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Tactile Art Activities for Younger Children with Visual Impairments

written by: Sylvia Cochran • edited by: Sarah Malburg • updated: 8/2/2012

Learn how to adapt art activities for children who are visually impaired, especially toddlers. Find out about materials, projects, and how to get started with crafts that will make suitable activities for toddlers who are blind or have impaired vision.

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    Toddler art projects – such they are found in daily scribbles and early daycare paintings – do not readily lend themselves to children who are blind. Kids with visual impairments may be able to apply a crayon to a piece of paper, but they are unable to enjoy the visual fruits of their labors. This divide between the visually impaired and those who are not sight-imaired has caused some to wonder if a joint education is even possible.

    Many educators and parents see the benefit of a child who is blind attending public school. To pave the way for this experience, art activities geared toward the inclusion of a visually impaired child in a classroom setting is essential. Achieve this goal by taking art activities out of the visual realm - and you can incorporate inclusive art activities as early as toddlerhood.

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    The Tactual Realm

    Toddler arts and crafts that are too narrowly defined as only including drawings and the occasional cut and paste crafts are impractical for young, visually impaired children. Jill Brody, M.A. OTR from the Blind Children’s Center in Los Angeles explains that the majority of toys currently on the market are heavily geared to have a visual appeal. It is obvious that this also refers to boxed-up toddler art activities.

    This requires a reworking of the understanding of art activities. Perhaps the easiest way of including early crafts in an arsenal of toddler activities, is to not simply draw a house, but instead, make a house. Lego blocks are the perfect tool for creating early sculptures that better allow the child who is blind to explore the formation of lines, shapes, and their interconnectivity.

    Remember that arts and crafts are usually nothing more than a collection of colors and shapes, and young children revel in the finished display. The same may be done with interconnecting blocks or game pieces that are combined to create interesting shapes. Instead of seeing the artwork with their eyes, toddlers feel it with their hands.

    Taking art out of the visual realm and placing it into the tactual realm also necessitates a refocusing on the art appeal that matters to a blind child. Color is decidedly unimportant while temporal exploration is of heightened significance. A sculpture made of Lego blocks or anything else that interconnects has the power to tell its very own story in a logical sequence, making it the perfect inclusive art activity.

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    Newspapers, Magazines & Tactile Art

    One very easy-to-do art project includes the use of newspaper and glossy fashion magazine pages. It also requires a couple of pillow cases or plastic baskets on your part.

    Introduce the toddler to the different textures of newspapers and magazines. If possible, use magazine pages that contain scent samples. Allow the child to sniff the pages, crinkle them, and then suggest that as part of this art activity the newspaper and magazine paper is to be crumpled up. Permit the child to do so and then have the toddler separate the newspaper pages into one basket or pillow case. and the magazine paper into the other.

    The second portion of this art activity centers on the combination of the two media. Instruct the children to combine the papers as they like. They may stack them, twist them together, use scotch tape to glue crumpled up balls together and generally express themselves freely. Next, gently direct the children to switch places with a peer and let them...carefully...explore the artwork of their fellow art students.

    These tactile-focused art activities help meet the needs of all your students, including those who are visually impaired.

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