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Art for Children and Adults with Physical or Mental Challenges

Art for Children and Adults with Physical or Mental Challenges
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Find resources for those who work with children who have special needs.


KinderArt® features many activities and lesson plans which have proven successful with children and adults with physical or mental challenges.

In order to help those who work with special children and adults, we have listed a few appropriate activities here in one place.

In addition, at the bottom of this page, we have provided you with links to resources specifically designed for children and adults with special needs.

If you have some ideas/tips to share, please send them to us.


Depending on their level of ability, children and adults with disabilities will be able to attempt the following activities. You are the best judge of what the people in your care are capable of. Remember to always have patience and encourage students to do ask much as they can on their own. There is a tremendous amount of satisfaction that comes with being able to complete tasks on your own – always keep that in mind. The key is to keep levels of ability in mind at all times and remember to be supportive – every step of the way. For those with visual impairment, tactile activities are imperative (clay, masks, puppets, etc.)

Crayon Resist
Students can use crayons and paint to make delightful crayon resist pictures. We used fish as our theme but you can use any image you wish.

Leaf by Leaf
Students can create a tree using different leaf cut outs. This is a project which can be adapted for a wide range of ages and abilities including adults with physical, perceptual and cognitive challenges.

Musical Art
By drawing or painting to music, students will learn to identify the similarities between music and art.

Shoe Fish
Students will use the outline of their shoe as the basic shape for a fish.

A Blotto Fun
A blotto is kind of like a snowflake — no two will ever be the same.

Color the Snow
This is an easy and entertaining way to teach kids about primary and secondary colors while they giggle and smile.

Corn Meal and Powder Paint
Using texture to create art.

Crepe Paper Blots
You can use crepe paper streamers to making beautiful designs.

Emotion Painting
Students will gain an understanding of how much of a role emotion plays in artmaking as they create paintings based on feelings.

Spray Paint Mural
An outdoor, warm weather activity that teaches young children about color mixing.

Spreading Paint with a Popsicle® Stick
Using paint, wax paper, popsicle sticks and more, KinderArtists will explore different techniques for art expression.

Tissue Paper Butterflies
Students will create a butterfly using tissue paper and coffee filters.

Fruit and Veggie Prints
This is a form of printmaking that can be done with all ages — even adults!

Monoprinting is a process whereby only one print is pulled from the printing plate.

Hands That Touch the Heart
Using handprints to make personalized art objects.

Tasty Paint
With this recipe, it’s okay if the kids eat their art supplies!

Sponge Painting
Students will use sponges as painting tools.

Whipped Cream Finger Paint
Use whipped cream to make an edible paint for your kids.

Make Your Own Art Supplies at the KinderArt Kitchen
Includes homemade art supply recipes including clay and dough.

Play with Clay
Here you can find out all about working with clay.

Very Special Children

The following is an excerpt from KinderArt: Born to Create by Andrea Mulder-Slater and Jantje Blokhuis-Mulder

Whether your child is particularly active, hearing or visually impaired, or developmentally delayed, always point out the achievements that she makes. Always, always, always, focus on the positive and not on the concepts not yet mastered. You have all the time in the world.

Find yourself a support group by contacting other parents who are in the same situation as you. Find out what works for them. Share your triumphs and your failures too.

Remember at all times that special needs children do not misbehave on purpose. They want to please you. They want to feel important and worthwhile. Sometimes they may experience difficulty carrying out a task because they have too much energy or because they simply feel frustrated and cannot focus on the task at hand. Be patient and let them know that you are proud of their efforts.

Keep a record of your child’s achievements. This way you will be able to easily recall the events and experiences that you both enjoyed the most. This will also help you to remember those activities which kept your child’s attention and those which did not.

Do not overdo the rules. Flexibility is the rule. Think about it – how much fun can making a clay critter or painting a sunshine be if all you hear is, “Don’t make a mess” and “Sit up straight.”

Take lots of deep breaths.

Be fair and honest.

Don’t worry if your child is not reading at the same level as his peers. Don’t panic if your youngster doesn’t speak or write as quickly as his brother did. If you do suspect that your child has a disability, contact your doctor and make sure the proper tests are carried out. Knowledge is half the battle.

All children will be able to take part in some sort of art-making activity. By doing so, they will feel an enormous sense of accomplishment and increased self-esteem. However, be sure to choose all activities carefully – gearing the activity to the ability of the child.

Make available lots of modeling materials like clay or homemade dough. This is true for visually impaired children as well as those who have limited fine motor control.

If your child is visually impaired, gather a variety of textures to experiment with – smooth papers, rough handmade papers etc.

Scented markers are always fun.

Have lots of “big paper” for large movements of the hands and arms.

Finger paint (bought or homemade) is a terrific tactile material.

Dance, dance, dance.

Building objects is a great way for kids to feel that they have accomplished something. Try bits of wood, mat board, cardboard etc. You can work as a team, gluing pieces together and in the end even your visually impaired children can feel their creations as they evolve.

Weaving is a great idea.

Making musical instruments or any art object that makes noise is great.

Drawing or painting in time to music is always a hit.

If your child is hearing impaired, expose him to musical instruments where he can “feel” the music. Allow him to experience the wind that blows from a woodwind and the vibrations of a guitar string or drum head.

Children with down syndrome respond especially well to music, as do youngsters with autism.

Try as much as possible to expose your kiddos to the things that make them happy – the things that make them laugh – the things that make them clap their hands and smile.

© Andrea Mulder-Slater, Jantje Blokhuis-Mulder

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