According to the most recent available statistics, 13% of all school students are special needs students. While our educational system is slowly advancing and making room for every child so they can learn the skills they need, a lot of teachers are still a little inexperienced in dealing with their different kinds of personalities and skill sets. Fortunately, working with these kids can be a very rewarding experience once you learn how to take the right approach, and any teacher or parent can benefit from knowing how to handle it. If you are eager to expand your knowledge and your skills as an educator, learning a few creative exercises that you can introduce to your class or your home is always a good idea. Here are some of our favourite ones.
Have them play with putty
Putty seems like such a simple thing, yet most kids love it, and with a good reason—it helps them develop their sense of touch. Kneading, pulling, rolling, shaping, and squeezing is really fun to do, anyone can do it, and it helps children develop their grip because it trains the small muscles in their hands to hold onto things better. You can take it further by using special toys like Discover Putty, where small objects are hidden inside putty and children have to dig their way to find them. The objects usually have a theme (for example they are all different types of miniature vehicles) so you can also use this exercise to teach them about new words and motives. It’s a great way to improve motor skills, so get some putty for the classroom and you’ll make your students happy.
Match objects to each other
This is another simple, familiar game that’s very important for children’s intellectual development. It can come in a lot of different forms—for example, matching letters to objects whose name begins with that letter, matching animals to their habitats, or matching two halves of the same whole. You can make it as simple as you need it, and here’s a little craft that’s easy to make. Get a bunch of wooden sticks and paint them all a different colour. Break every stick in half, and then mix them all up on the table. Instruct the children to find the two matching halves of the same colour. If they do well with this, make a new set of sticks with geometrical shapes on them, or give them pictures that are cut in half and that must be brought together.
Paint a story
Do you have any leftover paint samples from that time you remodelled your house? You might notice that these samples are very colourful and that each shade has an interesting name, like Mermaid Tear, or Western Sand. For parents who want to teach their kids creativity, this is pretty much a goldmine. If you find a good tutor that knows how to handle special needs children, they’ll be able to show you how something as simple as this can actually prompt their imagination because it’s easily utilised in the classroom. They can take those paint samples and browse through them, then pick five motives that sound interesting to them. Once they have them, it’s their task to build an interesting story. The story can be written down if they need to practice their handwriting, or they could simply speak it out loud. Either way, it will push them to get creative.
Play a few video games
No, children with special needs don’t have to miss out on all those activities that the rest of the kids enjoy. Certain video games are actually extremely useful at teaching them basic skills, but you have to pick the kind of game that relies on creativity and exploration to have them benefit from it. Video games have also been proven to improve your child’s literacy skills (read this post on how video games improve literacy). A lot of teachers love Minecraft for this very reason, which is a game where children can explore a big wide world in a safe manner, find animals, and even build their own house. This is also a good idea for parents because it can be easily done at home—why not get together and build a big house together?
This is also an easy exercise that’s surprisingly popular with children and can be done either at home or in a classroom. All you need are different coloured papers, pencils, and a pair of scissors. Have your child use a pencil to trace their hand on paper—this will help them develop their coordination and steady their hand. They can do this several times over, and then you can help them cut it. Now that you have a bunch of their hand prints, have them glue them down until they form petals of a big flower. They’ll be thrilled to make something so pretty! For some brilliant ideas on crafting see our paper crafts section.
One thing to remember is never to underestimate these kids. With patience and love, they usually grow into amazing human beings. Dedicate your time and attention to them, and they’ll thrive.