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clay coil pot
Credit: TheCraftTrain.com

Creating art is a great way to enhance focus and attention span. The art process is active and has concrete causes and effects. Partaking in art offers opportunities for continued experimentation which keeps things exciting and the artist engaged. An artist learns to follow steps and tasks that lead to a finished product as a reward.

Keep It Simple

Have your artist choose materials and a project they would like to do. Start by demonstrating the first three or four steps of the project. This allows your artist to see what they are expected to do. It also helps them to see the concrete cause and effect of each step.  Example >>

Make a simple clay coil pot.

Sit next to the artist with clay. The artist also has clay.

Step 1: Demonstrate how to roll a coil out of clay. Have the artist try it. Continue to roll coils with the artist this way. Introduce and demonstrate the next step.

Step 2: Show the artist how to put coils on top of each other and connect them to start to form a pot.

If your artist completes these steps (even if they are small) this is success. Your main goal is to keep your artist engaged, teach the skills, and have them experience success. Do not worry if the project does not get done. Stop with the first few steps.

Repetition

Have the artist repeat the same project again another time. Re-Demonstrate the first three or four steps of the project. Have the artist do these steps. See what they can remember. Help them complete any steps they are struggling with.

Continue to repeat the project and the same steps until they are firmly able to do them. The repetition will give them the time and practice they need to learn the skill, logic of cause and effect, and memory of each step and action. As they are learning how to do new things and know what to do next they are more likely to stay focused and engaged to see what they can do next.  Example >>

Simple clay coil pot.

Repeat the first steps of the project again and then demonstrate for the artist how to smooth the coils to create a smooth surface. (These are the next new steps.) Have your artist try them.

They have added and learned a new step and stayed engaged in the project a little bit longer than before. This is success.

Build Tolerance

Your artist is also expanding the time they can spend on a task. They may start with five minutes of engaged participation. With each time they complete the project and new steps this can become ten or fifteen minutes. Success and the “fun” factor of manipulating art materials is a great way to give your artist stamina to stick with more complex tasks. The process is fun and they have a concrete reward at the end for their hard work. Through this process they learn:

  • to adapt to unexpected outcomes,
  • how to adjust to them and
  • how to manage and push through anxiety and uncomfortable feelings

Example >>

Have the artist build the coil pot project.

Once the artist is able to complete a finished pot see if they are willing to make another one. Or introduce the beginning of another project. Having finished “success” can be the best motivation to stay focused and engaged and be willing to do even more. It is easier to stay focused when you have learned skills and know what you are supposed to do.