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Adaptation Station-Pre-writing / Creative Representation

Use the following list to find adaptations for pre-writing and creative representation:

Adaptive tool grip | Stabilization of materials | Slantboard | Stamps
Alternate tools for painting | Adapted scissors | Swirl art toy with switch | Stencils
Computer software to draw

Adaptive tool grip

Young children spend much of their time exploring writing, drawing, painting and cutting using a variety of tools. Some children may need an adapted tool for easier grasping and manipulation. For a GIGANTIC list of adapting ALL art tools, see Art for Me Too! by Pat Mervine, Michele Burton, an Lynn Wood, available for purchase from AbleNet Inc, or for viewing at the Pre-K SPED District Office.

Some adapted tools can be as simple as a pencil grip (ask an occupational therapist if you need help in deciding what kind) and others are commercially available from catalogs, like this chubby paintbrush from Lakeshore.

Simple teacher made adaptations are also an option and are limited only to the teacher's imagination

child's marker with hair roller grip t shaped grip made from pvc t shaped grip made from hot glue sticks strip of velcro sensitive material used as a grip for crayon

Stabilization of materials

Without question, the simplest adaptation for creative representation is to tape the paper to the work surface to keep it from sliding around for children who are having trouble with bilateral work (holding the paper with one hand while drawing with the other).

In addition, Dycem is a great "low tech" solution that can be used to stabilize art materials. It is a flat sticky plastic that can be placed on a work surface and materials can be placed on top of it. Use it under papers, playdough, and containers of paint. For a more secure grip, try a C-clamp to hold easels and larger objects.

roll of dycem material

Slant board or inclined work surface

A slant board or inclined work surface may be suggested for a child with fine motor difficulties like:

  • holding writing tool straight up

  • not resting wrist on the surface

  • neck, back, or eye strain

  • incorrect wrist posture

wooden slant boardBe sure to consult with an occupational therapist if you are unsure if a particular student needs a slantboard or inclined work surface. Slantboards are available commerically like this one:

slant board made from box lidBut simple "no tech" slantboards may be created with 2" to 4" 3-ring binders, angled clear Plexiglas photo frames, cardboard box lids (like the ones bulk copy paper comes in) cut to an angle as shown.


Stamps are usually small or flat, making it difficult for small or uncoordinated hands to manipulate them. Many stamps can be easily adapted with handles. Handles can be permanently and sturdily attached with hot glue or temporarily attached with Velcro or sticky tack.

Some items that make good handles are:

  • popsicle sticks

  • shower curtain rings

  • dowels

  • hair rollers

  • empty film canisters

  • T-grip built from hot glue sticks:

Children with fine motor difficulties may feel frustration if they are unable to put on paper the ideas they have in their heads. Stamps, besides being a fun way to extend painting and ink activities, will help children create something they and others can recognize.

Alternate tools for painting

Some materials are easier for small or uncoordinated hands to manipulate for painting than standard paintbrushes. These are some of the creative materials that are commercially available:

textured gloves for painting refillable paint bottles with built in brush textured duster brushes with easy to grip handles

Many similar items can be found around the house or at a dollar store:

  • Playtex sponge gloves

  • Puff shower scrubbers

  • Roll on deodorant containers filled with paint

  • Bingo markers

scrubber mitt with textured surface bathing puff with string loop handle cleaning brush empty roller ball container

Adapted scissors

Several examples of adapted scissors are available in early childhood catalogs and on the PRIME Time van. A Pre-K SPED classroom should always have several pairs of these on hand for developmentally young children or children with fine motor issues.

dual grip scissors easy grip loop handled scissors fiskars children's scissors

rolling scissors table mounted scissors

For a very physically involved child, cutting may only be possible by adapting a pair of battery operated scissors to allow activation with a switch. The child using the switch will control the on/off function but will need a peer to help hold the paper and turn the scissors.

battery operated scissors to be activated by a switch

Swirl art toy adapted with a switch

swirl art toyAlmost any battery operated device can be adapted for activation with a switch but one of the most fun is the swirl art toy. A child using a switch can control the on/off function of the toy but will need a peer to squeeze the paint bottles. What a great inclusion activity!


As children develop fine motor and cognitive skills, their art becomes more representative of real objects. Children with fine motor difficulties may feel frustration if they are unable to put on paper the ideas they have in their heads. Stencils, besides being a fun way to extend painting activities, will help children create something they and others can recognize.

Computer software to draw

Some early childhood software titles, like Jump Start Toddler, have drawing/painting activities included. These activities are mouse based so they could be used by children who use a touch screen on the computer.

Other titles are specially made for use with a switch, like Switch Art from Judy Lynn Software and Intellitools Classroom Suite by Intellitools. For more information on these and other titles, contact the Pre-K SPED Tech Team at 305-271-5701.

Adaptation Station Categories

Communication Tools

Augmentative / Alternative Communication (AAC) Strategies

Pre-Writing / Creative Representation

Physical Access to Play and Participation

Books and Literacy (Shared Reading, Phonological Awareness, and Story Time)

Positioning, Seating, and Mobility

Positive Behavior Supports / Organizational Strategies

Computer Access

Activities of Daily Living /