At first glance, art seems like a very visual medium. We appreciate art by looking at it, not
touching it, right? Even tactile sculptures in museums are off limits to little exploratory fingers!
But there are so many different aspects to art and creativity that can benefit your child. It’s
certainly worth exploring how to adapt traditional art into sensory art.
It’s really not that hard to create sensory art. Most art easily moves beyond the visual: Craft
projects almost always involve our hands and fingers as we touch the glue, paint, or other
materials; sensory art will always have a very particular smell, whether that’s the odor of paint or the sweet scent of glue or dried petals; and art projects can make sounds as we craft wind chimes or bells.
Our five senses are critical to our lives, helping guide us through everything from the daily tasks of walking, talking and eating to the more complex functions like creative and artistic projects, playing sports and critical thinking.
By stimulating the senses through activities that activate them , we can help develop our
children’s creativity while also encouraging social, emotional, cognitive, physical, and linguistic development. Sensory play also helps strengthen the brain’s neural pathways and connections which leads to greater learning potential.
Children on the autism spectrum, however, often have difficulty with everyday sensory
stimulation, and this at times makes it difficult for them to cope with the world around them.
Such experiences can be quite overwhelming and can make it difficult for them to learn and
carry out basic daily functions.
There are many sensory activities for children with autism that can help alter the way their brain reacts to touch, sound, sight, and movement. Engaging in sensory play is a fun way for kids on the autism spectrum to expose them to different activities which can stimulate their brains in a safe space.
Below are a few activities to boost our senses through art
Water tub colors- This simple activity is best done outside and involves using small containers, soap, and food coloring. Water usually is a comfortable texture for kids, so this activity can be a good place to start. Fill 1 tub with soap and water and another tub with colored soapy water.
Allow your child to experiment with creating different colors with the soapy water. This activity is fun, easy, and can be a great introduction for your child to the principles of color mixing.
Plastic baggy painting: This is another way to explore the ways colors can mix to make new
colors. Take some plastic freezer bags and add drops of paint inside them with different colors. Have your child squish the paint around to see how the colors mix and change. This is a good way to lightly get your child used to the texture of paint in a way that isn’t messy.
Calm down bottles: This art project ends up creating a toy that can be used to help calm your child during stressful moments. For this you will need a clear plastic bottle, various colors of glitter, food coloring, and several small objects of your choosing. Give your child opportunities to explore different color combinations of glitter and food coloring in the water bottle. You can choose to add small objects such as colored marbles to find through the clouds of colored glitter.
Styrofoam sculptures: Be sure to save those pieces of Styrofoam when you get packages in the mail. By using toothpicks to stick the pieces together, you and your child can have fun creating works of art by breaking up the Styrofoam pieces and connecting them to create creatures, planes, or whatever comes to your imagination. You can also help bring your sculptures to life by coloring in your sculptures with markers.
Bubble wrap painting: This may be a messier option, but it is certainly loads of fun. This
activity will require a large sheet of paper, paint, and bubble wrap. Tape together a bubble wrap “shoe” for your child and have different colors of paint laid out. Allow your child to walk along the paper and watch them create different color combinations with a visually appealing texture.
Shaving Cream & Paint: Kids love playing with shaving cream, and it can be a relatively inexpensive sensory item. Make sure to get unscented shaving cream, and then either spray some in a container for your kids to play with or on a nice large table top. Want to step up the pizzazz a bit? Add a couple drops of food colour and watch as kids get to interact directly with the rainbow. Create a piece of abstract art!
Shredded Paper Bins: Shredded paper is a great activity to develop fine motor skills. Shred as many coloured papers as you can and fill a bin up with it. Add different colored paper if you want, add toys into the mix, maybe even some hidden treasures for the kids to dig around and find. It’s as simple as that!
Then, when you’re done with the paper and it’s time to swap it out, save and reuse it for arts and crafts. Draw an outline or cut out a picture of your child’s favourite animal and stick these pieces of paper to make it look real life- like.
Sand Paper & Crayons:Coloring on sandpaper is no easy task. In order for kids to hold the crayons and push with enough force to write on the paper, they have to have the proper grasp and pressure. This activity encourages kids to work on their fine motor skills as well as provides a new texture experience.