Mentally disabled individuals develop at a slower rate than typically developing individuals. People who are mentally disabled experience challenges when faced with complex tasks that require multiple steps. Choose art activities for mentally challenged people that allow them to express themselves. Choose activities based on cognitive level. Provide clear and repeated directions, one step at a time. Art activities give mentally disabled individuals a venue through which to find success.
Encourage mentally handicapped individuals to identify patterns, colors and shapes when making mosaics. Provide each participant with a tray full of 1-inch construction paper squares and triangles in various colors. Give everyone a 9-by-12 inch piece of cardboard to glue the mosaic pieces on with glue sticks. Have each person create a mosaic by gluing down the squares and triangles to form a picture. Each person can choose to create an original piece of art or work from template created ahead of time.
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Provide tactile sensation and work on gross and fine motor skills in this art lesson. Create interesting crayon rubbings using leaves, fabric, sandpaper, or any other textured item in your classroom. Burlap, plastic netting, acorn tops and flat rocks all make cool designs. Provide each person with a tray of peeled fat crayons, in different colors and several pieces of white paper. Let students experiment with textures by choosing several pieces for their rubbings. Encourage them to tell you how the item feels before they make the crayon rubbing. Demonstrate how to move the crayon across the paper, while holding the paper still with one hand if necessary. For people who have difficulty keeping their paper still, tape it down while they make their rubbings.
Mentally disabled individuals often have a difficult time appropriately identifying and expressing emotion. Build vocabulary related to feelings, and self-awareness by allowing individuals to paint their emotions. Play relaxing music in the background, and provide each person with a large canvas or paper. Talk about different colors and what emotions they evoke. Demonstrate different types of lines and scribbles. Discuss which ones look happy (curvy, squiggly) and which ones look angry (dark, zigzag, jagged). Place small jars of different colored paints in front of each person and allow them to create a piece of art expressing how they feel. Some individuals may prefer to use a brush, while others may want to use their fingers.
Mentally disabled individuals can benefit from working with clay during art lessons. Work on listening skills and following one-step directions by instructing how to manipulate clay, one step at a time. Demonstrate how to roll clay into a ball, flatten the clay, and how to use rolling pins and cookie cutters with the clay. Demonstrate different clay tools and how ways to manipulate clay. Allow students to create a figurine, clay pot or simple cut out shapes depending on their cognitive abilities and motor skills.