Using Child Directed Art In Speech Therapy

Raise you hand if you love doing crafts in therapy.  I do. While I enjoy doing craftivities, I love using child directed art in my therapy room.  If you look on Teachers Pay Teachers or on different social media sites, there are a wide variety of craftivities out there.  These typically have very specific goals they target and have a designed final product.  Child directed art does not have a specific end product.  It allows the children to add what they want to add in ways they want to add it.  It is the ultimate in experiential learning.
 Cover of the blog. Picture of yellow, green, blue and red paint pots with paint brushes. A child's arm are in the background painting.

How does it work?

I will choose different materials to put out on the table.  These are can be based on themes (e.g., white pom poms, white and sliver glitter for winter) or it can just be a wide variety materials.   Children then choose what they want and how they put the materials together to make a final product.  Some final products may be simple and only contain different kinds of glue. Others are a more elaborate collage of different materials.  I will also do my own art beside them so that we can talk about each other’s art. The sky the limit as far a materials go. 

Materials Ideas

  • tissue paper in whole sheets or cut up into different shapes
  • doilies 
  • stickers (these often reflect the theme of the week)
  • glue
  • glitter glue
  • ribbon cut into different lengths
  • feathers
  • pompoms
  • crayons
  • markers
  • bingo dabbers
  • paints
  • different types and colours of paper
  • sparkles
  • clay

Goals You Can Target

The reason I love child directed art is that it can target so many different goals in a natural environment and as my OT and art teacher friends would say, it’s developmentally appropriate for preschoolers.  It’s also great for your Gestalt Language Learners and your AAC users. If a child is using a high-tech device, put it in a zippered plastic bag (e.g. Ziploc) to keep it clean. While creating, I can target:
  • requesting and commenting
  • increasing MLU
  • verbs  (e.g. glue, cut, paste, stick, dab, squeeze, spread)
  • adjectives (e.g. sticky, wet, shiny, pretty, bright, dull, and soft)
  • arctic goals.  I’ll have materials out that will use targeted sounds (e.g. s-blends: stickers, sparkles, sparkly, sticky, stripes, and spots)
  • school concepts such as  colours, shapes, and numbers
  • prepositions  (e.g. on, in, next to, under, and around)
  • describing what they have made
  • social skills such as sharing and negotiating with peers. It’s great when children do a craft together
Bonus! It’s great for communication temptations, both natural (e.g. opening glue) and created (e.g. putting materials in clear containers) and it’s highly engaging. Often children will stay longer at it than other types of craft projects.
Child directed art can be, and usually is, very messy.  I usually have an old plastic tablecloth I spread over the table for ease of cleanup.  Also, I do it during the time of day when I can spend the extra time to clean up. If you are interested in a handout about child directed art go here.  Do you do child directed art in therapy?
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