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Starting reception in Sept & can barely hold a pen

(22 Posts)
pooka Sat 27-Jul-13 08:52:31

That's a brilliant list Mrz - ds2 starts school in a year and I'll be sure to get more fine motor practice in with him before next september. Though I do think he has naturally better control than ds1 - is generally better coordinated and more physically capable which might reflect ds1's spiky profile.

pooka Sat 27-Jul-13 08:49:38

When my ds1 started school he treated holding a pen or pencil like he was holding a live grenade.

I needn't have worried - by the end of the first term he was much more confidently using scissors and writing, albeit with an interesting approach to letter formation. Now at end of year 2 he is one of the more able writers (still with slightly peculiar handwriting - he writes so damn fast that he doesn't naturally favour cursive script).

Littlefish Sat 27-Jul-13 08:44:02

Mrz -those are brilliant lists. Would you mind if I typed up a few of them to make a list for the parents I work with (nursery).

ChilliJo Fri 26-Jul-13 15:16:28

My DS started reception in September. He couldn't hold a pen properly, couldn't write his name and was left handed. He's just finished the year and is now right handed confused , has excellent pen control and has the most beautiful joined up cursive handwriting!

They are taught the full works from correct hold to letter formation in reception; don't worry (like I did this time last year), it's their job to teach this, he doesn't need to be doing anything now.

mam29 Fri 26-Jul-13 14:14:28

Wow mrs z thats fab useful list.

I have been looking at montessori for youngest 2year old and they had things like

tonging.tweezing items ito a bowl
pouring activities.

Going to use some of you suggestions for middle child too shes 4 in sept so just missed school.

I cant remember how much eldest could write when she started 4.5 wasent a lot.

mrz Fri 26-Jul-13 09:12:43

Fine Motor Skills
Things to remember:
Upright working surfaces promote fine motor skills. Examples of these are: vertical
chalkboards; easels for painting; flannel boards; lite bright; magnet boards (or
fridge); windows and mirrors; white boards, etc. Children can also make sticker
pictures; do rubber ink-stamping; use reuseable stickers to make pictures; complete
puzzles with thick knobs; use magna-doodle and etch-a-sketch as well. The benefits
for these include: having the child's wrist positioned to develop good thumb
movements; they help develop good fine motor muscles; the child is using the arm
and shoulder muscles.
Fine Motor Activities
Moulding and rolling play dough into balls - using the palms of the
hands facing each other and with fingers curled slightly towards the palm.
Rolling play dough into tiny balls (peas) using only the finger tips.
Using pegs or toothpicks to make designs in play dough.
Cutting play dough with a plastic knife or with a pizza wheel by holding
the implement in a diagonal volar grasp.
Tearing newspaper into strips and then crumpling them into balls. Use
to stuff scarecrow or other art creation.
Scrunching up 1 sheet of newspaper in one hand. This is a super
strength builder.
Using a plant sprayer to spray plants, (indoors, outdoors) to spray snow
(mix food colouring with water so that the snow can be painted), or melt
"monsters". (Draw monster pictures with markers and the colours will run
when sprayed.)

Picking up objects using large tweezers such as those found in the
"Bedbugs" game. This can be adapted by picking up Cheerios, small cubes,
small marshmallows, pennies, etc., in counting games.
Shaking dice by cupping the hands together, forming an empty air space
between the palms.
Using small-sized screwdrivers like those found in an erector set.
Lacing and sewing activities such as stringing beads, Cheerios,
macaroni, etc.
Using eye droppers to "pick up" coloured water for colour mixing or
to make artistic designs on paper.
Rolling small balls out of tissue paper, then gluing the balls onto
construction paper to form pictures or designs.
Turning over cards, coins, checkers, or buttons, without bringing them to
the edge of the table.
Making pictures using stickers or self-sticking paper reinforcements.
Playing games with the "puppet fingers" -the thumb, index, and middle
fingers. At circle time have each child's puppet fingers tell about what
happened over the weekend, or use them in songs and finger plays.
Place a variety of forms (eg. blocks, felt, paper, string, yarn, cereal,
cotton) on outlines
Match shapes, colour, or pictures to a page and paste them within the

Self-Care Skills
Fastening Snaps
Using a screwdriver
Locking and unlocking a door
Winding a clock
Opening and closing jars
Rolling out dough or other simple cooking activities
Washing plastic dishes

Sweeping the floor
Scissor Activities
When scissors are held correctly, and when they fit a child's hand well, cutting
activities will exercise the very same muscles which are needed to manipulate a pencil
in a mature tripod grasp. The correct scissor position is with the thumb and middle
finger in the handles of the scissors, the index finger on the outside of the handle to
stabilize, with fingers four and five curled into the palm.
Cutting junk mail, particularly the kind of paper used in magazine
subscription cards.
Making fringe on the edge of a piece of construction paper.
Cutting play dough or clay with scissors.
Cutting straws or shredded paper.
Use a thick black line to guide cutting the following:
A fringe from a piece of paper
Cut off corners of a piece of paper
Cut along curved lines
Cut lines with a variety of angles

Cut figures with curves and angles
Sensory Activities
The following activities ought to be done frequently to increase postural muscle
strength and endurance. These activities also strengthen the child's awareness of
his/her hands.
Wheelbarrow walking, crab walking
Clapping games (loud/quiet, on knees together, etc.)
Catching (clapping) bubbles between hands
Pulling off pieces of thera-putty with individual fingers and thumb
Drawing in a tactile medium such as wet sand, salt, rice, or "goop".
Make "goop" by adding water to cornstarch until you have a mixture similar
in consistency to toothpaste. The "drag" of this mixture provides feedback to
the muscle and joint receptors, thus facilitating visual motor control.
Picking out small objects like pegs, beads, coins, etc., from a tray of salt,
sand, rice, or putty. Try it with eyes closed too. This helps develop sensory
awareness in the hands.
Midline Crossing
Establishment of hand dominance is still developing at this point. The following
activities will facilitate midline crossing:
Encourage reaching across the body for materials with each hand. It
may be necessary to engage the other hand in an activity to prevent
switching hands at midline.

Refrain specifically from discouraging a child from using the left hand
for any activity. Allow for the natural development of hand dominance by
presenting activities at midline, and allowing the child to choose freely.
Start making the child aware of the left and right sides of his body
through spontaneous comments like, "kick the ball with your right leg." Play
imitation posture games like "Simon Says" with across the body movements.
When painting at easel, encourage the child to paint a continuous line
across the entire paper- also from diagonal to diagonal.

mrz Fri 26-Jul-13 09:12:23

I use a Busy Finger Box in the classroom but you could easily find most things at home

1. Pegs –
You need pegs of different sizes, clothes pegs, small bulldog clips, stationery clips etc. Get the children to use one hand only at a time. I usually get them to peg about 10 pegs of different sizes onto the sides of a gift bag. They might put them on with their left hand and take them off with their right.
They can also try squeezing the pegs between the first finger and thumb (on each hand) then the middle finger and thumb and so on.

2. Elastic bands –
Elastic gymnastics! – Start by putting 2 elastic bands (the same size) around the thumb, first and middle fingers, ask the child to open and close the fingers. Then add another 2 elastic bands and so on. The more you have on, the harder it is to move your fingers. These exercises help to develop the muscles which make the web space when writing.

3. Beads –
Get beads of different sizes and thread. Ask the children to thread some beads onto their string. The smaller the hole obviously the harder it is to thread. Develops hand/eye coordination.

4. Ball bearings and tweezers –
Put the ball bearings in one little box and ask the child to try and pick one ball bearing up at a time with the tweezers and place in a second small box. If this is too tricky try using Hama beads and tweezers.

5. Floam / Playdough –
These products are great for squeezing and rolling which provides necessary sensory feedback and helps to develop hand strength. Ask the children to squeeze the dough and roll it with the palm of their hand.

6. Doodle board –
The Doodleboard is just a way of children practising handwriting patterns or letters without having to commit them to paper. Provide some patterns and shapes to copy.

7. Gummed Shapes –
Give the children a sheet of plain paper and ask them to make patterns or pictures with the gummed shapes. Just picking up on shape at a time, licking it and then sticking it down all help to develop hand/eye coordination and the pincer grip.

8. Hama Beads –
Hama beads are good for pincer grip and hand/eye coordination. The children have patterned sheets to copy and peg boards to put them on.

9. Lacing cards –
Also good for hand/eye coordination. Just give each child one card to lace.

10. Bean bags –
Give a child 4-5 bean bags and place a container about 3 feet infront of them. Ask the child to try and get as many beanbags in the container as possible. (Hand/eye coordination)

11. Chalk and blackboard –
If you can, try and wedge the blackboard between two tables and provide the child with a piece of chalk in each hand. Ask them to draw the same pattern with both hands at the same time on both sides of the board. This helps develop bilateral movement.
Allow the children to draw patterns, shapes and letter shapes on the blackboard. The chalk gives sensory feedback and sound simultaneously.

12. Stencils –
Children can use the stencils to make a picture. Helps develop pencil control and special awareness among other things.

13. Feathers –
Ask the children to try and balance a feather on different parts of their body. This helps to develop balance and coordination.

14. Handhugger pens –
Hand hugger pens are the triangular shaped pens. These help the children to establish a better pencil grip.

15. Tissue paper strips –
Place the child’s palm (at the wrist) on the end of a strip of tissue paper. Ask them to only use their middle finger to get the paper to scrunch up under their hand.
Repeat, but this time place the side of the child’s hand on one end of the tissue strip and ask them to only use their thumb to scrunch up the paper and bring it under their hand.
These activities really help to develop the hand arch, web space and muscle tone of the hand.

16. Stickers –
Children love stickers. Just peeling them off provides an opportunity to develop fine motor skills and hand/eye coordination.

17. Peg boards –
These can be peg boards where the child has to place pegs in the holes, maybe copying patterns.
They can be the boards with plastic pegs already on where they have to stretch elastic bands between them to make patterns.

Periwinkle007 Fri 26-Jul-13 08:35:26

I think a lot of children have problems because the little muscles in their fingers and thumbs aren't yet strong enough, they are still so young. I am just trying to think if there are any games or actions you could play/sing that could help build the muscles a little to make them stronger, completely different to actually sitting and trying to hold a pencil or write but can only be helpful. I suppose lots of sand play, playdoh, lego and trying to pick up small items etc might be good? anyone know?

he won't be alone don't worry. yes they like them to be able to form the letters or write their name but it isn't expected and especially for the younger ones in the year they certainly won't expect it. They will teach him the right grip and the right way to form the letters so just stick with fun painting and crayons etc I think.

MaisyMoo123 Fri 26-Jul-13 07:49:51

I'dbeen a bit anxious about this too. My ds starts school in sept, is left handed and never very interested in writing or drawing. Lately he's suddenly started getting into drawing, colouring but still not massively into writing (can write his name but not much else). He holds the pencil in a fist grip which looks really awkward and I'm sure he'd find it easier if I could get him to hold it properly but he's reluctant to change and because he's finally showing an interest I'm not pushing it!!! As others have said, I'm sure there will be a huge range of writing (or not) levels in reception and there is so much focus on mark making rather than formal writing nowadays which is great (particularly for boys I think!). They'll all get there in the end.

CockyFox Fri 26-Jul-13 07:19:54

My August born DS didn't even know which hand he wrote with when he started reception his first work together target was 'encourage exploratory mark making'.

I just made sure he always had crayons and paper available and chalk for the garden. I used to chalk on the paths myself snd he would copy.

It was slow progress but he just finished year 2 with the expected level 2b and mostly legible handwriting.

TheBakeryQueen Fri 26-Jul-13 07:07:00

I wouldn't worry at all. He will be one of the youngest & at this age that can make a huge difference.

It's all about learning through play at this age. There is no harm in encouraging early writing skills but just don't push.

The most important thing in reception, in my opinion, is to have a happy, fun filled first year. If they have positive associations with school & settle in well, then the learning will follow.

I stick to encourage but never push.

They're all different. Ds1 couldn't read at all when starting school & much preferred riding his bike than learning letter sounds in preschool. He has done really well though & reading at the expected level required (just finished reception).

SockPinchingMonster Fri 26-Jul-13 07:05:29

I wouldn't worry about it too much. My ds started reception last year unable to hold a pen correctly - he would grasp it in his palm rather than hold with his fingers, and he had no interest in mark making whatsoever. Now almost a year later he holds a pen correctly, can write legibly, and fairly neatly for his age, were starting to try out joined up writing now. The school managed to get him to correct his hold almost as soon as he started and if we look through his word bank book that he brings home it's amazing how his writing started as illegible scrawl then it noticibly improved week on week.

duchesse Fri 26-Jul-13 00:37:35

Jeez, August born DD3 just about writes her name in giant capitals with tons of help. I feel she's doing really well. When I think that I couldn't write at all until I was 6 nor to anybody expect me to, I feel really sad for the little scraps of today who are expected to have mastered so much before they even leave playgroup...

I think nursery is probably being very unrealistic in their expectations of very young children. No way does a 3 yo NEED to be able to write!!

Ouchmyhead Fri 26-Jul-13 00:33:50

Hi I'm a teacher! Just wanted to say, please don't worry! Your little boy will learn at his own pace and won't be left behind! In my experience the children who don't preform so well are those with parents who take no interest in their child's education, and you obviously do! If you want to encourage him make fun activities, people have mentioned drawing in sand and things which are all good ideas! Keeping it fun and interesting at his age - it's that attitude that he will take through school, not how long it took him to write his name.

Hope this helps and wasn't too rambly!

Xihha Fri 26-Jul-13 00:21:44

ds is a July baby and when he started school he couldn't hold a pencil and refused to draw/colour/write at home, his teacher wasn't worried about it and said that a lot of children can't when they start school, he picked it up pretty quickly.

dd's starting school in September too but is an October baby so is a bit older, She's just got the hang of holding a pencil properly and copying letters, we did lots of drawing shapes with a stick in her sand pit and tracing letters with an imaginary pen on street signs/cereal boxes/anywhere we saw letters.

Don't worry or push him too much, just make a game of it, lots of children will be at the same stage.

Babouche Thu 25-Jul-13 22:23:51

Thanks for the advice and reassurance everyone.Will try some of those ideas.I'm full of respect for reception teachers trying to get 30 4 year olds to do anything meaningful!

PeanutButterOnly Thu 25-Jul-13 21:15:35

Don't worry, my August born DS is the same! I asked his nursery key worker about it before he left. She said that she's been encouraging him to hold it correctly, but he tends to go back to the wrong way. She said it's probably because he's not ready and it's fine not to push. She also suggested some of the things ShoeWhore refers to, thinking around what they can practice that will develop this kind of skill. The thing to avoid is making them anxious about using a pencil and giving them the feeling that they are doing something wrong when they are mark-making.

Idislikemymil Thu 25-Jul-13 20:54:17

I agree with the above. It sounds like he isn't ready for formal writing yet. Marking in sand, using big chalks, paintbrushes etc will prepare him for more formal writing. Don't worry. In reception, there will be children of many many different abilities. Try not to compare!!

ShoeWhore Thu 25-Jul-13 20:50:02

Or you might choose to do none of that and that would be fine smile Sorry just trying to say you can do stuff that isn't necessarily sitting at a table and "writing"

ShoeWhore Thu 25-Jul-13 20:48:46

Try not to worry OP - he is still very little and his reception teacher will have seen this all before and know what to do. If he manages 5 mins then I would really lay on the praise and big him up.

Rather than focus on writing you could get him to practise prewriting skills eg drawing zigzags and wavy lines or just drawing pictures or colouring. Pens can be tricky to write with but he might like pencils or felt tips better. You could try chalks on the patio; tracing letters in sand or flour; "writing" with a big paint brush and water on a wall or outdoor floor.

Anything that gets him using his fine motor skills will help like hama beads, Lego, rolling playdough into little balls, sorting tiny objects like beads etc etc. There is also plenty of research to suggest that helping children develop their gross motor skills in turn helps them with their fine motor skills so any running jumping climbing pedalling etc will also be helping him.

I've got 3 summer born boys who are all bright and none of them were very keen on writing to start with tbh but fast forward a bit and they are all achieving well.

lljkk Thu 25-Jul-13 20:41:07

Lots of them will be the same, don't worry. (on my 4th child just finished reception so should know what I'm talking about).

It is worthwhile to ask about the right pencil grip after they start school, DD's teacher always called it crabby fingers. Just encourage right pencil grip, don't pressure. Might find a youtube vid about that.

Babouche Thu 25-Jul-13 20:35:26

Please tell me I'm being over anxious but my August born DS starts school in a few weeks & I've been trying to help him to start to practise writing his name.He never shows any interest in drawing preferring construction & physical stuff and talks non-stop.On his EYFS nursery report he was behind for his age on use of materials & writing so I thought I'd encourage him over the summer.If I sit down with him with a pen we can manage 5 minutes and he says he can't do it but with a lot of encouragement will have a go.
Should I just back off & let reception teach him?Am I being unrealistic?When are most children able/inclined to copy letters & draw?Is he just too young at the moment?
I want to help him if I can whilst I've got time on mat leave but should I just let him play?

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