified art therapist could be a helpful option. 

An art therapist is someone who has obtained a master’s degree and has extensive training in both art and psychology. They have the training to utilize both therapeutic modalities together to provide unique interventions.

How can an art therapist help my child?

Art therapists utilize the visual arts to assist individuals by promoting well being, teaching coping skills, and communicating via creative expression.

Who can art therapy help?

Art therapy can help people who are dealing with a wide array of challenges such as disabilities, chronic illnesses, and psychological trauma. Art therapists are experts at picking up on nonverbal cues and using art therapy for chronic pain. They often make progress with people who may not have found success with other therapeutic methods. 

Final thoughts

Using art as a comfort measure at home is easy to do and can be a great opportunity for you to bond with your child. Next time your child is upset or in pain, give it a try and see if it’s something that works for your kid!

Looking for more ways to help your child when they are in pain? Check out my articles on breathing exercises for kids and how to help sick kids sleep.

  • Georgetown Behavioral Hospital. (2016). Georgetownbehavioral.com. https://www.georgetownbehavioral.com/blog/expressive-art-therapy-for-children
  • Pielech, M., Sieberg, C. B., & Simons, L. E. (2013). Connecting parents of children with chronic pain through art therapy. Clinical Practice in Pediatric Psychology1(3), 214–226. https://doi.org/10.1037/cpp0000026
  • Solan, M. (2018, July 12). Art therapy: Another way to help manage pain – Harvard Health Blog. Harvard Health Blog. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/art-therapy-another-way-to-help-manage-pain-2018071214243

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