Building Fine Motor Skills

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Fun Ideas for Extra Practice at Home
You can do several fun activities at home to encourage handwriting practice. A few are listed below:

  • While your child is in the bathtub, have he or she draw letters on the wall of the tub in shaving cream or soap paint. The ceramic tiles orient your child in the same way as the smiley mat, slate, and grey blocks.
  • Trace a letter on your child's back and have them guess which letter it is, then write that letter on a piece of paper. Take turns and have them trace a letter on your back.
  • Finger paint letters.
  • Write letters on the pavement with chalk.
  • Trace letters in the snow or sand.
  • Forms letters out of Play dough or clay.
  • Make cookie letters. Have your child form the letters by rolling the dough and putting the pieces together.
  • Form letters out of French fries.
  • Make letters with pipe cleaners.
  • Draw letters with your finger on the carpet.
  • Decorate a letter collage using glitter, puffy paint, and markers.
  • Use different types of pencils for writing practice (gel pens, coloured pencils, scented markers, crayons).
  • Have your children write your shopping lists.
  • Use a flashlight and make letters on the wall. You or your child guesses the letter that was made. You can also cut out letter templates to place in front of the flashlight.
  • Put letters on a die and have your child roll it; then have the child write a word that starts with that letter.
  • Fish for words. Place cut out fish in a shoebox. Write words or letters on the fish. Attach paper clips to the fish and adapt a small pole with a magnet. Whichever fish the child gets, they have to come up with a word or sentence using what is on the fish.
  • Have children write with icing tubes.

Motor skill ideas     

 

Here is a list of activities I've collected from various places for strengthening and improving small motor skills and for developing that all important hand-eye co-ordination that comes before pencil control, a prerequisite to writing.

* The game of "knucklebones"

* Tearing lettuce for a salad;

* Tearing strips of paper for paper mache and tiny bits of paper for confetti or a 'mosaic' style picture;

* Peeling eggs;

* Stringing beads;

* Lacing cards or shoes;

* Sewing buttons;

* Opening and closing clothes pegs;

* Finger painting;

* Play dough (and bread dough);

* Puzzles;

* Lego;

* Stacking blocks;

* Winding music boxes;

* Picking up small objects like raisins and putting them back in the
box or on biscuits;

* Weaving (simple paper placemats);

* Washing out clothes (socks, small hankies, doll clothes) by hand;

* Simply squeezing a ball a few times a day;

* Opening locks with keys;

* Using a screwdriver and other tools;

* Cutting paper with scissors;

* Finger plays

Problems with Handwriting and their solutions

Pencil Grasp

The optimal pencil grasp is known as the "tripod grasp." This is when the pencil is supported by the thumb, index, and middle finger. The ring and little finger are bent and rest comfortably on the table. You shouldn't worry about a child's pencil grasp unless it is affecting their writing or the child is experiencing pain. Ideally it would be nice to teach every child how to hold their pencil correctly from the start; however, some children develop poor habits and you may need to try an adaptive grip to help position their fingers.

Child Holds Pencil Straight up in the Air

This is also known as the "Washington Monument" pencil grasp. The child may be having a difficult time separating the two sides of their hand. There is a mobile side to the hand (the thumb, index, and middle finger) and the stable side (the ring and pinky finger). You can try to use the Handi-writer device purchased from Therapy Shoppe or you can use two rubber bands looped together with one loop placed around the child's wrist and one loop around the pencil. The eraser end of the pencil should point toward the child's shoulder.

Child Has a Difficult Time Manipulating a Large or Regular Size Pencil

Use golf- pencils with children. There is this idea that children need to write with large pencils. Adults write with pencils in proportion to their hands so why shouldn't children?

Child Moves Their Entire Arm When They Write

Have the child lay on the floor to write. This puts weight on the arms and stabilizes them. You can also have the child write on a vertical surface (like a chalkboard or stable easel). This helps the child put their wrist in a functional writing position and also works on shoulder stability.

Child Does Not Leave Space Between Words

Use a stamp pad and have the child stamp their fingerprint between each word. Also, use the HWT concept of exaggerating the spaces by putting "nothing" between the words (remember your bottle full of nothing). You can also place a small piece of candy or a sticker between the words. Spacer sticks also work well.

Child Writes with an Open Hand or Fingers Straight

Try placing a small sponge or a marble in the last two fingers. Have the child hold onto this while they cut or write.

Child Writes Too Hard

This may be because the child has poor awareness of finger placement and movement or poor control of the smaller muscles of the hand. Sometimes correcting the pencil grip may help this problem. Have the child practice colouring bunnies light gray, medium gray, dark gray, and black to increase their awareness of different degrees of pressure on the pencil. Try a mechanical pencil so the child has to learn to control the amount of pressure used. You can also have the child place their paper on a piece of Styrofoam (if they press too hard they will poke holes in their paper). Try having the child write on a phone book.

Child Writes Too Soft

Have the child practice colouring bunnies dark. You can also try a weighted pencil to give the child more awareness of the pencil. Sometimes correcting the pencil grasp can also help with this problem.

Letter and Number Reversals

Choose one reversal per assignment to work on. If the child reverses many of their numbers, work on them one at a time, beginning with the lowest number. Master that formation before moving on to another number. Use the slate chalkboard. Using the "starting corner (smiley face)" the child will quickly learn to form the letter the right way. You demonstrate and the child imitates.

Awkward Letter Formations

If the letter formations are "Magic C" letters, use the Mystery Letter Game on page 20 of My Printing Book. You can photocopy this page for extra practice. For other letters, demonstrate the letters and have the child imitate you.

Poor Posture

Children will sacrifice all forms of mobility for stability. Children need to sit in their chair with their hips, knees and feet at a 90-degree angle. If the child's feet do not touch the floor try placing a box or stool under their feet to help with stability. Old-fashion desks are great for proper positioning for writing. If your children sit at tables you may need to adjust the height of the table or chair to get an optimal position. Remember to have the children "Stack Their Blocks" and play the "Stomping Game." This wakes the children up and gets them ready to write. These exercises are found in the Handwriting Without Tears Kindergarten Teacher's Guide.

Child Wraps Their Thumb around the Pencil

Try using the Thumb Buddy. This was invented by Jan Z. Olsen and can be purchased at www.therapyshoppe.com

Poor Paper Placement

Beginners (learning to print letters and words) can place the paper straight (not tilted). Experienced printers (able to print sentences across the page) should place the paper at a slight angle to follow the natural arc of the writing hand. The angle or tilt should follow the natural arc of the writing hand. See the illustration found on Printing Teacher's Guide page 11, but this is easy to remember. For right-handed children, put the right(top right corner shown in illus.) corner higher; for left-handed, the left corner (shown) is higher. The writing hand is below the line of writing. This encourages the correct neutral wrist position.

Child Doesn't Stabilize Paper with Other Hand

If the child is disabled, use a clipboard or a piece of tape to hold their paper in place. For other children try naming their helping hand (non-dominant hand) and showing it how it has other jobs to do. Children love when you talk to their hand like it is a person (see page 35 of Handwriting Without Tears Kindergarten Teacher's Guide).

Child Has a Difficult Time Seeing the Blackboard

Child may need an eye exam to rule out the need for glasses. Also children at this age may have a difficult time looking up to a vertical surface and then back down to a horizontal surface. Maybe try having the child work on a vertical or slanted surface. If a slanted desk is not available you can try a slant board (talk to your OT about getting one of these) or adapt a three-ring binder for children to work on.

Child Holds Pencil Too Close Or Too Far from the Tip

Wrap a small rubber band around the area where the fingers should be placed. This will remind the child where to hold the pencil. When using a traditional pencil, remind them to hold the pencil "where the paint ends."

When modifying the pencil grasp, have the child only use the adaptive grip for a short time each day. This will help the child get accustomed to the feel of a new grasp. Too much awkwardness may make the child resist change.Fun Ideas for Extra Practice at Home

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