Creative beginnings for tiny tots

Posts tagged ‘special needs’

“A leaf man’s got to go where the wind blows…”

Truer words were never spoken here on the east coast today, as we brace for the worst of Hurricane Sandy, yet to come.  The rain has been coming down steadily, the wind is picking up, and all the schools and government offices are closed.  So much for our autumn project planned for the first half of this week, collages made from real leaves, inspired by Lois Ehlert’s Leaf Man.

Since I may not have the opportunity to blog about this project after all (the leaf piles and the leaf men hidden therein may all have blown away by the time all is said and done), I’m going to link you to an interview I did with one of my favorite bloggers, Jean Van’t Hul of The Artful Parent, so you can get to know a bit more about my background, the origins and philosophy of the ART IN HAND program, and art therapy in general.  Here’s hoping we all get to keep our power on!  (realistically speaking, that’s fairly unlikely in these parts in the next day or so…)

Happy reading!

Julie Liddle:  An Art Therapist’s Perspective


“Beautiful hands!”

Remember our friend who was hesitant to get the messy paint on her hands due to sensory issues, but had a breakthrough when we did our monoprinting activity two weeks ago?

Well, look at her now…

She spent most of the class time delighting in this new sensation, all the while repeating the words, “Beautiful hands” as both affirmation and reassurance that all was well.

All that positive self-talk must have done the trick because before long she had moved on to the tactics of my most hard-core finger painters…the squeezing of the paint-soaked spongy balls (golf-ball shaped cat toys, actually, which I highly recommend as painting tools).  To this, she adopted the mantra, “Squeeze!  Squeeze!”

Gratifying all around!

I’ve gotta HAND it to him…

…the kid knows what he needs to turn a blah afternoon into a great one.

After last weekend’s satisfying foray with clay, this weekend, my nine year old requested another sculptural medium that I just happened to have on hand as well…an industrial sized roll of plaster wrap cloth (like they used to use for plaster casts when you broke a bone in the old days, when I was a kid).

He independently set about cutting the plaster wrap into one-inch strips, then decided he wanted to wrap a clay bowl that we made last weekend with it.  He thoroughly enjoyed the process of dipping the strips in water and smoothing them around the solid piece of clay.

Next, he surprised me by asking to make a cast of MY hand.  In my many years as an art therapist, I spent many a session painstakingly and gingerly applying these plaster strips to my students, most often creating face masks, occasionally covering their hands in various positions.  It was always considered a great moment in the therapeutic relationship, when a client felt safe and trusting enough to allow for this kind of interaction.  And for some of the kids with whom I worked who had experienced all kinds of deprivation or abuse, this kind of nurturing, gentle attention filled a very basic need.  After all those years as a therapist, and now all my years as a mom, it was novel and welcome to be on the receiving end of this process!

For just a little while, my boy was in charge and in control, but at the same time so gentle and careful as he meticulously (and I should mention that meticulous is not a word I would use to describe his approach to most tasks) formed the strips of plaster around my hand.  I felt taken care of, kind of like having a spa treatment, and was delighted that he was intent on adding several layers to make sure it was nice and sturdy.

Feeling full mastery over this process now, he then embarked on his final project for the day, a cast of his own foot.  Without any supervision from me (I went in the house to clean up), he completed this piece from start to finish and was thoroughly impressed with the results.  He added, “It felt warm and cold and soooo soothing.”  I hope that in the near future he will let me make a mask of his face…or perhaps he’ll offer to make a mask of mine!

I wonder if he’ll be interested in decorating these….with paint, collage, or by gluing other objects or materials to them.  For now, his interest seems to be more in the process of building the casts themselves, whether from clay or plaster, than in turning them into something decorative or expressive.  I believe he engages in these types of projects to fulfill a sensory need.

He has always been a sensory guy.  See?



A Good Day for Monoprinting

Today was one of those days…I had an activity planned for my morning group, and realized at the last minute that I was not prepared with the right materials.  With some quick thinking and a quick inventory of the books and materials I had on hand, I decided today would be a monoprinting day.

As described at “MONOPRINTING is known as the most painterly method among the printmaking techniques.  A monoprint is a non editionable kind of print and is essentially a printed painting.  The characteristic of this method is that no two prints are alike. However, images can be similar, but editioning is not possible. The true appeal of the monotype lies in the unique translucency that creates a quality of light very different from a painting on paper or a print, and the beauty of this media is also in its spontaneity and its combination of printmaking, painting and drawing mediums.”

Sounds pretty highfalutin for a bunch of two year olds, doesn’t it?

In reality, it is a delightful medium for young artists rich with possibilities for exploration, learning, and growth.

We used 8″ x 10″ acrylic panels (I have family connections in the plexiglas biz), but an easy, inexpensive alternative is to use those acrylic box frames that you can pick up at your local craft store, like they did over at the Artful Parent.

Toddlers love getting to know new materials, so I always give them time to get acquainted before introducing the next tool or medium.  They slide their hands across the smooth hard surface; they hold them up to their faces and explore their transparency: and they press their little noses against them, feeling the resistance of the cool, solid material.  Certainly, this will provide a different experience than painting on paper.

They are eager to practice rolling their rollers across the surface of the plastic, so after a few minutes of practice, I then introduce the paint.  In this case we used the primary colors, having been inspired by Margaret Wise Brown’s classic The Color Kittens which features the antics of two ambitious cats who set upon the task of mixing “all the colors in the world.”  Through the process of sharing red, yellow, and blue, the kids get to see first-hand how all the colors are made.

After applying the paint, the children, who haven’t spontaneously done so already, are shown by example how the paint can then be moved and pushed and changed on the surface of the plastic by using any number of tools, including their own hands.  The possibilities are endless, but some we have tried include:  paintbrushes, cotton swabs, plastic utensils, popsicle sticks, textured foam rollers, pot scrubbers, bubble wrap, yarn…I’d love to hear more suggestions from you!

Typically, the little ones are so immersed in the process of manipulating the paint in these various ways, that the act of documenting their work along the way by laying down paper over the surface to make a print is secondary for them (but highly rewarding for the proud parents).  However, many are delighted when they see the colors and patterns of paint transferred onto paper, and so, repeat the process again and again.

A beautiful thing happened in today’s class, that cannot go without mention.  One two and a half year old, who struggles with sensory processing issues and started this class six weeks ago feeling very overwhelmed by the sensory stimulation, had a remarkable experience with this activity.   She has historically been very avoidant of touching the paint, and would quickly become upset if she got paint on her hands, and would immediately cry and want to wash it off of her hands.  Today, she was seated at a table with two other little girls who simply reveled in the direct contact with the slick, slimy, creamy paint.  She watched them quietly and intently, all the while refusing to touch her own roller to the paint on her panel.  I assured her caregiver that this was enough.  What a wonderful opportunity for her to see others getting messy, in a safe, supportive setting where she felt no pressure to do so herself, but could see that they were doing it, and they were OK.  As the majority of the children were winding down after a stimulating session of painting/printing, I noticed a sweet, repetitive humming melody, and turned around to find our little friend sweeping her hand back and forth through the paint on her panel as she sung this soothing tune to herself.  She lingered after the others had cleared the table and cleaned up.  In her own time, she had arrived.

Today was a GOOD day for monoprinting!