How many of you loved "art" when you were in school??? I am always shocked by how many people disliked art and will say, "I can't draw" or "I am not good at art". This saddens me because everyone can be "good" at art because art is really just exploring different media's and seeing what you produce and what you like. OK, I will now get off my soapbox :)
Think about all the commercial products out there for "art". WOW, you can get just about everything to create something. So, let's think about ways to use creative supplies to increase your child's communication skills.
I think that one reason parents are hesitant to do art activities at home is because of the mess. So here are some suggestions to decrease the mess factor. First I would encourage you to buy a cheap plastic tablecloth...the biggest you can find and then place that under the table you are going to be at, or just put it on the floor and sit on it. This will help control the mess.
Another suggestions is to have your child either in just a diaper or an outfit that you don't mind if it gets yucky. Maybe buy a cheap top and bottom and designate it as your art clothes :) You can also use bibs or smocks to keep the mess off your child.
Being a person that embraces the sensory input of all activities my suggestion to have them in a diaper or old swimming suit is attractive because then they will experience the art activity with their whole bodies which is good for their communication, central nervous system and less clothes to worry about :)
Let's think about different art media.......
1. Paint! As I mentioned last time, the cleanest painting activity is with water. But they also have those sets where the paint only goes on the paper. There are also paint with water books. But I'm going to nudge you into finger painting, a wonderful activity to spark language. Use your hands, use your feet, paint their bodies, let them paint their bodies (perhaps outside and then hose them down or have sprinkler/pool play.) It can be hard to manipulate a paint brush but moving hands or feet in paint is easy, feels good or icky, and pops lots of language. Get a long piece of newsprint (sometimes newspapers give end rolls for free) and use that to paint on. Put it on the floor or tape it to a wall (maybe in the shower area?). Once again you can talk about body parts, you can talk about colors (no quizzing please), and you can use all those functional words/signs like "more, oh no, yuck, stop, all done", etc. You can give choices, "do you want blue or red?" and that's a great way to introduce colors. "Do you want the big brush or the little brush?" a great way to introduce size concepts. You can drive cars through the paint and see how the tracks that the wheels look like. You can use pudding, yogurt or applesauce to paint with or shaving cream or whipped cream. All of these will give you child a new texture to feel and the food items takes away the concern of having your child put their fingers in their mouths while finger painting.
It doesn't matter what the end result looks like, the experience is what is important. But as parents I know you like to have some results to display in your house or give to grandparents and other family members. So, after the paint has dried, you can cut out shapes, pictures for you and the family. For example, in the summer, cut out colorful fish shapes out of the painted paper and frame or hang on the fridge. If it's Christmas time, use green paint and you can cut out a wreath shape or a tree shape. If it's Valentines time, use red paint and cut out hearts. The artwork will be beautiful but more importantly your child will have had a fantastic experience that will spark language.
2. Playdough! There are tons of recipes out there for playdough or you can just buy the playdough in the store. One of my favorite activities with this is to hand the child the container but don't open it up. Just wait, smile and look like you are listening to them. They will do something to indicate that they want that container open. They might hand it to you, they might struggle with it first, they might try using their teeth, but they will show or let you know that they need help. So, then you get to take your turn, "help?", "open?", "stuck?", or whatever works for you. Remember that we are not looking for things that really look like anything, we are just experiencing the playdough. So we will be pounding on it "boom boom"; we might squeeze it through our fingers and say "ewwww", or "wow", or "go go". We might like to pretend and get out a roller and cutters and "make" cookies and find words like "cookie", "yummy", and give choices about colors or how many cookies we want to make. Children like to make snakes by rolling the playdough. They like to make balls by rolling the playdough in their palms (and then will probably throw it :) You can "push" your fingers in the playdough.
3. Glue! Squeezing a glue bottle is great way to keep your busy child interested longer. Let them just squeeze, even if its the whole bottle! The process of squeezing is great for their body. Now what to do with that lake of glue?? You can touch it, squish it and then you can experience that glue on your hands.
Even if your child just squirts glue on a paper, what to do next? You can use anything to stick in that glue, feathers, sequins, colored sand to shake on the glue, pieces of paper that the child rips, tissue paper, shells, sticks, stones. Can you see where I'm going? You can put anything you want into that glue...look around your house and yard and you will find tons of things to use.
Then find a nice spot to let that glue dry. If you have the lake of glue it might take several days, but that's OK. There is also colored glue, sparkle glue, glue pens, etc. etc.
4. Sidewalk chalk, crayons, markers, pens, pencils! I know, these are pretty self explanatory so I will focus more on how to use them to pop communication. When your child is drawing you can talk about how they are drawing like "up, up, up; down; fast; slow; round and round; go go go; stop". If your child likes trains or trucks you can draw a track or a road and then use the crayon and as your are drawing you follow the track and say "choo choo". You can draw with them and draw a star and sing "twinkle twinkle".
With these kind of experiences really let your imagination go. There is no right or wrong when it comes to exploring art activities. If you are having fun, your child will have fun and experience new things, be exposed to new vocabulary and have new opportunities to use communication.
Have fun this week!