December 2012 Smart Art = Smarty!

Have you seen the new Smarty videos on Autism Live?

Skills® is sponsoring this new monthly series, so I got a sneak peek.  I absolutely love them! 

Each Smarty, short for “Smart Art,” features an arts and crafts project for parents and children to do together.  Not only are the projects a wonderful way to spend time with your child, they also provide an opportunity to practice and / or generalize skills learned in therapy.  Suzanne has embedded a primary skill into each activity, but also highlights additional skills targeted during the craft.

Here’s the link to November’s Smarty:

While corn is a little out of season, there is no reason you can’t adapt this to any holiday or subject matter of your choice.   Maybe a Christmas tree, dreidel, or snowflake?

The core skill in November’s craft is the pincer grasp.  If your child is still learning the pincer grasp, here are a few tips – Instead of using a single piece of tissue paper, cut a larger square and fold it into quarters.  This creates more substantial paper without sacrificing the “crumpliness.”  Place the paper flat on a table and have your child slide their thumb and pointer fingertips towards each other on the table, crumpling the paper.  At first you might expect your child to make a single crumple for each paper, but eventually, as coordination and muscle strength develops they should be able to completely crumple the paper.  Placing the crumpled papers also requires use of the pincer grasp.  As an alternate activity, have your child place pre-crumpled paper (or pom-pom balls) into the glue on the template.

Crafts are an ideal way to practice “task persistence” – sustained attention to a specific task.  If you are crafting with a younger child, consider breaking the activity into two or more separate activities completed over multiple days (e.g., cutting paper, crumpling paper, and gluing crumpled paper onto the template).  As a general rule, the younger the child the shorter the attention span.  For toddlers and young preschoolers don’t expect more than a few minutes of engagement (Although you never know –  when my daughter was 21 months old she spent 20 minutes taking all the lettuce out of the container I had just purchased from the grocery store and spread it over the kitchen floor.)  By 4 to 5 years, you can expect (or aim for) 10 to 12 minutes of sustained attention to a task and your child might be ready to try the entire craft in one sitting.

You can find December’s Smarty here: Wow!  With the metallic paint I might need to make my own paper!

One of the things I love about Suzanne’s activities is their adaptability.  Although the core skill in December’s craft is patterning, there is no reason to skip this activity if your child isn’t working on patterning yet.  Even a 1-year-old can stamp (or smear) a potato on paper.  As an alternative, consider using this craft to practice motor imitation, following one- or two-step instructions, or identifying and naming colors and shapes.

Children learn best through repetition but the same activity with the same materials can lead to disinterest or inflexibility.  If you want to do a re-run of December’s Smarty, try mixing it up.  Cookie cutters make excellent stamps when dipped in tempera paint.  For an alternative to paint, try putting food coloring or liquid water color on a damp folded paper towel for an instant stamp pad.  Stamp with an orange, apple (cut on the equator it makes a star when stamped) or another fruit.

Happy Crafting!   We’d love to see your Smarty’s works of art.  You can share them on the Autism Live facebook page.