The story of the Chinese Dragon

Two five-year olds with leukemia met at the art table in our Georgetown clinic, one from a suburb of Washington, DC and the other newly-arrived from China—fluent in two dialects, but just learning English. Cancer wasn’t the only thing the boys had in common—they both loved dragons! They bonded over drawing dragons and comparing their toys, and soon became fast friends.

Despite having cancer, on good days they had plenty of noisy creative energy. Around Chinese New Year we started talking about dragons. The one little guy’s dad knew an awful lot about them, so we decided to make one. Over the next few weeks, a silk fan, dryer hose, an empty plastic tub, ping-pong balls and duct tape became a six-foot long miniature dragon that the boys paraded around the clinic.

For the kids, the highlight was syringe-painting while cotton cloth to make the “skin” of the dragon. For me, as the art therapist, the best part was seeing their evolving project become the focus of each day’s clinic visit. Scheduled chemo faded to the background and friendship and collaboration took over. The boys bounded into the clinic asking, “Can we work on the dragon today?”

I have put up photos of the evolving dragon project to show you how you can make one too. Check out our Pinterest board for the details!

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