Category Archives: holidays

Easter egg cartons

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I save all my egg cartons, and not because I have chickens. No, I save them to make egg carton purses. Decorated and filled with little items, they make wacky, fun gifts. They also make great jewelry boxes. And they are great projects for kids during this (or any other) season.

I paint and then decorate them with paper scraps, twigs, beads, feathers, recycled yarn and ribbons, whatever I have around. The purse handles come from my rusty wire collection.




I fill the purses with small items, mostly things I find around the house: a tiny package of samples from my paper collection, chocolates, barrettes, snappers, buttons, beads, etc.





In the Camp AmeriKids art & crafts room, where I work in the summers, the younger girls have made beautiful egg carton purses. They use the same array of materials, although we spray paint the rusty wires in bright colors. The girls leave them with us to dry, and we surprise them by delivering them to their cabins filled with little treats of small art supplies and candy.

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IMG_2462Happy Easter, Passover, and Spring!

Madonna and child

At this time of year, images of madonna and child are everywhere. (No, not THAT Madonna.) For me, the power of this image is not in its religious context, but rather in the context of the many years I spent working in foster care. Those of us working in foster care are always hoping for a beautiful, loving connection for each and every child.

Here are some madonna and child images from around the world.

Japan: Sadao Watanabe, 1991

France: Pablo Picasso 1921-22

Ethiopia: Artist Unknown, ca1450

England: Henry Moore, 1943-44

India: Artist and date unknown

Italy: Andrea Della Robbia,16th Century

France: Henri Matisse, 1949

Happy Hanukkah

“The original miracle of Hanukkah was that a committed band of people led a successful uprising against a much larger force, paving the way for Jewish independence and perhaps keeping Judaism itself from disappearing. It’s an amazing story, resonant with America’s own founding, that offers powerful lessons about standing up for one’s convictions and challenging those in power.”  From The True Meaning of Hanukkah, Hilary Leila Krieger, 2012

Ben Shahn, Menorah, 1965

Marc Chagall, America Windows, 1977

Devils, vampires, ghosts

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Holidays are always important to kids in art therapy, perhaps none more so than Halloween. It’s a chance to take part in the fun and ritual of costumes, masks, and candy. But it’s also a chance for them to express the negative feelings and experiences that impact them. Some of the Halloween images I’ve seen over the years have eloquently depicted the internal and external violence in a child’s life, the good vs. the bad self, the ghosts of lost parents, and more.

In this way, Halloween manages to be a ton of fun while simultaneously honoring the emotional process. Here are some Halloween images created by kids in art therapy.

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Have a heart

Heart: Capacity for sympathy or generosity; compassion.

Niki de Sainte Phalle

Heart: The repository of one’s deepest and sincerest feelings and beliefs.

Book of Hours c. 15th century

Heart: Courage; resolution; fortitude.

Keith Haring

Heart: The vital center and source of one’s being, emotions, and sensibilities.

Gabriel Orozoco

Happy Valentines day!

Christmas in care

This is the first holiday season in twenty-four years that I’m not working in foster care. But I find that my head and heart are there anyway. Holiday time in the foster care world is kind of rough. Foster care staff, and lots of parents, go out of their way to make it special, with parties, gifts, and good cheer, but no matter how you cut it, these kids are not home for the holidays. There’s that old Perry Como tune:

Oh there’s no place like home for the holidays,
‘Cause no matter how far away you roam,
If you want to be happy in a million ways,
For the holidays,
You can’t beat home, sweet home.

And no matter how sweet home isn’t, most foster children feel just like the song says. This is a time when artmaking really helps kids. Birth parents and siblings are on every child’s mind, and decorations, cards, and gift-making rule. The world around us gets more colorful, and that gets reflected in the art. The energy generated by all this activity helps children feel less isolated, more engaged and part of the world, and allows them to express their connections to others in non-verbal but very concrete ways. 

Images of houses are always common in the art of foster children, but never more than during the holidays, when the air just seems thick with longing for home.