our everyday life

Easy Crafts for Special Needs Kids

by Christen Robinson

Whether in the classroom or at home, most crafts for kids can be adapted to meet a variety of special needs and ability levels. Your child will enjoy painting a picture, making a sensory book, do-it-yourself sensory fidgets or homemade play dough. Later, he can continue using his creations for ongoing learning activities.

Make Painting Fun for Everyone

A tennis ball is a simple and inexpensive paintbrush adaption.

Painting is a simple but engaging activity for children of all ability levels. It is easy to adapt painting activities as needed for individual needs. For a child with limited use of her hands, increase access with this simple adaptation: Cut a hole through a tennis ball and slide it over the paintbrush. This allows the child to hold the paintbrush with her entire hand. For a child with visual disabilities, add some texture she can feel. Mixing sand with the paint allows her to feel the paint as she creates her masterpiece.

Create a Sensory Book

Creating a sensory book is a great opportunity for your child to participate in a craft that can also be used as an ongoing learning tool. Cut pages from a sturdy paper such as cardboard or tag board. Give your child a variety of materials in different colors and textures. Felt, carpet remnants, tinfoil, faux fur, sandpaper and cellophane are all good choices. Let him choose his favorites and glue a different texture to each page. Consider writing the adjective below -- bumpy, scratchy, soft and crinkly. Punch holes in the spine of the book and secure it with binder rings. Encourage him to access his book as needed. When he is seeking sensory input, he will enjoy feeling the pages of the book he made. If he's resisting certain sensory input, the positive exposure of this ongoing activity may increase his tolerance for certain textures.

Do-It-Yourself Fidgets

Your child may experience increased success at circle time in school, or other seated activities, if she has access to a fidget -- any handheld object that is pleasurable to hold. Creating fidgets can be an entertaining craft for children of varying ability levels. To make a fidget, give your child a latex balloon and a variety of fillers. Uncooked rice, small dried beans or lentils and flour all work well. Put a funnel into the neck of the balloon and encourage her to scoop the filler into the funnel. Count how many scoops it takes to fill the balloon. When the balloon is full, tie off the neck. The final product is a fidget that is perfect for squeezing and squishing. Allow her to hold and squeeze her fidget as needed.

Homemade Play Dough

Making play dough teaches children how to follow a simple recipe.

Making play dough is a craft that encourages counting and following directions and then ends with sensory play. Instead of making play dough by yourself in preparation for a craft activity, make it together with this simple, no-bake recipe. Combine 1 cup water, 1 1/3 cups flour and 1/2 cup salt. Encourage your child to measure and scoop the ingredients on his own. Knead the ingredients until well combined. Divide the dough into equal parts and allow your child to select food dyes and make different colors of dough. Encourage him to use his hands to mix and knead the color into the dough. Provide rollers, cookie cutters and plastic dishes to encourage sensory and imaginary play.

About the Author

Christen Robinson has been writing educational content and materials since 2004. She also writes for eHow, Answerbag and Education.com. Robinson teaches special education, and specializes in working with children with autism. She holds a master's degree in teaching from Central Washington University.

Photo Credits

  • Steve Baccon/Digital Vision/Getty Images