Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Crafts for Special Needs Kids

I have a friend with a daughter in the second grade who is both blind and autistic. She goes to art class with the general ed kids, but they are having a hard time coming up with projects for her. She only gets to spend about 15 minutes out of the 40-minute class. I'm not really familiar with projects for children with special needs, but I spent some time thinking about what I thought she might enjoy using her other senses -- touch, smell, sound, and taste. I came up with the following projects ...

Clay or Play-Dough
In addition to molding and sculpting, she could press things into the clay. Small items like coins, buttons, paper clips, a comb, barrettes, sticks, even little figurines. She could either remove the items and feel the indentations, or leave them in. Play-Dough has a smell that you remember forever.

There are a lot of bread dough recipes online. She could roll and twist the dough, kneed it, and shape it. After it's baked, she can eat her project. The same would work for certain cookie recipes.

One project is to tape a piece of construction paper onto the bottom of a metal baking pan. Then have the child dip a marble in paint and drop it in the pan. She can gently roll the pan back and forth, causing the marble to paint on the paper. Do it again with another color to make a great picture. It's also fun to hear the sounds of the marbles rolling around in the pan. My boys did this on black paper for Halloween one year using white paint. When it was dry, we cut the paper in a web shape and glued on a plastic spider.

Tempra paints have a great feel to them, too, especially when used on large sheets of newsprint with a big, soft paintbrush. Just stroking the paper with the brush is soothing, as is the smell of tempra paints. The smell always takes me back to when I was little.

Tubes of puffy paint are fun, especially to squeeze and drizzle on paper. When it dries, she could feel the lumps in the paint.

I also thought of a paper plate painting craft my boys have done, which might be fun for someone without sight. You take a non-coated paper plate (like a Chinet) and squeeze a few drops of food coloring onto it. Then you stand out in the rain (only for few seconds) and let the raindrops hit it. The colors swirl and expand. This wouldn't be as tactile for her, but she might enjoy hearing the description of what happened to each of the drops and if they turned into any interesting shapes.

I've suggested some of these projects to my friend and she's going to pass them along to her daughter's school. I wanted to post about it here, just in case anyone has any other ideas that might be fun for her. Thanks!


  1. Rena those are amazing ideas - wonderful inspiration

  2. what fun ideas. I know with Megan and her special needs she just does not like to do crafts at all. She loves to watch others color though. I have tried finger paints and play dough and so many things she just wants to be left alone for the most part. I want to do the craft in the rain idea. That would of been so fun to do when I was babysiting.

  3. Rena, Thank you for the suggestions...I am going to send these ideas along to school with Hayley. Hopefully they will try them, they are something I can do at home with her too:)

  4. These are wonderful ideas. I used to work among children with 'special needs' in a daycare centre. One of the popular variations on the playdough theme was adding different ingredients and letting the children blend them in. A good sprinkle of glitter was always a big hit. For children who especially enjoyed texture, including those with a vision impairment, raw oats or rice were popular too.

    Another thing some of the children really enjoyed was wrapping colourful wool round and round things. Using a glue stick, we gave them sticky jars,sticky boxes and even small branches that they could swirl the wool around. A lovely activity to do with music!

    Thank you for this post. I put lots of children's craft activities on my blog too and you've given me lots of inspiration here :)

  5. I totally thought "clay" right away. And maybe something with fabric strips? Knotting them or something?