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Pati & Caroline's Favorite Art Tools

Both Pati and Caroline like to use tools that are simple and enjoyable for use by all children. The tools below are just a small sampling of the tools discussed in Chapter 5 of the Emergent Literacy Success Book. pp128-132.

Adapted Stamps

Letters, shapes, and/or character stamps can be used for independent participation in art activities, writing activities, creative storytelling, and story construction. Adapted stamps can also be used as a means to assist a child in partial participation in such activities. Adapted stamps are simple to make, with shapes or letters cut from sponges. Some children have more difficulty with the sponges because they tend to slide. Covering your sponge with Flexi-cut (a rubber material used for block printing) or bicycle tubing stops the sliding (Stamp Kits are available from Creative Communicating). Word stamps sets are also available. For example, a Six-Word Stamp Set includes: I, see, the, this, is, a (Nellie Edge Resources). Story stamp base and kit are available to accompany each of the stories in the Storytime series (Creative Communicating). Children with more severe physical disabilities may have difficulty participating successfully in these activities; however, initially limiting the number of shapes or items presented can result in more successful experiences.

Adapted Battery or Electric Scissors

A variety of adapted scissors are commercially available for children who do not have the fine motor skills to manipulate common scissors. However, many students cannot manipulate even these adapted scissors. Battery-operated or electric scissors can be used with a partner to cut out desired items for the child with physical disabilities. The battery-operated type is even available at local "dollar stores." These scissors can be made switch-accessible using a battery adaptor and/or an environmental control unit (Ablenet, Enabling Devices, Reach, Don Johnston). Switch activation turns the scissors on while the partner guides the scissors. The scissors also make a noise that adds to the interest for some students.

drawing of two kids using electric scissors

Adapted Paint Rollers

An adapted paint roller can be used to make interesting patterns across a paper. King-DeBaun (1994) suggests extending the handle of commercially available paint rollers (the smaller paint rollers are easier to manipulate). Make a large "T" with 1" or 1.5" PVC piping depending upon the size of the handle. Adjust the length according to the child's range of motion. Stick the end of the paint roller inside the piping. Dip the roller in paint and let the children push the roll across the paper. Flexicut can be cut into interesting shapes or backgrounds. (i.e., stars and moon for night background, clouds and sun for daytime background, waves for water background, etc.) The child can create the background scene for his drawing.

Tacky Handles

Linda Burkhart (1993, p. 167) suggests making "tacky handles" to pick up small pieces of paper. Handles can be created from wide dowels or rectangular blocks. One end is made "tacky" using Post It strips, Tac-A-Note glue, spray tacky adhesive, or sticky putty (e.g., Stick Tac, Fun Tac, Blue Tac). The child can pick up a piece of paper, such as a part for a face, by sticking it to the handle. To release the piece of paper, Burkhart suggests making the surface of the artwork or work paper even stickier. For example, double-sided carpet tape can be affixed to the work paper at strategic points, to allow the paper to come off the handle and stick to the artwork.


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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998.

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