March is National Craft Month! Let’s Celebrate with a Highly Textured, Self-Portrait Collage!

Children who are blind or low vision (and those who are fully sighted!) can get their hands on various textures as they create this self-portrait collage; additionally, they can learn about body parts, facial expressions, and spatial concepts, too!

So, here’s to making a little bit of a mess, a great bit of memories, and an adorable, one-of-a-kind mixed-media, highly textured, self-portrait collage. (That’s a mouthful!)

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Cardboard or cardstock for the “face”
  • Scissors
  • Collage materials (an assortment of recycled bits) such as fabric, leather, sponge, pom poms, feathers, yarn, straws, lace, puffy stickers, wooden cut-outs, foam sheets, cardboard shapes, beads, burlap, ribbon, shelf-liner (the slightly puffy, non-sliding drawer liners), tactually-detailed “scrapbook stickers”, etc.
  • Glue
  • A marker may be used for details if your child has usable vision
  • A stylus, awl, or hole punch (for adults to punch holes in the cardboard/cardstock if the child would like them for nose, ears, or even eyes; the hole punch can also be used to create holes for tying on materials for hair.)
  • A well-defined workstation with ample light, color contrast, and organization
  • A mirror (if child has usable vision)
  • You may even want a frame (without the glass panel) to display the artwork.

Here’s what you’ll do:

Prepare and organize the workstation with your child. Use a tray to keep the items in a confined space and organizing materials in short containers (as to not be easily knocked over), such as the lids of containers or jars. Consider using task lighting and color contrast for those with low vision.  

Now, it’s as easy as 1-2-3.

  1. Cut a face-sized oval from cardboard or cardstock. You may even want to cut cardboard to create a bit of upper body as well. I used a graduation gown “scrapbook sticker” made of fabric for the body; use what you find that represents your child.
  1. Your child can investigate their face and/or look in a mirror to decide which facial features to add to the self-portrait.
  1. Use the materials to creatively represent facial features with shapes, and glue them to the self-portrait. You may want to have a variety of shapes and sizes of pre-cut materials. Keep in mind your child should have the opportunity to create the face to their liking; it needn’t look like a face at all!

It may be helpful to start at the top of the head and work down the face—adding materials for hair, leaving a space for the forehead, adding materials for the eyes (and further details for eyebrows and eyelashes if desired), adding materials for the nose, the mouth, etc. Alternatively, you may wish to start with the center of the face (the nose) and work outward.

Consider the following learning opportunities as you create together or side-by-side:

  • Children can work on tactile discrimination skills as they explore and differentiate a variety of textures and shapes. Tactile discrimination is an important pre-cursor to learning braille!
  • Children can develop fine motor skills as they participate in cutting (if age- and vision-appropriate), twisting and squeezing the glue bottle, pressing materials onto the cardboard “face”, etc. Fine motor skills are also an important pre-cursor to learning braille!
  • Children can make autonomous decisions about which materials to use as a representation of their facial features. They can also practice requesting assistance and politely declining help. Such structured opportunities for decision-making and practicing asking for and declining assistance can help prevent learned helplessness.
  • Children can learn vocabulary terms and concepts such as self-portrait, texture, media, facial features, collage, shapes, and body parts. The best way to learn is through hands-on experiences!
  • Organic discussions can occur about expressing emotions with the face, an important conversation to help children who are blind develop appropriate social skills.
  • Orientation skills can be practiced such as spatial concepts (left vs right, on top of, underneath, in the middle, etc.) and interpreting sensory input. Additionally, mapping out the face and creating a tactile representation is a fun pre-cursor to understanding and creating tactile maps.

Don’t forget to frame and display your art—no glass panel needed!

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