top of page

Harnessing the Power of Animal Symbols in Art Therapy with Children

by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC

Art therapy is a powerful tool for children to express and communicate their emotions effectively, especially when words may fail them. One creative and engaging approach within this field is the use of animals as symbols. Animals can serve as a bridge between a child's inner world and the external canvas, allowing them to represent their emotions metaphorically. In this blog post, we'll explore the significance of animals in art therapy and provide examples of art directives involving their use.

Animals are Potent Symbols

Animals have long served as potent symbols in human culture, often embodying a wide range of human characteristics and personality traits. For example, the lion symbolizes courage and strength, while the rabbit may represent shyness and timidity. Recognizing these associations can be pivotal when working with children in art therapy.

By understanding the symbolism behind animals, therapists can guide children to select animals that resonate with their inner emotions and experiences, providing a non-verbal pathway for them to express complex feelings and articulate aspects of their personality. This approach empowers children to externalize their emotions creatively, fosters self-awareness, and enables therapists to engage in meaningful dialogues about the child's emotional landscape, ultimately enhancing the effectiveness of art therapy as a tool for emotional exploration and healing.

Animals as Symbols for Communication with Children

The use of animals in art therapy with children offers an effective means for them to express and communicate their emotions. Animals can serve as powerful symbols, allowing children to represent their feelings metaphorically through their artwork. This approach provides a safe outlet for expressing complex emotions, as children can project their feelings onto the chosen animal, creating a valuable emotional distance.

Art therapists can use animals as a communication bridge by engaging children in discussions about the characteristics and significance of their selected animals, opening doors to deeper conversations about their emotions and experiences. Furthermore, children can craft narratives around these animals, offering insights into their inner world.

One directive, for instance, might involve asking the child to select an animal that best represents their current emotional state. For example, a child feeling joyful may choose a playful dolphin or a butterfly, while a child struggling with anger might opt for a growling bear or a fiery dragon. Once the animal is chosen, the child can create artwork around it, using colors, shapes, and textures to express their emotions further.

Child Empowerment

Art therapy with animals empowers children, promotes emotional regulation, and fosters self-awareness, making it a valuable tool in helping them navigate their emotional landscapes and communicate their feelings effectively. Through these creative expressions, children can find their voice and share their stories in a way that resonates deeply with them. The art therapist plays a crucial role in fostering a safe and non-judgmental environment, actively listening to the child's narrative, and helping them make connections between their chosen animal symbols and their emotional experiences.

To Schedule an Appointment

To Schedule an appointment, click on the Book an Appointment button.

To learn more about Holistic Health Counseling Center, please visit out website at To read our latest blog, see this page:

animals as symbols in child art therapy


bottom of page