Fabric play: why it’s good for children with disability, autism or other additional needs
Fabric play involves playing with pieces of fabric in any way that your child wants – for example, dancing with fabric, making costumes or building cubbyhouses.
Playing with fabric helps children with disability, autism or other additional needs build imaginative and creative skills. It also helps with fine motor skills and gross motor skills.
What you need for fabric play
You can do fabric play with fabrics from around your home. You just need a range of fabrics of different lengths, colours and textures. For example, you could use scarves, bedsheets and blankets.
How to do fabric play
- Give your child a pile of fabric and let them explore it at their own pace. You could say ‘I thought you might like to play with this. I wonder what you could do?’
- If you need to, suggest some ideas for fabric play, like dancing with fabric, creating costumes, hanging fabric over chairs or tables to make a cubbyhouse or den, or looking through coloured fabric to create a coloured filter.
- For safety, always make sure fabrics are breathable and aren’t wrapped tightly around your child’s body. This will help to prevent strangulation or suffocation.
How to adapt fabric play to suit children with diverse abilities
For children with vision impairment, the feel of different fabrics is important. You could try using a range of fabrics, including:
- very light fabrics like scarves
- smooth and silky fabrics like satin
- rough fabrics like hessian
- heavy fabrics like thick blankets
Try beginning by gently moving the fabrics over your child’s hands so they can feel the sensation.
Fabrics with high-contrast colours can also be good for children with vision impairment.
Children with restricted mobility might need you or another carer to help with some fabric play, like building cubby houses. The child could lead the play by telling you what they want you to do.
For children with sensory sensitivities, you could reduce other sensory stimulation while children play with the fabric. For example, lower the volume or turn off background music and avoid flashing lights or screens. Introduce new textures and colours slowly and check in with your child regularly to ask whether they’re enjoying it.
Looking for more play and learning ideas for your child? You might like to explore our other activity guides. Some of these have been created for typically developing children, but they can all be adapted to suit children with diverse strengths and abilities.