Main content

Alert message

Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Holly Cooper, Technology Specialist, TSBVI, Outreach

Art is something most children enjoy doing, and it does not necessarily require great vision or motor skills. There are a lot of quick and easy ways to make art activities easier for kids with visual impairments, even those who have other disabilities. When developing ideas for activities, look for things that involve more than just coloring and drawing with pencils or markers. Consider materials that emphasize texture and dimension or teach concepts and skills. Many of the traditional arts activities are appropriate if you keep some things in mind.

Make work easy to access

  • Use trays (cafeteria type, cookie sheets, or APH work/play trays) to keep materials from rolling or sliding away. Trays also can be used to help contain wet materials.
  • Attach paper to the work surface with masking tape. Remember, don't remove them until they are dry or the paper might tear!

Make backgrounds high contrast

  • Make sure that background papers contrast highly with the materials being used.
  • Dark colors such as black or dark blue generally work best for backgrounds, and brighter, more intense colors make better foreground figures. If the work calls for more colorful backgrounds, consider medium blues, purples, and greens. Red, orange, and yellow are backgrounds that contrast well with each other and most other colors.
  • Use a light box, overhead projector, or other suitable light source to help provide contrast. Tape a thin-ply paper such as typing or copy paper to the overhead and use water color markers alone or with stencils. DO NOT use wet materials such as fingerpaints or watercolor paints with overheads or light boxes! This can lead to a nasty shock!!

Consider tactile issues

Finger painting or play dough can be a great activity for many children who are not able to hold paint brushes easily. However, if they are tactilely defensive, you may need to prepare them for touching the medium with their hands.

  • Before these activities, take time to wash or bathe the child's hands in a tub of warm water with a little soap. Massage the fingers gently and encourage the child to rub his hands together. Scrub gently with a brush or washcloth. Wipe them with a towel to dry and rub a little lotion on them.
  • Never put the child's hands into a substance without telling him/her what he/she is going to touch. If language is an issue, take time to let the child explore the substance using other senses such as smell.
  • If possible, warm the substance a little before he touches it. You can put a jar of finger paint directly into a tub of warm water or put playdough-like substances in a ziplock bag, then into warm water. DON'T MICROWAVE, as this tends to produce hotspots that may burn the child! You want to get the substance just close to body temperature. Touch it yourself before offering it to the child.
  • Lead the child's hand to the substance using a hand-under-hand technique. Let him experience you working with the material first before expecting him to move his hands into the paint or dough.

Utilize "themes" to help build concepts

Each season generally has colors, shapes, and objects associated with it. For example, around Valentine's Day there are heart shapes, "X"s and "O"s for hugs and kisses, and the colors of red, pink, and white. A summer theme might teach concepts about water and animals that live in the water, round sand dollars and star-shaped fish, the colors blue, green, yellow and white, gritty sand and fuzzy beach towels, one fish and many fish. By repeating these colors, shapes, textures, and concepts in a variety of art activities during the season, you can help the child learn some specific concepts while they are exercising their creative muscles.

Utilize a variety of materials that emphasize different skills

You can work on developing motor skills by choosing specific materials. If the child needs to practice grasping, try using sponges or a bottle with a sponge applicator. If drawing small circles with a crayon is too difficult a task, she might be able to grasp the extra large chalk and draw bigger circles on the sidewalk. She can work on head control, reaching and grasping while lying on a therapy ball or wedge, using a potato half or corncob to stamp or roll on paint. If your child does not have enough vision to draw shapes with a pencil, can she glue macaroni, cloth, or other materials inside a raised outline made from glue that forms different shapes and patterns? If she can't use her hands to fingerpaint, can she do some painting with her feet? Practice cane skills by walking around and collecting things to make a collage. Build concepts and practice having conversations as you discuss the items you find together.

Art is a great way to keep children entertained, but it is also a great way to teach concepts and skills. As those summer days set in, make some plans to be creative with your child. You both will benefit from the experience. Invite the neighborhood children to join in as well. Creative activities done together can help build fast friendships and provide opportunities to work on important social skills.

SeeHear Spring 2002