There is a lot involved in learning how to pick up a pencil and write. Handwriting is a complex skill with lots of components, and each component builds on and influences the next one.
We need to have good core and upper body strength to sit well at the table.
We need to have good hand strength so that we can maintain hold of the pencil.
We need to have good in-hand manipulation and finger movements to grasp the pencil well.
We need to have a dominant hand.
We need to be able to cross our midline and to be able to coordinate our 2 hands together well.
We need to have good visual perception skills to make sense of what we are seeing.
We need to have good visual motor integration skills to use our hands and our eyes together in a coordinated way in order to form shapes and letters.
So how do we do all of that?!
There are lots and lots of fun play activities involving these key components that kids naturally engage in over the early years, and that sets the foundation for handwriting. But for lots of different reasons children can find writing and drawing challenging. Of note, lots of the children we see who are struggling with handwriting have poor core, upper body and hand strength so it is worthwhile focusing your efforts on encouraging lots of strengthening activities at home.
What can I do to help?
Here are some ideas that you can try at home. You will notice that not very many of these activities involve paper and writing tools and that is for good reason. We need to work on the core components – the nuts and bolts – in order to set our kids up for success and prepare them for writing. These lists mainly focus on strengthening activities however will benefit many different components at once ☺
Activities for core and upper body strength:
- Play on the floor – driving cars along the floor; lying on tummy reading a book or completing a puzzle
- Obstacle courses
- Animal walks
- Wheelbarrow walking
- Therapy ball activities
- Tug of war – using a skipping rope or Therabands for extra resistance!
- Drawing/painting at a vertical surface
- Helping to wash the car or wash windows or wash all those recyclables you have piling up during lockdown!
- Yoga for kids
Activities for Hand strength:
- Tearing/ripping paper and cardboard
- Spray bottles
- Construction toys – lego, duplo
- Play dough
- Using tongs and tweezers
- Squeezing sponges, flannels – to wash the car or windows or recyclables!
- Velcro toys
- Mr Potato Head, Pop up Pirate
- Baking – rolling, stirring, kneading, using cookie cutters
- Cutting with scissors and glueing
(see videos on our Facebook page for examples of some of these activities!)
Practical tips for home:
- Make sure your child is sitting well for any writing, drawing, colouring, painting activity. This makes it easier to use their hands well. This means having feet and back supported and elbows resting on the surface. You might need to have them sit on a cushion or find a box to support their feet.
- Encourage drawing/writing with a variety of tools of different shapes and sizes – pencils, crayons, felt tips, chalk.
- Use really small crayons, pencils, chalks to encourage a correct tripod grasp
- Keep writing/drawing sessions short and enjoyable – we want this to be a fun experience and not frustrating for your child
- What is your child motivated by and most interested in? Have them colour in a picture of their favourite superhero or princess ☺
If you would like some support with your child’s handwriting or fine motor skills please contact our occupational therapists at Cornerstone Therapy.