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Art Activities at Home: It Does Not Take Vision to Make Art. It Takes Experiences

Authors: Gretchen Bettes, Art Teacher, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI)

Keywords: art, self-determination, concept development, communication, Expanded Core Curriculum, ECC, fine motor skills, problem solving

Abstract: The art teacher from TSBVI shares ideas of projects that can be done at home by students with visual impairment.

One of the first things I do with new art students is assess their skills in art. I usually begin by asking them what they liked to do in art before they came to TSBVI. Too many times, I hear from new students that their TA or teacher used to do their art for them. Experience is how all people learn, so first and foremost, it’s important to allow your child to experience making art. Certainly a wonderful teaching tool is to make art along with them and model it.

Art is a process of discovery and an opportunity to learn about ourselves. It is a way to  practice self-determination that includes choice-making, problem solving, personal advocacy, assertiveness, and goal setting. When we work with children in art, we show them how to take an idea and make it into something tangible. The process of making art is very important. It allows the child to practice gross and fine motor control and understand how it feels to manipulate art materials. Plus, having a final product that others can experience is communication in itself. Much of what we do in art is directly connected to the Expanded Core Curriculum for students with visual impairment (ECC). We seek to engage the different senses in art by incorporating texture (fabric, feathers, sandpaper), sound (bells), smell (spices, coffee, essential oils), and even taste (painting with mustard and catsup, gingerbread people). Have fun teaching and your child will enjoy learning. Don’t worry about things looking perfect; the important part of art-making is simply doing it.

Below are some examples of art that can be enjoyed by everyone. Clearly, making art is not limited to those with sight!

Activity Ideas

The following activities are fun for all ages and no vision is needed. Since you know your child best, decide how much support they need and prepare the project according to need. If you don’t know, it’s better to err on the side of allowing them to work through and problem-solve on their own, but you want it to be fun and not frustrating or unsafe. For example, allowing a child to use scissors allows them to LEARN how to use scissors. Always use safety scissors and stay close by. Support your child to work up to specific skills, allow exploration, and show by example by allowing your child to feel what you are doing before they try it. Then let them do it on their own terms. So much of art is simply having fun!

Cardboard Box Sheep

Supplies needed:

  • Any size cardboard box with the flaps cut off (if there are flaps)
  • For the legs, use 4 branches, dowels, toilet paper tubes, or popsicle sticks
  • Cotton balls
  • Paint
  • Googly eyes, buttons, washers
  • Glue

Directions:

  1. Paint small sections of the box with glue (depending on how large your box is) and cover the glued area with cotton balls until the entire box is covered. We used Elmer’s glue.
  2. Cut two strips of cardboard and glue them together to make a simple “T” shape for the eyes and nose of the sheep. Paint it black.
  3. Hot glue the black T-shape onto one side of the box, on top of the cotton balls. This will be the face.
  4. Glue googly eyes on each end of the top of the “T”.
  5. Paint legs (optional).
  6. Secure legs to the four corners of the box with tape and hot glue.

You can use these basic directions to make any animal you wish. Your imagination is the limit. This is just the beginning! Some suggestions are instead of cotton balls, use feathers from the craft store and make wings and a beak out of cardboard for a bird. If you want to simplify the project, you can just paint the box with bright paint. You may want to cut off the flaps of the box yourself, depending on the student’s age and ability, but save them to use as ears, legs, wings, whatever.

Two cardboard sheep made with cotton balls and googly eyes

Sheep Family made by a TSBVI art student. We put motors inside the boxes to make them jiggle when you walk by!

 

Unicorns

A student works with a cardboard box and cardboard tubes on a classroom table.

A TSBVI art student uses paper tubes from wrapping paper to make legs for a unicorn to be!

 

Unicorn with pink mane and tail

A finished unicorn is displayed in the TSBVI Spring Art Show in 2019. It was finished with paper maché and paint. That isn’t necessary, but it is an option.

 

Painting with Bubble Wrap

Supplies needed:

  • Bubble wrap
  • Masking tape
  • Roll of craft paper or large paper (for walking on the painting; if you use your hands, you can use regular art paper)
  • Paint
  • Brush (optional)

 Directions:

  1. Wrap the bubble wrap around your child’s feet and secure with masking tape. If they can do this on their own, then allow it. Taping around the back of the ankle helps keep it from slipping off mid-step.
  2. Lay out a large piece of paper and tape it to the floor.
  3. Have your child walk on the paper with the bubble wrap on their feet before beginning to paint. Support and encourage them, if needed. This will allow them to become familiar with how it feels to walk with bubble wrap on their feet and also discover the boundaries of the piece of paper.
  4. Squirt paint onto the paper on the floor and allow the child to walk around on the paper, stamping the paper as they step in the paint. The stamping makes perfect little polka dots. You can hold their hand if they are unsure or allow cane use. Do it with them for a fun collaborative activity!
  5. The action of walking with bubble wrap makes a fun popping noise that kids (and adults) love, and it creates a wonderful pattern!
  6. A few other things to try: wrap bubble wrap around your child’s hands too! You can also put paint onto the wrap with a brush, instead of squirting it on the paper, and then stamp it onto paper. I usually keep a wet rag and a dry towel nearby to assist with clean up.
A child with one foot wrapped in bubble wrap stands on a large piece of white paper.

A student makes a bubble wrap painting in art class at TSBVI.

 

Making Animals with Toilet Paper Tubes

Supplies needed:

  • Toilet paper tubes
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Paint or markers
  • Feathers, beads, pipe cleaners, etc. (depending on the animal you want to make)
  • Googly eyes, buttons, washers

Directions for Making an Owl:

  1. Push the top of the toilet paper roll inward to form “ears”.
  2. Paint or color with markers.
  3. Place feathers in the folds to make “ears”. This will hold the feathers in place.
  4. Glue feathers along the sides of the roll for wings.
  5. Glue buttons or googly eyes or little circles of paper for eyes.

Tip: Use a paper hole punch to make the eyes perfect circles, if that is important to you. You can arrange the owls in a bunch of shredded paper to make it look as if they are in a nest. Whoooo is a beautiful owl? You are!

Demonstration of how to push the top of the toilet paper roll inward

Pushing the top of the toilet paper roll inward to form “ears”

 

Two cardboard owls with feathers in nests of shredded paper

The finished product! Owls created by TSBVI students are displayed in the Student Art Show for Family Day 2015. 

 

 “Fish” made from toilet paper rolls

An example of other types of animals your child can make out of toilet paper rolls. These beautiful little fish were made in art class in 2019.

 

Weaving and Making a Loom

Another activity that can be done at home is to create a cardboard loom and weave a simple design. Step-by-step instructions on making a loom with an old cardboard box can be found on Paths to Literacy. Once the loom has been made, your child can learn to weave!

A colorful weaving hangs on a wooden dowel.

Colorful weaving by a TSBVI art student 

 

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