In my children’s Trauma & Loss Art Therapy groups, we explore common trauma reactions that can surface after something bad, sad, or scary happens that takes away a child’s sense of safety and security in their world. I often use trauma informed children’s books such as Brave Bart or A Terrible Thing Happened to help introduce and educate children about the different emotional, physical, and behavioral responses they may be experiencing.
As described in both stories through the characters Brave Bart the Cat and Sherman the Raccoon, one of the traumatic stressors can be difficulty sleeping or becoming afraid to go to sleep because of nightmares and bad dreams.
I find creating dreamcatchers are an easy, fun, art-based activity to make together as a group, as well as provide a creative, meaningful way to address fears and worries related to exploring this topic.
Kids really enjoy learning about the Legend of the Dreamcatcher before we start creating:
“According to legend, the good dreams pass through the center hole to the sleeping person, The bad dreams are trapped in the web, where they perish in the light of dawn.” ~Lakota (Sioux) Dreamcatcher Legend
When introducing dreamcatchers, I often prepare paper (or styrofoam) plates (small or large in size) by cutting the center out, and punching holes around the edge. Kids can also help and do this part too! The circle form can then be decorated with markers, oil pastels, foamie shapes, paint, or collage. Yarn is used next to thread through the punched holes, creating a criss cross pattern back and forth over the center of the circle to create the dreamcatcher’s web. A small piece of yarn is left hanging off the circle’s edge, where a series of pony beads can then be strung together. To complete the dreamcatcher, a few feathers can be securely attached inside the bead’s inside to hang down. Some dreamcatchers have multiple beads and feathers attached to the bottom.