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art playOne of the concerns repeatedly raised by parents is their child’s lack of interest and willingness to engage in art play, especially coloring, drawing and beginning writing activities.

Often this is the parent of a child, typically a boy, who is very active, demonstrating greater interest in running, jumping, climbing than in sitting down to draw.

It can also be the child who is reluctant to engage with art materials, such as glue or paint, due to sensory defensiveness.

Or maybe the child whose limited motor coordination results in frustration and then avoidance of art activities.

Children can often be engaged if you tie the activity to a favorite interest. For example, make paper mache dinosaur eggs for dinosaur fans.  Create chalk roads to drive small cars down for children who are fascinated by cars. Use rubbing templates to create a pod of whales for children in love with marine science.

I recommend that you find a short time on a daily basis to create and explore art. Try to find a consistent time so that it becomes routine, such as right after dinner.  Here are some strategies that I have found to be successful.

Art Play Strategies for the Sensory Seeker

This child needs to engage physically with their environment. The focus is often more on process than product. He or she will delight in art that involves interesting tactile input and that allows opportunities to move or go about the interaction in a novel way.  Some examples include:

Paint with Body Parts

Finger-painting or painting with feet.  Be be careful because it gets slippery. Add some texture to the paint such as sand, glitter, seeds, etc.

Let them Have Putty in their Hands

Playdoh, clay, theraputty and all the different variants out there today.  Look for various recipes available on the Internet. Add small sticks, stones, shells, figures, google eyes, etc. to enhance the play.

Get Foamy

Foam soap, foam paint, shaving cream offers a fun experience that is both 2 and 3 dimensional.

Create with Paper Mache

With paper mache, you can make just about anything.  Consider making a dinosaur egg or piñata by covering a balloon.  Let your creativity shine with your child’s special interests.

Sniffing Sensation

Pull out the scented markers for tracing activities, coloring activities, or to decorate your paper mache dinosaur egg.

Outdoor Painting

Take the painting into the great outdoors.  Hang a large canvas over the fence, give your child a large brush with a bowl of tempura paint and go at it!

Rip it Up

All children love this destructive fun.  Rip up paper from old magazines or newspapers and with a little modge podge or a glue stick, create collages.

Art Play Strategies for the Sensory Avoider

Find ways for the child to comfortably engage in the activity.

When painting with brushes, have your child wear a smock.

Put finger paint or foam soap into a sturdy ziplock bag.

Let them wear small vinyl gloves with messy art.

Consider using glue sticks, rather than runny glue.

Explore More >> Sensory Integration Experiences through Art

Art Play Strategies for the Child with Motor Skills Isms

Find ways for child to be successful through supported art. Often this child is frustrated with the gap between when he can conceptualize and what he can produce, so he chooses not to engage.

Rub a Dub Dub

Make rubbings using textured templates. Pre-tape 3 or 4 templates to the table or wall and then cover them with a large sheet of paper. Then ask your child to ‘find’ the dinosaurs by feeling the paper and rubbing the crayon over the bumps he finds.

Get Creative with Stencils

Don’t underestimate the value of stencils. Dover Press makes some wonderful stencil books, both large and small. For young children, I like the small ones because they offer quick success. Have your child do several of the stencils and then use them to create a small book or scene.

Cooperative Art

Do cooperative drawings with your child.

Draw together providing the parts of the drawing the child is unable or unwilling to do.

If what your child can do is add the smoke to the house you drew, they are still feeling a sense of success with drawing.

Have your child help direct your drawings, including color choices and where and what they want included in the drawing.

Sticker Drawings

Maybe your child draws grass and a sun and then populates the picture with bug and butterfly stickers.  Or perhaps your child can draw a house with snow mounds and then populates the picture with snowflake stickers.  There is no limit to your imaginations.

Above all make it fun!  If need be, let your sensory seeker jump on the mini trampoline 5 times between 5 – 10 minute art sessions.  Or perhaps the sensory defensive needs to wear gloves before working with anything gooey.  And the child with limited motor coordinating skills experiences success with collaborative art drawing with Mom.  Each and every experience will continue to build upon their skills and regulate their sensory systems.