“ The most important thing people did for me was to expose me to new things.”
Sometimes when I was working with my children when they were little, I would try to work in activities that covered two things at once. I would use snack time as an opportunity to work in a teaching lesson. These two craft projects are two fun ways to work in some messy sensory play with some yummy snacks. Peanut butter was a favorite snack in our home so we always hand plenty on hand. Be sure to use real peanut butter, it is better for us. It does take a little extra work because you have to stir it a lot but if you have kids in the house this is another way to keep them busy, put them in charge of stirring the peanut butter.
You will need:
Bag of marshmallows
Tiny pretzel sticks
Peanut butter or cream cheese if peanut allergies.
Construction paper and assorted card stock paper
Glue (glue sticks are easier to work with)
Glue gun (adult part)
Small wooden bead
Tiny piece of Velcro
Small empty box (I used an empty butter box)
Before we start remember you know your child best. If your child on the Autism spectrum is sensitive to certain textures, smells and flavors then switch things up with this project. In place of peanut butter you can use whipped cream, or cream cheese. If you don’t want to include food then twigs from your garden and glue work too.
Project 1- Little paper pretzel house
I did a lot of paper houses with my kids because they are perfect projects to include colors, shapes, fine motor, prepositions and even attributes. You can use anything that is shaped like a square. If you have those little paper milk cartons they work great. I used an empty butter container for this project because I had just got through making my tradition sugar cookies cutouts for Easter morning..
Cut it down and shape it into the base of the house. I did this by cutting the top part of the box into triangles and taped those to each other.
Take your construction paper and cut out shapes to glue to the sides of the house. Add a roof by cutting out 4 triangles and gluing in place around all four sides. I used a low temp glue gun. You will have to do this since your children may harm themselves using a glue gun, even the low temps hurt. Encourage your child to direct you on what to do next when gluing together pieces. Encourage speech as much as possible by asking when , where and why questions when ever you are working on a project together. Depending on the level of speech you child is at you will have to decide how to do this. When my son was non verbal I would explain the steps by asking a question and then also answering it myself. Just because a child may not be able to speak doesn’t necessarily mean he or she doesn’t understand you.That right there is the most important lesson to us all, to always treat each person like they understand, even if they can not express back to you that they can.
Get creative with your little paper houses. Add windows, doors, green bushes, and flowers.
I always added lots of details to our art projects like little wooden beads for door knobs and even a tiny strip of Velcro so the paper doors could be opened and closed. This is where you work in speech lessons on prepositions. It is in these details that you can work play time into teaching time.
After you have designed your houses, glue everything in place and let dry. Once dry you can work in some sensory messy play.
I am using peanut butter and pretzel sticks, the itty bitty ones, not those jumbo pretzel sticks that we get at Christmas that are covered in white chocolate and sprinkles. Don’t you just love those?
Spread peanut butter on the sides of your houses that are not decorated or spread them on each stick then stick to your houses like little logs. If your kids want to cover their whole house with pretzel sticks instead of paper doors and windows let them go, this is their time to get used to textures and having fun while doing that.You may have to bite off some ends to the length of the walls. This is the fun part, using food like a mosaic piece of art.
If your child does not tolerate messy textures then make sure to have a bowl of water on the table so they can dip their fingers in it now and then and a towel to dry off. But encourage them to at least give it a go. In the beginning my son wouldn’t touch anything, and it was so heartbreaking to see this. Slowly, slowly I kept working in lessons to help desensitize him to the world he was born into. I know everyone has their own methods when it comes to their children, I am just sharing some tips and projects I did many years ago.
Project 2- Marsh mellow art
This is not one of my original ideas. I wish I knew where I saw this, but I did this marshmallow project many years ago and I can’t remember if someone suggested it to me or I saw it in a magazine. This is such a fun project to do and it was something I made sure to pack in backpacks and picnic baskets when we were out and about in nature and the kids needed something fun to do at the picnic tables. All it involves is a bag of tiny marshmallows and a bunch of toothpicks, that’s it. I liked to keep everything cheap and frugal when designing art and sensory play projects.
You will be connecting marshmallows and sticks together building as you go along.
One time my kids used up a whole marshmallow bag and made this huge piece. It was so huge that it took up the whole top of the dresser in my son’s room. It was like a giant toothpick sculptor, so cool. It did triangle shapes though instead of square.
Hope you all have fun with these two messy projects. Remember the more kids involved the funnier it is. I ended up doing the marshmallow project with my son’s after-school parks and rec program. There were 50 kids in that class. My son help pass out bags of marshmallows and toothpicks and he brought his toothpick art to show everyone. It was a hit for all ages from 5 to 12, everyone had fun with that one.
April is world Autism awareness month. With everything that is going on out in the world seems like we forget about what it used to be like and I forgot about this. I had this whole week of posts planned out to do all kinds of Autism projects and topics but well you all know…the world is going through something tough right now.
I would like to share with you all someone that I look up to when it comes to helping the Autism community in a great way. Mary Ann LaRoche is one of those Autism heroes out there doin things, not just saying things. I am a firm believer in helping out programs that actually get work done and she does exactly that. She started a business that helps adults with Autism find ways to make money. You can read her story here seedsforautism.org. Mary started her company helping young adults get a start in life for her brother, so he would have a place to work that was a kind environment that understood his special needs. A place where he could feel safe doing the things he loved which was making things by hand. Sadly Mary’s brother Paul did not live long enough to enjoy this dream but Mary keeps his spirit alive by helping others who were like him. It is a beautiful story and I love how it turned into what it is today. Check out their blog too, they have different employees write in it and also they post stories about the crafters who sell their products from the shop.
I want the wooden bowl pincushion they sell in shop.
I have been to their warehouse a couple of times and loved seeing everyone working on products to sell. They even weave, which I still want to start doing once I get my fun weaving loom up that I was gifted with at Christmas. I was going to take another tour of the warehouse to share photos with you all but that ugly red monster stopped us all from doing all those beautiful things we took for granted months ago. I hope to do this another time. You can still shop online I believe.
I know there are all kinds of organizations that always ask for donations to pass on awareness but I am a bigger believer of putting my money into programs that I can see with my own eyes on how they work and see the benefits from those programs.
Remember if you ever see anyone out there in the world with a child that may be acting up try to be sensitive to the situation and don’t judge, that child could have a special need and might be having a melt down. Sometimes the world around him or her is too much and they are very sensitive to noise, smells and textures, things that may very well hurt them, we don’t know what it is like to walk in their shoes…so always be kind and considerate.
If you have children who do not have special needs please teach them empathy and explain the differences some people and children are born with so your children grow up with kindness in their hearts. I have seen so many children, even in my family, that are being raised to believe they are like royalty. Made to believe they are princesses and given everything they want.
They spend their time mostly looking at screens either small or large screens and grow up worshiping pretty animations and “ material things” . It is so sad to see when that happens and it happens a lot. We all need to figure out ways to encourage our little ones to be confident in themselves, not envious of others and things. Spending one on one time with your children, teaching them through love and talking to them about life will lead to happy adults in the end. To spoil a child does them a disservice in the end because once they grow up and go out into the big scary world things are not like that and they become angry, insecure and bitter. So spend time with them, read to them, talk to them and teach them to be kind to other human beings.
Quote at the start of this post is from another Autism hero, who happens to have Autism herself. I met Temple years ago at a program they had here in my state. My husband and I got so much useful information from her. I will have to do a post just on all the really great Autism heroes out there in the world helping out so much. Happy Autism awareness month everyone.
“There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child can do instead of what they cannot do.” Temple Grandin.