Some believe that color is a very powerful force in our lives and can have subtle effects on our bodies and minds. Interior designers and artists have used color to dramatically affect moods and feelings with their work. Institutions such as hospitals often use soft blues to decorate the rooms; creating a calming environment. However, your feelings about color can also be very personal and can be rooted in your own experience or culture. But there are certian characteristics and qualities of colors that can be useful when working with sensory sensitive children.
Color therapy or “chromotherapy” was practiced by ancient cultures including Egyptian and Chinese. They used color to heal and today in holistic or alternative settings, practitioners include it as well. Here are some interesting characteristics:
RED- Used to stimulate the body and min and to increase circulation (and appetite)
YELLOW- Used to stimulate the nervous system and help focus
ORANGE- Used to heal the lungs and promote energy
BLUE- Used to calm and sooth and treat pain
There are of course more nuances and uses of color that can be researched and debated, but how can some of this information be used in working with children? As an art therapist, I am always aware of visual stimulation when presenting art materials. When I notice a child is very hyper, I will avoid offering stimulating colors such as reds or oranges and try to stick with the blue tones. Does this help? I beleive it does, but to what degreee I am not sure. I will never deny a child colors that they are asking for, but may steer the choices when possible.
Color can also be used to evoke emotions or make connections to feelings, memories and ideas. I have often used the book by Dr. Suess called “My Many Colored Days” which can help children identify their emotions through color referencing. The story is wonderfully illustrated with colorful images that connect a feeling……this of course is rather subjective and I ask the children if the color in the book makes them feel different. Either way, the story helps them identify their own emotions which is often hard for children with developmental issues. After reading the story there are so many art making projects that can be presented as a follow up. I have had children create large murals, individual colorized portaits, and more……
Overall, color can be a great tool when working with sensory sensitive children. By experiementing and becoming aware of subtle reactions, we can taylor the activities and hopefully help them regulate. In addition, there are other things that compliment the use of color such as music and aromatherapy. More about those later…..