Why Creative Outlets over Summer Break are Integral to Children’s Mental Health! - Westport Moms
Contributed by MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) Westport


Have you ever seen the way a child’s eyes light up when they find out that they get to create something all on their own? It is simply amazing.

When kids engage with the arts, they are not only building essential skills, but they are also discovering more about the world around them, and learning about themselves.  Growth in these three key areas is critical to developing their self-esteem and confidence: which is essential to promoting their mental health. It seems to be a no-brainer to foster environments that build on that potential.

We all know what it’s like for life to get ahead of us and before we know it we will be back to planning our fall routine.  Before that happens, let’s reflect on why it is so critical for parents to create opportunities for their kids that foster an understanding of themselves and an appreciation for the arts. 

It is widely known that artistic outlets are incredibly important in helping children build the essential skills of creativity and problem solving, as well as keeping them engaged in the learning process. Experiences in visual arts, performing arts, and STEAM-based inquiry are just a few of the ways in which kids can foster their creativity. Children in a painting class begin the experience in their comfort zone applying watercolor paints to paper. Eventually the goal is to impart enough knowledge for them to upgrade to mixing acrylic paints to make the colors they envision and work with higher-level mediums to stretch themselves artistically. This method of practice and play is vital to strengthening critical thinking skills for learners of all ages and abilities. By establishing the building blocks of creative expression and problem solving, kids will be primed to experience learning within the moments in everyday life.

Creative opportunities in a group atmosphere compel kids to have a broader perspective. They can connect with others they might not have otherwise ever met, grow their emotional intelligence, and increase their worldview.  It is critical to provide infrastructure for children to meet individuals with similar and differing interests and backgrounds. These connections are vital to helping children build meaningful friendships that they might not have been able to have otherwise.  As a parallel to building relationships, creative group opportunities also foster the growth of a child’s emotional intelligence. When children strengthen their understanding of their reactions and feelings, outcomes can include improved self-awareness, heightened social awareness, and better management of relationships with others.

Creative outlets like Camp MoCA Westport lend themselves perfectly to teaching kids about the diversity of our world. Here, the mixing of ideas, practices, and point-of-views meld into a collaborative working environment that fosters a growth mindset.

Additionally, imaginative experiences create an environment where children are free to learn about themselves and develop self-esteem. Artistic practices help reduce anxiety, stress, and depression by shifting a person’s focus onto the work and can provide a sense of accomplishment and flow-state. Likewise, expressing oneself through artistic modalities increases a person’s joy, relaxation, and helps them recharge. When a child learns to take a block of clay and mold it into a sculpture of themselves, they are not simply shaping a figure. Through the process of trial and error they move beyond the stressors of their everyday world and can center their energy on the work at their fingertips: all while experiencing the triumph of achievement as they complete each step of the project. This tactile artistic expression is critical to a child’s development of identity.  Scenarios that encourage children to express themselves freely contribute to improved self-esteem and understanding of self-worth. 

In short, creative outlets are integral to supporting children’s mental health. Incorporating opportunities for kids to engage in the arts with each other makes all the difference between surviving and thriving over summer break and beyond.

Camp MoCA offers a dynamic day camp experience that incorporates STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) and has a ‘maker space’ atmosphere in order to provide hands-on, creative ways to encourage students to design, experiment, build and invent as they deeply engage in visual arts, cultural experiences, and critical thinking. We are hard at work behind the scenes to make Camp MoCA the most wonderful experience for campers!

Campers may look forward to participating in activities related to ‘Recycled/ Upcycling Art’, ‘Nature in Art’, ‘Engineering and Art’, ‘Chemistry and Art’, ‘Movement and Art’- just to name a few!

Camp MoCA is staffed with certified educators, art instructors and camp counselors who are CPR certified and features an air-conditioned indoor facility and lush outdoor grounds to explore art, enjoy nature, and have tons of unique creative experiences each week of the summer. Offering parents flexibility in scheduling and providing kids with engaging adventures.

Operating camp rain or shine, 9 a.m.- 3 p.m., weekly M-F, from the week of June 7th to the week of August 23rd. Campers ages 3-13 may sign up for a single week or multiple weeks at a time.

Colleen Thomas  is an educator who advocates for elevating partnerships between arts organizations and their communities. She has worked as a teacher in traditional classrooms as well as museums and is thrilled to partner with her colleagues at MoCA to build dynamic and inclusive programs that enrich the lives of our students.

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