5 Art Materials Tips For Your Special Needs Child

Posted June 25, 2013 @ 4:11pm | by Danelle

Here are some great art materials for your special needs child to experiment with. Since you may not be an artist you may not even know some of these products are out there. Your child can create some cool art just by trying out a new art material.

Watercolor Pencils

Watercolor pencils are great for tweens or older kids. They are a good way to transition your artist from drawing to painting. If you have an artist who loves drawing experimenting with these pencils is a way to get them to eventually try the idea of painting. It is also a nice way to encourage a pencil drawer to experiment with colors. Watercolor pencils look similar to regular colored pencils and can be purchased in most craft or art supply stores. They come in various price ranges. Cheaper “student” quality is fine for the beginning artist. Once you color in the area with a color you can run a wet paintbrush across it and get the effect of watercolor paint. Experiment with a dryer brush or more water on the brush to create different effects.

Chalk Pastels

People tend to either love chalk or hate it. There is less control than drawing with a pencil and it can be messy. However, this is an especially great art medium for kids with limited hand mobility. Chalk sticks can go in between fingers of a fist or stick out of a clenched fist. Create sections of color and use fingers or sides of a hand to blend the colors together. The powdery effect creates neat blending combinations of color. Use a Q-tip or tissue rubbed over the colors for blending if you have an artist with sensitive sensory issues. This is a great art medium that I refer to as the “equalizer”. Anyone can make interesting color designs and get their hands in this art material even with severe fine motor limitations. Experiment with using the sides of the chalk to color with. They can break easily but the pieces can still be used. Chalk pastels can be found in most art supply or craft stores.

Oil Pastels

Similar to crayons, oil pastels have a “waxier” form and the colors are more intense. These are good for any age and good for fine motor skills. Layer colors over the top of each other. Oil pastels can be thicker or thinner. Thicker pastels do not break as easily. These can be found in most art supply or craft stores. “Student” quality and cheaper pastels work fine for the beginning artist. Paint over the top of oil pastels with your child’s watercolor paint set or watered down tempera paint and you will get some cool effects of wax resist over the paint.

Tempera Paint

Tempera paint is a nice way to introduce your child to paint. It is inexpensive and can be a nice medium for learning basic painting skills. It can be mixed from powder, comes in liquid form or comes in cake form in a tray. I especially like the paint trays that contain the cakes of paint. It is easy for kids with fine motor challenges to stir their brush in to get paint and it doesn’t spill like the liquid form. The trays are also heavy enough that they do not slip around all over. I like tempera paint blocks from Lakeshore Learning which can be ordered online.  http://products.lakeshorelearning.com/search#w=tempera%20paint%20cakes


Clay is always a nice medium to just start playing around with. Try simple coil built or pinch pots as an introduction. Practice rolling clay into balls or strips. It is great for fine motor skills. Carving with various tools your child may find laying around can create some cool projects. Try making flat squares and have your child carve interesting designs. There are softer colored clay products that are fun for younger kids. I like a product by Crayola called “Air Dry Clay”. It is easy to work with, and a little sturdier than other kinds when it dries. It also accepts paint on it’s surface very well. This is good for younger or older kids and comes in some nice size variations at a reasonable cost.


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