From the East to the West: Collage Activity for Children and Adolescents

This is another excellent contribution is from Martha Nodar, who earned a gift certificate to childtherapytoys.com for her submission. Learn how you can do the same!

Brief History of Collage and its uses around the World

Rooted in French words that mean to glue, a collage is a kaleidoscope of different materials glued together onto a flat surface. A collage may include an infinite variety of memorabilia, such as photos and postcards, along with images from newspapers and magazines. Doing a collage is inexpensive and fun for all, if not most, children and adolescents. Even those who may not be interested in drawing or painting are attracted to doing a collage. A collage offers an opportunity to assess cognitive and social development over time. For instance, a collage of a 7 year-old is more likely to be better organized than a collage from a 5 year-old whose images may be glued upside down and missing an underlying theme.

A collage is designed to be therapeutic as one transforms feelings and thoughts into a visual representation. “Images of the Self” are believed to be involved in the images chosen for the collage (Takata, 2002). Japanese psychologist Yuriko Takata is the author of “Supporting by a nurse teacher in a school infirmary using collage therapy,” an article published in Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences in 2002. In this article, Takata discusses how she applied a series of collages to treat two Japanese adolescents who were skipping school as the result of family conflict and parental substance abuse. Skipping school is a serious offense in Japan, a country that prides itself on having the highest high school attendance in the world. Rather than kicking these two adolescents out of school, Takata was called upon to intervene and achieved successful results.

Notes and instructions on using collage:

• Find several large, blank, poster boards of hard paper, either in white or light color.

• Have a large assortment of magazines and newspapers showing different images of animals, people, landscapes, modes of transportation, vacation spots, buildings, etc, and plenty of glue sticks, markers, and child-safe scissors for younger children.

• Have a stack of clippings of these images ready for the participants (children/adolescents) to choose from, or have them look through magazines and newspapers themselves selecting and cutting those images which may attract their attention.

• Once the images are selected, have the participants glue those images on the poster.

• Have the participants title their posters, date it, and write down anything they may wish to have next to each image. By doing so, participants are creating their own story, letting the school counselor know how they feel about things, what they may have in their lives, and what they wish they had.

• The idea behind this activity is for the participants to express unspoken and maybe even unacknowledged wishes that have not yet reached conscious awareness. The activity is likely to stimulate the participant’s willingness to share a personal anecdote with the school counselor.

• If they so desire, participants may choose to give each poster a theme. For instance, they may select to do a poster of only images of farm animals, or only safari animals, or only cars or only modes of transportation, etc.

• These posters may be saved so that the participant and the school counselor may be able to assess the child or adolescent’s cognitive development over time in the images selected. Based on how the images may be organized in the poster, this might give the school counselor a snapshot into the participant’s dreams about something they might desire but don’t have in their lives as of yet, or a life experience that may have had a significant impact, such as the death of a parent or a sibling.

• Some children/adolescents have so much to express that they might do multiple collages, one right after another. The fundamental idea underpinning a collage is the celebration of the freedom of expression. Full expression unleashes the real Self, and its innate power in self-healing.

• Collages have no gender or age-limit

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