Art Play

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Today, I have an amazing resource to share with you. Art Play is a new book that has been recently launched, and is a creative art activity book that is also a sensory and fine motor goldmine. Children can use art activities to create while developing skills and making an art project they can be proud of! Art Play is a process art creation book that focuses on developmentally appropriate art projects for kids, using sensory experiences and allows children to explore art materials at a level that is comfortable for them…without expectations for the “perfect” end product.

Be sure to check out all of the giveaway items in this year’s Therapy Tools and Toys Giveaway series. (Giveaway now closed.)

Art play combines play and art so children can develop skills through creating art in play.

Art Play

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Years ago, I created a children’s activity book with my friend Meredith, an educator and author of the website, Homegrown Friends. Meredith’s new book, Art Play, is my new favorite children’s art and activity book.

In the book, you will find easy to set-up art projects that focus on the child.

So often, we see crafts and art activities that are product focused. And, while the end-product focused craft has it’s time and place, especially when working on data collection or achieving specific goals in scissor skills or other areas, there is a place for process art in therapy as well.

And, this book has got you covered in child-friendly art projects that pull in a very important area: play!

We know that play is the job of the child. Play is a child’s primary occupation after all! And, it’s through play that these art projects allow a child to participate in creative, making activities. These are activities that allow a child to develop age-appropriate skills…through play!

This book is beautifully and thoughtfully written and includes step-by-step instructions that are easy to follow. The pages of the book are wipeable and durable, meaning the book can be right there in the play activities and the pages are kid-friendly with thick paper that kids can manipulate.

Art Play book review

Just some of the skills that can be developed through the art projects in this book:

  • Pinch and grip strength
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Motor planning
  • Visual motor skills
  • Direction following
  • Dexterity
  • Visual scanning
  • Visual memory, figure-ground, visual attention, and other visual perceptual skills
  • Tool use
  • Precision
  • Gross motor skills
  • Tactile experiences
Art play includes sensory painting that builds fine motor skills.

The art projects in the book focus on play, so there are so many play experiences for children to incorporate into art. Just some of the art play activities include:

  • Dramatic play
  • Pretend play
  • Building with blocks
  • Playing with cars/vehicles
  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Inventing
  • Creating while upside down
  • Constructing
  • Dancing
  • Picking and collecting nature

When you combine art with play, you get a lot of movement-based activities that help children develop whole-body skills!

Process Art Activities

Would you like a copy of Art Play so you can add these hands-on activities to your therapy practice or home?

Check out the blog comments below which are loaded with reader’s favorite ways to create art with kids.

Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

186 thoughts on “Art Play”

  1. This book would be a great addition to our therapy department. I love to incorporate art into our therapy sessions.

  2. I love doing crafts with my students! This week I’m having them make “tactile cookies” for santa. They glue their paper cookies down and then get to glue on sprinkles, pom poms, and peppermint pieces. They even got to sprinkle hot chocolate on a paper cup too!

  3. I love creating crumple tissue art or paper tearing art. These techniques create some really cool art that the kids love and find fun while working on so many fine motor skills! I’ve also recently become a fan of creating sensory-based art, by adding tactile and olfactory stimuli (pasta, herbs, spices, pipe cleaners, etc.) to coloring and cutting projects.

  4. This week I am having my students create gingerbread man crafts and I am going to use their masterpieces to decorate my OT bulletin board. The bulletin board will say “sOme smarT cookies”.

  5. My older students love doing simple step by step drawings. With the younger set, I do a lot of ripping paper, crumping it into balls and then gluing it onto some sort of design- so many skills we target that way!

  6. My favorite way to create art with kids is crafts that allow them to have creative license and that includes a sensory experience. Getting your hands dirty is the best way to make art!

  7. Any kind of mutli-sensory approach is my way of creating art with kids! I work with some kids who are motorically impaired and access equipment through the use of AT/switches – so I have to be creative with my art projects to include those kids as well – especially when doing groups. One cool project I did was made a melted Olaf by attaching the switch to a paper shredder, that way those kids can have some parts of the activity that they can do independently!

  8. I love just letting my kids paint freely on a piece of paper and then building their vocabulary by having them describe their art to me.

  9. My student are hard of hearing or deaf. They way they express themselves through art is truly beautiful and talented. When one sense is lacking, the other 7 with pick up the slack. My kiddos love art!

  10. I love finding different crafts for them to do because there are so many things that can be addressed when using crafts. My favorite ways to find crafts to do is in books. Google is okay but I prefer having hard copies of things

  11. I love doing easy construction paper crafts because most families have this available at home. In person crafts kids like are stencils and rainbow paper art drawing. They also enjoy pipe cleaner activities and Pom poms. I would love to have this book as an addition to my interventions.

  12. My favorite way of engaging students through art is by picking a letter and having the student create a simple tactile project that starts with the letter using all different kinds of materials!

  13. My favorite way to get my students to create art is by open-ended drawing on various modalities: chalkboard, all kinds of paper, etc. while also using various ways to add color! Drawing is very calming and grounding to kids. I always have drawing be part of my classroom group lessons! It really is awesome to see!

  14. This book sounds amazing! I love to do projects with multiple elements. That way we can focus on many skills and I can modify the same project for various students by putting more emphasis on certain aspects. It’s really exciting for the students to see it come together when they have been working on individual parts of the project each day.

  15. This looks like a great resource. Always looking for creative ways to address sensory and fine motor issues.

  16. This book looks great! I love having the kids utilize all their senses when they explore with different art materials: pastels, glue, construction paper, pasta, paint, pom poms, chalk, water, clay, etc.

    I also like having the children learn about the different artists (ex. Eric Carle) and their art styles and creating work similar to theirs.

    I believe we need to focus on the process of making art and not the end product. It’s fine to make a mess as long as we all work together to clean it up afterwards.

  17. My favorite way to play is with activity that promotes exercise and strength! I love obstacle courses, but love it when there is a PLAY STATION in the middle of it! For instance, they have to stop and build 2 parts of a construction activity, or find 3 puzzle pieces that fit together on each round.

  18. I love creating art using different modalities (wooden pieces, play dough, different kinds of art materials) and talking about the basic shapes (starting with little/big lines and curves) and how to organize them on a page to make a drawing. I’ve been exploring Youtube videos lately for ideas as well (like Muffalo Gruffalo and Art Hub for Kids) and love turning letters and numbers into drawing.

  19. I have a theme for my therapy session and do an art project that goes along with the theme for that lesson. The children really buy into the themes.

  20. Multi-sensory arts and craft time is the key to my OT heart!! This book would be the best addition to our department. I would love to share the ideas with my pre-k teachers too!

  21. My son isn’t too crazy about art projects yet, but if it’s a bit interesting or messy, he might give it a shot…so I try to find things that are messy “art” projects (where the mess can be easily cleaned).

  22. I do crafts daily with my kiddos usually construction paper or paint based because I can work on so many skills (strengthening, writing, cutting, prewriting, motor planning, visual motor). And by adding extra things like Pom poms, sprinkles, pipe cleaners, feathers, puffy paint, etc we can add a tactile component. It’s amazing how many different ways you can make one craft.

  23. I try to incorporate as many fine motor and sensory activities with my prek class as I can. Today we made gingerbread puffy paint and cinnamon applesauce ornaments. This sounds like a great book to use.

  24. This would be a great resource to use with many of my students and my kids. I love incorporating arts and crafts into my speech and language sessions.

  25. I love to add gross and fine motor components and multi sensory approaches to art. Doing art on a vertical surface, using bubble wrap on feet to get kids to jump and pop the bubble wrap covered with paint, Painting with balls in a bin by moving the bin to create art are some examples.

  26. I love doing art with my students. Currently we are doing directed drawings and art in small groups to work on following directions and executive functioning skills

  27. I love doing projects with my students. I especially like to do tearing activities to help improve bilateral coordination. So many kids do not understand the concept of tearing paper/tissue. They want to pull and rip.

  28. I always come to session with an art craft in mind but let the student guide its outcome. They are much more engaged if I work alongside them creating my own piece as well.

  29. Arts & crafts are the best! They are engaging to the child and address so many different things. Right now, we are working on making ornaments for our clinic tree and having them hang them on there!

  30. Love using art as a medium to work on fine motor and visual skills! Would love to be more creative and expressive with some help!

  31. Perfect, in this time of digital learning my students need crafts! They need to be using their hands. Love this.

  32. I love to do arts and crafts with my kids at school. Gives them a break from all the other work they have to do. Plus they’re working on skills and having fun creating.

  33. Art play is such a great way to work on so many aspects of development. My favorite part of art play is the sensory experience it can provide!

  34. I love doing art with my students.
    I teach three year olds.
    I like to use different tools, materials, textures, and engage the senses.
    Exploration is important in art.
    The joy of discovery is so delightful to observe!

  35. I know that kids love to craft and do anything artistic so its a great way to work on their skills while they are motivated to do something they want to do. I have struggled with being “creative” and finding the right arts and crafts that I can use with my kids. This would be a great help for me so that I can expand my creativity.

  36. I love doing crafts in sessions because they require so many skills. I try to incorporate cutting, gluing, hole punching, and precision placement within the craft so the child is practicing so many skills. The Art Book would be so helpful in expanding my use of crafting in therapy!

  37. For Thanksgiving we made pumpkin pies. We used paper plates and ripped/cut construction paper. We finished it with cottonballs for the marshmallows. It could be graded many ways and uses supplies most have at home (teletherapy). I’m always looking for more ideas so this book would be great!

  38. THIS is my goldmine for severe and profound kids. All we do is craft and make all year long. They love having made a product. The parents love see their child’s work and watch it improve over the years. This would be such a blessing!

  39. We try to do an art project with our kids every week or so. Having this tool wold be amazing, with so many great ideas.

  40. This book looks like a great resource for our OT and SLP therapist to use in our SPED classrooms and in therapy. Thank you!

  41. I love providing the kiddos a place to get messy. They need this and I’m not afraid to make a mess. I have to give a disclaimer to parents that your child may get dirty!!

  42. I like to provide them a model, provide them materials and then let them have fun. They come up with the coolest things.

  43. Using art is one of my favorite ways to have students use their fine, visual, and sensory-motor skills all at once while being engaged and motivated.

  44. Who wouldn’t want new and more ideas for sensory system play?!? My sessions where we can really dig in and get messy are the most fun for my kids, and me too! I find what I think will be a nightmare session so often turns out in reality to be a calming, relaxing time. Thank you for the opportunity to have more tools in my toolbox!

  45. I love handprint art for students, along with anything that helps meet their sensory needs. Some students really enjoy the kinetic sand and playdoh.

  46. In our house, we’re working on grip, strength, emotional awareness and visual motor skills. My boys are 3/4 yo. They love ANYTHING with crafts, seasonal themes help with temporal awareness. I break things down into steps and monitoring materials to support attention.

  47. Arts and crafts keep kiddos so engaged and excited to participate in therapy sessions. This would benefit them so much to address deficits of fine motor skills, grasping skills!!

  48. I love incorporating art into my therapy sessions. It would be so helpful to have a book to refer to when planning.

  49. Due to our school being packed up and all classrooms moved over the summer, many of our art supplies are not accessible to me right now. This is an amazing prize. I love doing art projects with students because you can address so many skills in one project (fine motor, visual motor, sequencing/following directions, visual perceptual skills, attending to details, self-monitoring, etc) and grade for different ages and abilities. Most importantly, it is engaging and motivating for the students!

  50. Tactile Christmas trees are fun to do this time of year. You can use glitter glue, pom poms, stickers, yarn, ribbon, etc to decorate!

  51. I would use this therapy art book with my students in my SLP/OT groups! The SLP and I collaborate to run groups together by doing a craft and incorporating both language and fine motor skills together! We have seen so much improvement, but we could always use new ideas!

  52. I love incorporating arts and crafts into my therapy sessions! This would be a great addition to my OT toolbox as a new practitioner.

  53. I would love to have new and different materials for my girls to do art projects with. They love coloring, stickers, and gluing. I am not so into paint but I can come around to it with new supplies.

  54. Oh my goodness! This book is right up my alley. I love to do art with the kids I work with at a school district!

  55. I love any kind of finger paint activity! When it is warmer we even do this outside in old clothes for worry free fun.

  56. I love to use art/crafts during therapy. It’s a wonderful way to work on fine motor skills as well as sensory skills especially for my kiddos who have tactile defensiveness!!

  57. I like to any art or craft that engages as many senses as possible such as scented paint, textured playdough or encourages to use objects in a new way such as painting with feathers.

  58. I love doing step by step drawings with prewriting shapes and letters to form animals or pictures, as well as projects for the holidays that include so many important skills (drawing, folding, cutting, gluing). This would be a wonderful addition.

  59. I am having my students rip nd crumble pieces of aluminum foil to make “snowflakes” and gluing it onto paper for a winter art project!

  60. I love to look up different art and craft ideas online and have the kids replicate them , I have a hard time being creative like that on my own so this book would be amazing!

  61. I love using thera putty, clay, and/or play dough to create art with my students because they always have so much fun doing it, and it works on so many amazing fine motor skills!

  62. Art projects are fun for young and old. My clients with late stage dementia love them and this would be a good resource while they are forced to isolate in their rooms.

  63. This book sounds amazing to incorporate into my sessions. Most of the kids I see are battling with something inside and art is their way of expressing their pain. I would love to have this book to get more creative and have various ideas to show. Plus, my toddler loves art, and I know this will benefit him in many ways at home.

  64. Sounds like a great book to work on motor and visual skills while incorporating your senses and creativity!

  65. I love seeing what my students create! Especially seeing how different students complete the same project and it comes out totally unique to them!

  66. I LOVE sensory play! Whether using playdough, paints, torn bits or tissue paper. All has a great benefit to fine motor and exploratory skills.

  67. My kiddos love arts and crafts! It’s a great way to work on FMC skills, visual perceptual skills, and crossing midline! One of my favorites is to crest pictures by crumpling little squares of tissue paper and glueing to surface. Sometimes I use a pre-created pattern to work on visual skills, other times we just create our own as we go. The kids love taking home their work!

  68. I collect art. My children’s artwork that is. I have saved every project my children create, even as far back as my college graduate’s preschool art. My autism child was asked not to return to his art class by the general ed art teacher. I didn’t find out until after school ended. Now with school being virtual, I would love to create skills based art project for us to do at home. My heart hurts for what my child experienced at school and I want him to be able to express himself creatively through art. Thank you.

  69. Some of my favorite tasks to use in schools are crafts! We enjoy working with tissue paper, glitter, and fold and cuts!!

  70. My ADHD/SPD kids love to create. Our current favorite is making cookie playdoh they will create all kinds of different animals cutouts and give them texture. They are so imaginative. I would love to add more ideas to our stock.

  71. I feel like I am always creating new programming for kids who are working remote and love arts and crafts! Would be great to add nee material for our families!

  72. I think art is a great way to get kids to express their feelings in a hands on approach. I always incorporate art into my lessons in private practice. I love finger painting and play doh

  73. Art is a great way to get kids engaged in developing their fine motor skills. I find that my kids are very motivated to make items during therapy.

  74. I work in strictured play based schoolz with children age 3 to 5 and through sensory activities they learn a lot. The Ary play book would help me add more sensory art in their daily schedule.
    Thank you,
    Namita

  75. I incorporate art into my sessions with a theme wether it be different holidays or whatever the classroom is working on that week! I involve mutli-sensory tools! My kiddos would absolutely love this art book!

  76. I love doing themed crafts with my preschoolers! The holidays are such a fun time to work on different art & crafts.

  77. we do all sorts of crafts and let their creativity shine. we also collect items on nature walks. we’d love more ideas.

  78. I love using art to target a wide variety of skills! The kids enjoy making and they don’t realize how hard they are working at targeted goals!

  79. My daughter teaches Kindergarten and has a class full of students that would benefit from the creative ideas in this book

  80. As an OT in schools, I love doing crafts that sneak in skills- ripping paper and gluing for bilateral coordination, often according to the season/ holidays.
    As a mom to two littles, I love open-ended activities. One of my favorites is giving my kids some model magic or playdoh and beads, feathers, popsicle sticks etc and having them make sculptures. They love it and it encourages their creativity. They also love to color/ stamp/ dot paint on big pieces of butcher paper I lay out on the floor. The size of the paper makes it more fun for them 🙂

  81. I love doing seasons-based arts with my OT students, like leaf rubbing, and holiday colored paper chains. It’s so motivating for the kids, and the more sensory exploration we can include, the better!

  82. I love doing art activities with the preschool kids on my OT caseload. We work on so many skills, and they don’t even know it! Fine motor, sequencing, following directions, attention, sensory, the list could go on and on!

  83. I love to do multi-sensory craft projects as it addresses so many areas. The kids love it because they get to bring their project back to class to show their teacher and home to show their families. It really helps to show the teacher and families the functional progress they make.

  84. I love doing crafts with kids. One of my favorite crafts is coffee filter “tie dye” because it works on so many different skills.

  85. I love doing crafts with kids. One of my favorite crafts is coffee filter “tie dye” because it works on so many different fine motor skills.

  86. I like using art and craft activities to add some “spice” to my therapy sessions. Repeatedly writing letters and numbers gets BORING!

  87. My kiddos love origami and directed drawings, and tearing, crumpling, and rolling paper is fun for my little ones!

  88. Finger painting is my all-time favorite art activity with kids! Regular finger paints, in a bag, using food painting mediums.. it’s always fun!

  89. Kids love art! I get inspired by Pinterest. I mostly pick any cut and paste activity. I’m learning doing art virtually is the best way to get the kids attention.

  90. My students love to create artwork they can take home to show their parents. I often have to keep them at bay to let their work dry or allow me to display their work. Afterward they express positive feelings about what they have accomplished!

  91. One of my favorite go to crafts is anything that involves tearing and squishing tissue paper into tiny balls then gluing it to something else! Really works those tiny finger muscles!

  92. I love to have themes for art projects, such as centering the project around the upcoming Holidays, this allows the child to relate to the project and at times is more willing to participate with the anticipation of the upcoming holiday!

  93. Love using crafts to incorporate work on pincer grasp, bilateral coordination, hand strength, etc.! I typically have to buy my own craft supplies, so winning this would be a blessing!

  94. This resource would be excellent for many kiddos with many ability levels! How awesome to be able to provide ALL kids a new art experience 🙂 Such a cool experience for kids and a wonderful feeling for providers to be able to gift this to children!

  95. I love finger painting with my infants. It’s such a great sensory experience and there are so many materials that can be used for their artistic expression!

  96. We love relief paintings- doing water based paints over crayon drawings. The colors really pop and we get to use so many FM skills!

  97. Home made play dough or salt dough is my all time favorite! So versatile and you can work on so many skills with it!

  98. I love crafts and art for my kids especially with a holiday or monthly theme. I like to do an art project then incorporate handwriting into the session by writing about the craft. It makes the kids much more motivated to do the handwriting after having the hands on sensory input from the art project.

  99. Art is such an important part of pediatric OT. While it helps children develop fine motor skills. and process sensory information, it is also so crucial to self-expression and emotional development. I enjoy doing holiday crafts with my kids and allowing them to take a prompt or visual and make it their own.

  100. As an OT in the public school setting, this course would be very helpful. I work with so many kids whose fine motor concerns are directly affected by their sensory processing issues. Many of my co-workers, my own kids, and I all have sensory quirks and would benefit from this personally as well.

  101. I would love this book. As an OT in the schools I am always looking for crafty ideas to build fine motor skills. Thanks!

  102. I am a teacher at an autism school. Teaching my kids to play is always an important part of my program. I always love using art to see the creativity that some student come up with. It is also a great communication opportunity to!

  103. I am always wanting to have new ideas to bring into the home,as an OT, for my kiddos and their families can see the easy activities they too can do with their kiddos!!

  104. We glue down construction paper to create images and play doh is something my child can never get sick of he loves it!

  105. I love doing craft activities during sessions to work on scissor skills, hand strength, and bilateral coordination. I pick a theme for the month and display their work for the month. They love seeing their work displayed.

  106. We do lots of simple craft projects during virtual therapy sessions involving cutting shapes and crumpling paper, and then putting everything together to form an animal or object.

  107. As a bit of an artist myself, I incorporate crafts into just about every session! My favorites are play-doh activities because it offers such a great basis for all sorts of exploration and therapeutic opportunity! Add beads, animal footprints, make letter shapes, and it all squish away.

  108. I love using arts and crafts during therapy sessions. My students have so much fun, they don’t realize they are actually working. Their parents LOVE receiving all of their ‘art projects’.

  109. The messier the better – bring on the paints. We use objects to paint and “stamp” to help with grip. It’s fun to see what they can create!

  110. I love all kinds of crasts, art, STEM projects that are also art and messy play that create art. I’d love more ways of turning play and experimentation into art!

  111. I love doing themed art projects! I find that with art projects I am able to connect with my students and build continue to build rapport.

  112. I love creating art with students using paint, playdough, sand, or anything that motivates them. I love that our profession allows for some amazing creativity when it comes to learning!

  113. We have a letter of the week along with a theme for the week in our classroom. I like to incorporate craft activities to reinforce the letter or theme. Making things with our hands using a variety media allow our children to utilize various sensory systems. This tool would us allow to add more to our classroom activities.

  114. I would love a copy of this book as a resource for the kids at the preschool and clinic where I work. Lately we’ve been doing a ton of finger painting, which the kids adore. I’d love to have some more therapeutic craft ideas though!

  115. In the preschool setting, the children enjoy tactile activities. Last year, all of the students enjoyed making slime and putting different seasonal items in the slime. In the school setting, scissor skills are important. Lacing activities have always been a Christmas time craft.

  116. As a teacher, I’m always looking for fun ways to incorporate fine motor skills into the daily routine. My students love playing with play dough or theraputty. I like hiding things into a ball of dough and having the students pull them out.

  117. I love creating art with my kids that is child-led. I may plan a general project, but I love when they bring their own creativity into it! Once, I had a pre-k kiddo draw a simple outdoor scene and he decided he wanted to draw food falling from the sky. It doesn’t get much better than that!

  118. Art Play looks like so much fun! My students on the spectrum love to express themselves through art. I am always looking for new ways to present art projects to them. Looks like a lot of fun!

  119. This looks so awesome! One of my favorite ways to do art recently is getting creative with paint and various tools (q-tips, straws, pom poms, etc) great for increasing engagement and working on fm and grasp skills.

  120. I love doing a scavengar hunt for materials and including letters and shapes in art projects. A great way for kids to learn

  121. My state is currently still telehealth only. I’ve been doing a ton of art projects with family because they’re engaging, low pressure and have a great outcome. It’s also easy to make a project out of things they have around their home.

  122. My state is currently still telehealth only. I’ve been doing a ton of art projects with family because they’re engaging, low pressure and have a great outcome. It’s also easy to make a project out of things they have around their home.

  123. Lately we’ve enjoyed decorating our own Halloween and Christmas ornaments for my son’s tree in his room. He’s also really enjoyed creating his own comic books and characters. He has a beautiful imagination.

  124. I absolutely love incorporating art projects into my therapy sessions. My favorites are ripping paper, crumbling paper, snipping straws to string and granting a self-expression day-letting the child create their own project. They love taking things home.

  125. I love having the kids at school trace patterns and then cut out the pieces to make holiday projects. Any project that includes a child’s picture or handprint makes a great keepsake.

  126. I love crafting which I think is one reason I love peds so much! I feel like I am in a rut however and have been using playdoh way to much. I love how versatile it is but this book looks like there are a TON of fun gems inside to add it my tool box!

  127. Would love to have this as a resource for new ideas with my students! First year school-based OT always looking for new ways to engage my students!

  128. I love doing arts and crafts activities using multisensory materials (different textures, smells, shapes, etc.).

  129. What a great resource to have! We are currently doing lots of finger painting while we strengthen our tool using skills.

  130. I like to do those foam building crafts that you get at Michael’s with my son. He also likes coloring challenges.

  131. I love using any kind of painting. One of my favourite is having a large and long piece of paper out on the floor and then a number of everyday objects and different colours of paint available. Just add children and there is the invitation to explore and create!

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Art Play book