Here are suggestions for ways to foster delightful messy-play experiences with children with physical disabilities:


  1. Offer children who have trouble grasping and moving their hands a variety of tools to choose from: containers with and without handles, sifters, sponges, rags, and scoops. For finger painting, help children with limited hand movement find the easiest hand part to use -- fingers, palms, or fists. 
  2. Use warm water during water play. Cold water can stiffen the muscles in children with cerebral palsy or the joints in children with arthritis. Beginning the day with warm-water play can relax children's hands and increase fine-motor agility.
  3. Some children with physical disabilities -- particularly those with cerebral palsy or Down's syndrome -- are hypersensitive to touch, so they resist handling things with rough or sticky textures of wet or cold substances. Let them approach messy-play activities at their own pace, with lots of positive adult reinforcement for touching new things.