Craft activities perfect for those with Autism

by | 26/03/2018 | Craft Activites

Kids with Autism and Aspergers enjoy Sand Art

Good activities for autism, require a number of different characteristics.  Kidsbeehappy does lots of activity workshops for children with autism and Aspergers, so in celebration of World Autism Awareness week, we thought it would be useful to speak to some of our Kids Bee Happy consultants and ask them to share their stories about how they have held sand art activity sessions and what particular elements they found that the children enjoyed and how it benefited them.

“I Recommended sand art as a good activity children for autistic children”

Lauren Samson is one of Kidsbeehappy’s Business Builders and Lauren’s own eldest son, Jack, is autistic.  Lauren is very familiar with the challenges that something like an arts and crafts activity can have.

Lauren’s Story

As a Mum of two wonderful boys who are always on the go, l am often on the lookout for activities they can do inside.

My eldest son Jack is Autistic and has ADHD, and being stuck indoors can often get frustrating for him.  I used to dread the days when we couldn’t get out and burn off some of that energy.  Until l found Sand Art – Sand Art is a fantastic therapeutic, creative activity.

I still remember the first time we tried it, and l couldn’t quite believe that my whirlwind of a boy, who would never sit still for more than a couple of minutes actually sat for a whole half an hour in silence, creating a beautiful masterpiece that would make any Mum proud.

The touch of the sand and the vibrant colours just mesmerised and calmed him like nothing l had seen before.  l actually shed a tear watching him.

We are never without a stash of sand art in our home now, and due to the ever changing design collections the boys never get bored. I even create my own pictures now after a stressful day.

I truly would recommend this activity to anyone young or old, but even more so to anyone with a child who has Autism, or any additional needs.   It is great to see those little faces light up.  And it’s fantastic as a parent to be able to sit and have a cuppa and just watch them in complete peace.

Lauren's autistic son jack making a sand art picture

In sand art children colour in pictures, by peeling off a pre-cut top layer to reveal a sticky underneath.  The children the colour in the picture by sprinkling on coloured sand.   Children with autism and Aspergers particularly enjoy sand art.

What makes good activities for autism traits?

(1) Restrictive and repetitive patterns of behaviours, activites or interests

If your children have restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviours, activities or interests, sand art is a very engaging and therapeutic activity.  Good activities for kids with autism can be repetitive and systematic activity.  Chose a section, peel the section, choose a colour, colour it in, and then repeat.   There is no time pressure, no rush.  Do it all at their own pace, and create their own rules.  They can plan their colours in advance or take it section by section and make it up as they go.  They can work in whatever way suits them best.

(2) Highly focused interests

Some people have highly focused interests, again sand art works really well.  We love hearing how Parents tell us about the amount of time that their child was absorbed in the activity.  Sand Art’s not a noisy activity, nor need lots of energy, or space.  Sitting, getting lost in the fun of making your picture, it’s the perfect solution for wet rainy days.

It is also an activity with an end point.  There is a progression through the picture, and then the satisfaction of seeing it complete.  And this helps parents and carers as they know that there is a natural time limit.

We have designed the pictures so that it is very difficult for it to “go wrong”.  We pre-cut the pictures so small areas are worked on each time, and so there are nice clean cut lines and edges already prepared for you.  There is no “right” colour, which equally means that there is no “wrong” one either.  They don’t need to worry about staying in the lines, making it a nice safe activity for kids with autism.

(3) Sensory nature

Sand play can be a very good activity for kids with autism.  Our sand is very bright, which means sprinkling it on gives a big colourful and immediate reaction for their effort.  Colour is a very important factor for many people, and with sand art there is never a “wrong” colour.  Children choose the colours that they want, simple as that.  Pink elephants, green squirrels, multicoloured stripey cats – we’ve seen it all.   And of course, everyone loves the tactile nature of sand.  Kidsbeehappy sand is lovely and fine grained, some colours with added sparkle.  Older children and adults can freely enjoy “playing” with sand too, and that is something else that many parents and carers love too.

(4) Social Interaction

Sand Art gives children and adults the ability to be as social as they want to be or feel comfortable doing.  Many times we see the children absorbed in their pictures, working happily and contentedly alone.  Sand art is also perfect for children that need or want extra help, support, or just someone to work with.  Whatever the children prefer, they can stay in their comfort zone.

Sand art is a repetitive process.  You choose, then peel, then choose, then colour, and it all fits together wonderfully when you’re working with a child.  It only takes you 1 or 2 seconds to peel off a section the same time it takes the children to choose their colour.  Its easy to wait and give them extra time if they need it, because nothing spoils.  You don’t have to worry about children getting frustrated whilst they wait for you.   When children are making a picture with an adult or carer there are nice clear boundaries and responsibilities of who does what.  The adult does the peeling, the child tells them what to do, and does the colouring.  Clear rules to help them know what’s coming and what to expect.

(5) Choose your environment to suit your children’s needs

It doesn’t need to be a sit down activity either, and that is great for some children.  If a consultant brings the activity tables with them, there will be lots of space and opportunity to move around.  Move between the tables, move between the colours, it can be as active as you like.  The consultants will also bring filled sand bottles too, which is perfect for children with Aspergers who prefer to work in their own quiet space.

Claire’s experience of running craft activities for autistic children

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Claire Carter, one of our Consultants from Northumbria, said “Sand art is an amazing activity for individuals with autism”.

Some of the benefits that the children like are that:

  • there is no mess,
  • its not sticky,
  • their hands stay clean,
  • you don’t have to complete it immediately
  • always stay within the lines,
  • they can tweak and personalise where they wish

Claire has done many sessions for groups of young people with autism and disability and had some amazing feedback.

One parent cried telling us that it was the first time her 12 year old has stuck doing any craft.  And he wanted some to take home too!

Read what the parents say:

A Parent tells us about her daughter’s sand art experience with one of our Northern Irish consultants – Suzi Waddell

Huge thanks to Suzi for her time and patience helping my daughter and introducing her to Sand Art.  Miyah is 8years old and Autistic, she struggles socially and has a number of sensory processing issues including an intolerance to sand!! I didn’t think she would go near the sand art but Suzi was great, she wasn’t phased by my daughters stimming, and general lack of eye contact, she sat with her and demonstrated how to use the phials of sand to create her picture without needing to touch the sand.  Miyah was so delighted! Sand art has become one of Miyah’s favourite activities, she likes the routine involved in creating it, that she can enjoy the colours and look that the sand gives without needing to actually touch it, it is her go to activity when she has a tough day and needs to chill. She enjoys showing others how to use it and regularly ‘helps’ Suzi at fairs, thus engaging socially and increasing her self confidence without the acute stress many autistic children feel when around peers.

More Information

Kids Bee Happy consultants will be out and about across the UK during World Autism Awareness Week.  You can run your own Sand Art activity during world autism week, and can download a free fundraising pack here: http://www.autism.org.uk/get-involved/world-autism-awareness-week.aspx or if you run a group, you can register with Kidsbeehappy as a consultant and buy sand art materials at our discounted prices.  Or if you would like to talk to one of our consultants about how we can help you, simply contact us and we will be delighted to help.

If you want more information about how to structure craft workshop sessions that they aid people with autism and Aspergers, you can find lots of relevant information on the World Autism Website.