Saturday, June 4, 2011

Making Your Mark...Crayons, Markers and Paintbrushes

Ever since I compared many different types of scissor we use in the classroom, I've wanted to do a post on the various crayons, markers and some adapted paintbrushes we use in the classroom on a regular basis.  I've wanted to compare why certain types of designs seem to work best for specific needs. 

As with our scissors, we have a wide variety of crayons, markers and paint brushes!  I generally have children working at all stages of writing development: some who are working on making marks on paper, some working on imitating horizontal, vertical and circular strokes and still others who are beginning to have enough control and pressure to want to draw "letter-like" marks or actual letters in their names! 

Over the past several years, I've experimented with several different types of markers, crayons and paintbrushes.  Some of our favorites include uniquely shaped items that work well for certain children.  Other favorites are simply examples of well made drawing items! 

The photo above shows one of my favorite crayons to use with children who have limited movement.  It seems to work best for children who may not be able to fully open their hand to grasp and hold on to a typical crayon. This wheel-shaped crayon has the added benefit of coloring on the paper no matter what way it is turned! For children who are just beginning to make marks on paper, or who have limited mobility, it is always nice to have a 'no-fail' crayon that will color no matter what way you turn it!  I found this crayon at Walgreen' no special ordering was necessary!

These crayons come from our Handwriting without Tears program and really promotes finger grasp rather than a full hand grasp.  Another teacher in the building always used to recommend breaking larger crayons if you don't have access to these small-sized crayons!  The smaller size causes the child to have to hold on to the crayon with either a tri-pod or quad-pod grasp since it is so small it could not be held with a fist or full hand grasp.  These work wonderfully for children who are beginning to move on to drawing and writing in a more detailed and "adult" way.

Here is another early coloring tool.  This board actually plays music!  You place paper on the surface and color.  The faster you color, the faster the music plays!  For children who are just beginning to make marks on paper this can be motivating.  For children who are still gaining the control and muscle strength needed to apply enough pressure to make marks on paper, the faster tempo of the music can be a signal that they are indeed applying enough pressure to the paper!  I do not think there is much benefit for children who are already drawing and coloring on paper, since it just encourages coloring very fast to make marks! 

Now, this little marker comes from a set of animal shaped markers I found (and have not been able to track down since!).  This is intended for children who continue to need to use their entire palm to hold a marker.  The cap is nearly impossible for a child to remove, but once removed each animal makes an animal sound!  This type of marker works well for children who have limited fine motor control.  

Typically you see the type of "palm-grasp" needed to use these with young toddlers; but often children who have limited fine motor control and physical challenges will continue to hold a marker in this way in order to have enough control and to be able to apply enough pressure to make marks on paper.  (These are similar to the Tadoodles from Crayola- but I actually like these better because they angle in so a child's hand does not need to be completely open around a sphere shape to hold the marker.)

This is one of the "Pip-squeaks" markers.  These are preferable to the larger traditional markers for the same reason that short crayons are preferable to larger crayons. They encourage a more "adult" grasp and give the child more control as they color. 

These paintbrushes are again helpful for a child who still needs to use a full palm grasp to manipulate drawing/painting tools.  They also allow the child to have more control as the paint brush is closer to the paper.  (We have adapted some of these with a loop of Velcro around the handle to loop around a child's wrist.)

This last example is simply an adapted paintbrush.  I slid a small paintbrush into a T shaped PVC piping and taped it together.  This makes it possible to hold the shorter extension with fingers wraped around it and paint upright at the easel. 

These are, of course, just a few examples of possible items to use for drawing, painting and writing!  Explore what works best for the children in your own classroom.  If you have a child who has difficulty with fine motor activities, check with an occupational therapist for ways to adapt typical drawing and writing tools!  The possibilities are truly endless!


  1. Thank you for sharing this valuable information. I'm especially intrigued by the musical board, I will have to research those! I usually have a few kids who could benefit from the extra motivation.


  2. In my integrated preschool classroom, we use and LOVE the Handwriting Without Tears crayons and those blue paintbrushes. Great suggestions! :)

  3. @ Vanessa- the drawing board really is pretty neat- I would just be cautious about using it with kids who are already drawing and coloring quite a bit as it could quickly become just a "let's scribble as fast as we can" project! :)

    @Elizabeth- we also love the whole HWT program :)


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