Art Room, Color Construct Create, Elementary Art, OT, OT Corner, Preschool Art, Therapeutic Art, therapeutic side

The Take Home: Tactile Sensory Processing

One unique aspect of our studio is that we incorporate opportunities for tactile sensory play into our weekly themes.   Many of our artists have notable hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to tactile input in their daily lives.  Therefore, we include projects and the activities on our “sensory table” that can promote a greater tolerance for textures that might make us uncomfortable or provide textures that kids may seek out and neeeeeeeeeed to touch.  Seriously, have you ever played with kinetic sand or oobleck?

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We think it is important that our artists are exposed to messy, sticky, wet, rough, slimy or powdery media.  These textures are all present in our daily lives, and if we have the opportunity to play with them in this controlled environment (art room), then we can work on our impulsivity to touch, avoidance of touch, and overall tactile sensory integration.

Winter snow bin
Insta-Snow – a fantastically fun medium!!!
Art Room, Artwork, Color Construct Create, Elementary Art, Therapeutic Art, therapeutic side

SCIENCE and Process Art!

Oh boy, when we take on a crazy task, we sure do take it on!  Our unit on Science and Weather was one of those “great in theory” moments as we tried to figure out the logistics of pendulum painting, plaster casting plants, making rock candy, etc.  It all turned out but we really did stretch ourselves in the process (not a bad thing!!).  Our big take away from this past month was that sometimes process outweighs product.

What the heck is process art, you ask??  Great question.  After the first couple of classes, we teachers spent a few minutes explaining away to our parents.  “The end product might not be what you are used to seeing but here’s how we got there…” With process art, the HOW is just as important as the WHAT.  We did a lot of non-traditional art-making and the kids want bananas over it!

Week #1 was all about MIXTURE!  We blended our favorite liquid water color paints, used Faber-Castell chalk pastels, and used hand sanitizer to “lift” liquid water color off of our beakers to make fizzy bubbles.  The kids also learned about depth and dimension as we “flattened” shapes to draw the beakers accurately.

In Week #2, we explored life science.  We used food coloring to dye flowers and got out the hammers to make some serious noise (and beautiful art).  Our Tea Towels dyed with natural flowers turned out so beautiful.  Then we used plaster casting strips to make “fossils” of ferns.  The best part was painting them with natural paint made from spinach and coffee.  The kids were not amused but the smell!

Week #3 was all about weather.  Mixed media is always fun.  It was a sensory experience, too, when we used baby oil to blend.  We made our own rain storms using oil pastels. It was a sensory experience, too, when we used baby oil to blend the colors.fullsizeoutput_3490

Last but not least, in Week #4 we explored physical science by making art with a pendulum.  Holy mess, Batman!!  One would think that painting with pendulums and making an epic mess would be chaotic.  Well, much to our surprise, it wasn’t!  The kids were so enthralled by the art they were making that everyone was calm and totally on-task.  It was awesome!  The end results turned out pretty cool.  Check out our next blog post to find out how we did it!

Oh, and check out these adorable little mad scientists!

Art Room, Color Construct Create, Elementary Art, OT, OT Corner, Preschool Art, Therapeutic Art, therapeutic side

The Take Home: Finger Strength

Our hands are amazing.  They are, quite possibly, the most useful parts of our bodies. Hands are a key component to art-making (and pretty much every other facet of our existence).  Our ability to make art starts at the earliest stages of our development.  As babies, motor movements are often reflexive.  Once babies begin to interact with their environment,  their movement patterns become volitional and begin to override their reflexes.  These multi-sensory play experiences form the foundation for higher level skill development.  For babies and toddlers, hand and finger strength is built through play.  They see a toy, they grab it with their tiny little hands.  They want to manipulate it to get it into their mouth, they have to work really hard at it.  With practice, those movements become more fluid and they move toward mastery.  As children become more independent, learning to feed and dress themselves and mimicking our activities, the fine motor demands grow exponentially.

The process of completing a simple drawing task, painting a picture, or molding a dish out of clay is a multi-sensory experience that demands much from our artists small hands. Each week, we create opportunities to promote the development of finger strength.  This week was no exception!  As they became scientists working in our “lab” they used their pincers to drop colored vinegar onto a tray of baking soda, they used pencil and sharpie to draw their beakers and test tubes, and they squeezed out drops of food coloring to dye their sugar solutions.  All the while, they didn’t realize that they were building strength, dexterity and finger endurance!

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Color Construct Create, OT, OT Corner, therapeutic side

Occupational Therapy and Art?

As I’ve said before, I am not an artist.  This may sound a bit odd coming from an art teacher, but I can think of no better fit for me right now.  By profession, I am a pediatric occupational therapist, but in my mind, I am the next Martha Stewart.  This combination has worked well when I want to have clients work out of their comfort zone during therapy.  We make play dough, we try new foods, and we craft away, all the while building fine motor, visual motor, and sensory motor skills.  When I was ready to transition out of the private clinic and school system, teaching art classes seemed like the perfect solution.  Lucky for me, my partner in crime is able to fill in my gaps of expertise in the art realm.  

img_4032If you sit down to think about it, there are so many therapeutic benefits to art.  In fact, there is an entire field dedicated to art therapy.  What we do, however, is not art therapy.  It is therapeutic art.  Occupational therapy was founded on the idea that there is a natural, therapeutic benefit to performing our activities of daily living, whatever those may be.  For example, to put on a pair of shoes, or make a cup of tea, you would need to engage many sensory systems, use several muscle and movement systems, and have the endurance to work until completion.  The same is true for art.  In order to complete a paint-by-number, you would need your visual system, fine motor control, and sufficient endurance for both to complete the entire page.
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Coming up with the projects each week is one of the best aspects of running an art program.  Being creative, problem solving, and practicing the projects to “perfection”.  But even more fun that that is watching the faces of our artists as they show off their finished project, so proud, and so accomplished!