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, and Lynn Wood. available 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 chubby paintbrushes. Simple teacher made adaptations are also an option and are limited only to the teacher's imagination
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.
A slant board or inclined work surface may be suggested for a child with fine motor difficulties like:
Be 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. But 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).
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:
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.
Some materials are easier for small or uncoordinated hands to manipulate for painting than standard paintbrushes. There are some creative materials that are commercially available. However, many similar items can be found around the house or at a dollar store:
Several examples of adapted scissors are available in early childhood catalogs. A Pre-K SPED classroom should always have several pairs of these on hand for developmentally young children or children with fine motor issues.
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.
Almost 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.
Some software titles, like Tux Paint, have developed easy drawing/painting activities for early childhood. 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 Scan and Paint from Judy Lynn Software For more information on these and other titles, contact the Pre-K SPED Tech Team.