Crafts With Autistic Cubs

Doing crafty activities with the cubs is quite hard.  Their autism means they can have a funny reaction to certain textures, find it hard to follow instructions, have very set ideas about what they want to do and get hugely upset when they can’t (e.g. pour the entire pot of glue on the chair), decide they’re going to eat the crayon/glitter/paint instead of use it, get bored easily, have a meltdown and end up throwing their paintbrush…the list is endless.

Every now and then, however, I feel really guilty about how little I do with the cubs in terms of arts and crafts.  Or possibly I succumb to some form of amnesia.  I don’t know but something convinces me to attempt to recreate some beautiful Pinterest masterpiece.

I had one of these moments of guilt and/or memory loss recently and since it was close to Easter I thought we’d make Easter baskets.  Last year I just got Tyger to paint a box, added ribbon for a handle and some flowers but due to my new-found use of Pinterest and constant desire to one-up my past self I thought we’d try paper mache (or papier-mâché if you prefer but I’m not typing that out every Goram time) baskets.

Who doesn’t enjoy paper mache?

The first hurdle was getting things organised.  Leaving the room to run to the loo runs the risk of Bear falling off something and/or Tyger panicking because he can’t see me so trying to wander off to root through the craft boxes and find the PVA glue, tubs, brushes, paper etc. is a whole undertaking unto itself.

I found the relevant things, though, despite Tyger’s continual offer of ‘help’ rummaging through all boxes so he can have a nosy and see if there’s anything he likes the look of but by the time I’d blown up balloons, ripped up paper and mixed the glue with water things were already a little strained.

Paper Mache Prep
FYI, this is NOT enough paper…as it turns out.

We started and I tried to explain what we were doing but Tyger simply wanted to paint the balloon with the paste.  When I finally managed to get him to put some paper strips on he kept trying to stick them to the top half of the balloon where only a thin handle was needed rather than the bottom, which needed to be completely covered.

Tyger suddenly decided he needed to get changed.  I pointed out that he might get a bit mucky doing the paper mache so perhaps it would be best to wait until we were finished but that was a no go and he proceeded to try on every pair of pyjamas or onesie in his chest of drawers because…of course he did.

Bear wandered off to watch the TV at that point so I was left sticking paper mache to a balloon by myself for an hour or two which was strangely therapeutic.

Paper Mache

The most therapeutic part - peeling PVA off afterwards.
The most therapeutic part – peeling PVA off afterwards.

It took a couple of days for the paper mache to dry and then I checked it to find…it was too thin and needed more layers adding (how I managed to spend so long paper-macheing and still end up with a few spots that were only one layer thick is beyond me).

After a meltdown resulting from me trying – once again – to persuade Tyger to put the paper strips on the bottom where the basket bit would actually be and not on the gaps I’d deliberately left either side of the handle he became surprisingly enthusiastic.

‘Let’s get messy!  Let’s get messy!  Let’s get messy!’ he chimed over and over…before promptly running off to get changed again because of a spot of imaginary glue on his clothes.  I don’t know whether the whole deal with changing his clothes is a sensory thing or some sort of delay tactic or rigid thinking…sometimes I give up trying to find the ‘autistic why’ for Tyger’s actions and just accept them.

But we got there and I removed the balloon.
But we got there and I removed the balloon.

The next part was painting, which I suspected would interest the cubs more.  I mixed up some colours for them but they seemed to decide to claim a colour each and didn’t really bother much with the others.

Bear seemed to enjoy the painting but mostly wanted to keep painting over the same spot.  In fact, neither of them really wanted to paint the handle or top of the basket (the parts you can see) and opted to completely coat the bottom instead.

Honestly, you can use another colour.
Honestly, you can use another colour.

Tyger started his ‘let’s get messy’ mantra again and insisted on hitting the basket with the brush so spots of paint flew everywhere and he smeared paint up his arms but then freaked out about the paint ‘covering’ his feet (he got a spot literally 1mm in diameter on one foot) and didn’t want to carry on past that point.

I was pretty pleased with my solution for drying the baskets.
I was pretty pleased with my solution for drying the baskets, though.

Lastly – to make the baskets a little more Eastery – I cut out some rabbit shapes and provided pompoms and googly eyes.  My thinking was we could have a mix of rabbits facing forwards and backwards with having a a pompom tail like and others googly eyes.  I tried to explain this and thought perhaps Tyger, at least, would understand.

Instead we got mutant bunnies.
Instead we got mutant bunnies.

Scary Baskets

But, none of the process matters and it’s okay that the bunnies are terrifying quirky because they were all ready for this morning.  Ready for the egg hunt I’d set up for the boys.  At the very least, the baskets would be used to put eggs in.

Except, they weren’t.  At all.

My visions of the boys toddling round the house collecting eggs in their baskets with every clue were replaced by the reality of their rigid thinking meaning they had to go to the place the clue pointed to, retrieve the eggs and new clue and bring them back to the living room (sans basket) to examine.  Every time.

I think it’ll be a while before I feel guilty about not doing crafts with them again.



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  1. Bless your heart! I used to find crafts incredibly stressful with my son, but that was more due to the fact that I hate mess rather than his quirks. Well done for the mutant bunnies! My quest for perfection would have turned me in to a gibbering wreak if faced with them myself!


  2. fab ideas many thanks for sharing! my eldest (8) has ASD and would love this x #bigpinklink


  3. Ok so my 2 aren’t autistic, but this does sound like every craft session we’ve ever done! It’s much better now big girl has always been better, esp now she’s in school but small boy at 3 sounds exactly the same. Maybe it is more a boy & crafts thing!? I really love the end results though. Particularly the mutant bunnies. They are eggshellant! (I’ll get my coat!!) Thanks for linking up with us again! #bigpinklink


  4. Full marks for persistence when the bears lost interest at the messy stage and what a great result. I love the way they turned out and that any painting style actually looks great. Love you to add this one to Trash 2 Treasure with me as it is a great upcycled project. Popping by today from #TwinklyTuesday


  5. He, he! Kids. You imagine them doing things one way and they have completely different ideas some (most) of the time 😉 But it sounds like it was a lot of fun either way and the end result was pretty fab, even if they didnt use them for the easter egg hunt! Thanks for linking this up to #MarvMondays, its a lovely post 🙂 Emily


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