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How to help 7 year old with writing?

(28 Posts)
NoCapes Tue 18-Apr-17 19:58:48

DS1 is 7 and in year 3
He's having a few problems at school atm and I'm in and out of meetings trying to sort some things out
I feel the problem is the teacher more than DS but I'm really trying to cooperate and move things forward

One of the things that keeps coming up is DS's writing
Basically if you ask him something he can answer you perfectly, but ask him to write it down and he's off to fairyland and can't get anything to paper

I've asked DS if there's a problem and he says it's boring (obviously!) but also that writing too much hurts his hand (he shown me specifically where and I do believe him, I don't think it's an excuse)
So I'm wondering if there are any exercises or tools or anything we can do at home to help strengthen his hand muscles so he could keep writing for longer periods?
I also thought if he needed a break from writing in school but was doing some exercises then it'll keep him on task too and he won't just stop writing and stare into space

Any tips would be really appreciated smile

lelygirl Tue 18-Apr-17 20:05:24

If his hand hurts him how is that the teacher's fault?

NoCapes Tue 18-Apr-17 20:11:06

No I didn't say him not writing is the teachers fault
There's a lot of issues going on, this is the only thing the teacher seems to be able to say back to me atm though, so I'm trying to address it, just as I expect him to address the issues I've raised on my end

Thanks for the super helpful post though

Mammysin Tue 18-Apr-17 20:12:19

Motor skills are the issue here . Anything to strengthen his hands and fingers ( ripping up sheets of newspaper !) play dough if he likes that, writing a postcard most days or little diary entry. Does he like lego or peg boards ? Hth

NoCapes Tue 18-Apr-17 20:15:12

Thankyou Manmysin he does like Lego but gets frustrated when he inevitably breaks it, he's quite heavy handed
He does struggle with things like buttons and tying shoe laces too, he's all fingers and thumbs
Don't know if I could persuade him back into the playdoh box, he hasn't ventured in there for years, I will give it a try though!

Lowdoorinthewal1 Tue 18-Apr-17 20:17:04

If he doesn't have them already, I would try a pencil grip and a writing slope. They can really help. You might have to try a few different pencil grips to find one he likes- amazon do mixed packs quite cheaply.

Then maybe consider a program like 'Write From the Start' or 'Speed Up' at home if you think he needs some work on his motor control.

If it's more of an executive function problem, some practice of 'think, say, write, read' with increasingly long sentences might help.

Mummymathsteacher Tue 18-Apr-17 20:22:41

Second lowdoor regarding the pencil grip and slope. Try a range of pencils/pens. Sometimes it makes a huge difference.

Any kind of fiddle toy might also help with fine dexterity too.

As an aside, have you done a recent eye test? Worth ruling out any other simple problems.

Mammysin Tue 18-Apr-17 20:28:15

Another one, if he can colour using broken crayons ( feel like a frugal wartime advisor) it encourages the correct grip. Is he doing cursive writing - if he could return to printing for a bit that might help... will keep thinking...

Kellycat84 Tue 18-Apr-17 20:33:19

A diary might be good to practice writing and to express any thoughts that maybe in his mind. My son chose his and writes in it every day, he was also not keen on writing.

For finger exercise, try play doh with a bit of lavender mixed in for calming effect.

mrz Tue 18-Apr-17 20:37:40

If writing is painful ask your GP for an OT referral to get it checked out.

Mammysin Tue 18-Apr-17 20:38:39

There was a handwriting without tears workbook . Does the school have a remedial class for handwriting or a teaching assistant who could write a little of what he dictates to take the pressure off a little? Could he have personal goals i.e. to write three legible lines rather than a page of indecipherable scrawl? Sounds like teacher is being helpful, you are right to focus on the writing; I promise a month of these exercises and your boy will be much improved. Usually after school breaks anyway things are rock bottom with skills forgotten ( former teacher here 😀)

Mammysin Tue 18-Apr-17 20:39:08

I meant to say teacher is unhelpful!

mrz Tue 18-Apr-17 20:41:24

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 outlines

Self-Care Skills
Buttoning
Lacing
Tying
Fastening Snaps
Zipping
Carrying
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
Dressing
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.
Cutting
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.

Activities To Develop Handwriting Skills
There are significant prerequisites for printing skills that begin in infancy and continue to emerge through the preschool years. The following activities support and promote fine motor and visual motor development:
Body Stability
The joints of the body need to be stable before the hands can be free to focus on specific skilled fine motor tasks.
Wheelbarrow walking, crab walking, and wall push-ups.
Toys: Orbiter, silly putty, and monkey bars on the playground.

Fine Motor Skills
When a certain amount of body stability has developed, the hands and fingers begin to work on movements of dexterity and isolation as well as different kinds of grasps. Children will develop fine motor skills best when they work on a VERTICAL or near vertical surface as much as possible. In particular, the wrist must be in extension. (Bent back in the direction of the hand)
Attach a large piece of drawing paper to the wall. Have the child use a large marker and try the following exercises to develop visual motor skills:Make an outline of a one at a time. Have the child trace over your line from left to right, or from top to bottom. Trace each figure at least 10 times . Then have the child draw the figure next to your model several times.
Play connect the dots. Again make sure the child's strokes connect dots fromleft to right, and from top to bottom.
Trace around stencils - the non-dominant hand should hold the stencil flat and stable against the paper, while the dominant hand pushes the pencil firmly against the edge of the stencil. The stencil must be held firmly.
Attach a large piece of felt to the wall, or use a felt board. The child can use felt shapes to make pictures. Magnetic boards can be used the same way.
Have the child work on a chalkboard, using chalk instead of a marker. Do the same kinds of tracing and modeling activities as suggested above.
Paint at an easel. Some of the modeling activities as suggested above can be done at the easel.
Magna Doodle- turn it upside down so that the erasing lever is on the . Experiment making vertical, horizontal, and parallel lines.

Ocular Motor Control
This refers to the ability of the eyes to work together to follow and hold an object in the line of vision as needed.
Use a flashlight against the ceiling. Have the child lie on his/her back or tummy and visually follow the moving light from left to right, to bottom, and diagonally.
Find hidden pictures in books. (There are special books for this.)
Maze activities.

Eye-hand Coordination
This involves accuracy in placement, direction, and spatial awareness.
Throw bean bags/kooshi balls into a hula hoop placed flat on the floor. Gradually increase the distance.
Play throw and catch with a ball . Start with a large ball and work toward a smaller ball. (Kooshi balls are easier to catch than a tennis ball.)
Practice hitting bowling pins with a ball. (You can purchase these games or make your own with pop bottles and a small ball.)
Play "Hit the Balloon" with a medium-sized balloon.

mrz Tue 18-Apr-17 20:44:26

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.

MollyHuaCha Tue 18-Apr-17 20:50:12

Mrz... wow!

NoCapes Tue 18-Apr-17 21:00:13

Mrz thank you so so much you are brilliant! So so many ideas grin

Looks like I'll be hitting Amazon hard tonight grin

NoCapes Tue 18-Apr-17 21:06:07

Mammy a lot of what I get from the teacher is "he can do it he just doesn't apply himself" and "it's up to him how much he gets out of school, if he doesn't try I can only do so much" (seriously!) so unfortunately I don't think having a TA doing the writing for him is an option unfortunately
He really really struggles with cursive so weve already ditched that, teacher wasn't keen but I said of all the areas to lose points in I'd much rather it be on the cursive element than on the actual content
His writing isn't that bad tbh, it's totally legible, he needs to reduce the space in between words but besides that it looks ok, just takes him a while to get there
Within an hour lesson he generally does 4/5 lines of writing, I'm going to look at the 'speed up' books mentioned above

I knew this was the right place to ask thank you all for all of the brilliant suggestions!

catkind Tue 18-Apr-17 21:17:28

Some great advice already.
Just to add - watch really carefully while he writes and see if you can see the problem. DS said writing hurt, and when I watched it was clear he was a) pressing much too hard, and b) not moving his hand across the paper so he was ending up mostly trying to write under his own hand in a contorted sort of way which also meant he couldn't see the pencil tip at all. No wonder it was a painful mess.

mrz Wed 19-Apr-17 06:27:19

You can buy pens that light up if the child presses on too hard ...it helps them learn the correct pressure.
Also try old fashioned carbon copy paper between the pages of a notebook. Child has to write a secret message without it being transferred to next page.

NoCapes Wed 19-Apr-17 11:09:28

That's a good point cat I couldn't tell you how he writes tbh, I've never watched particularly closely - I'll have a proper look tonight smile

steppemum Thu 20-Apr-17 10:21:06

mrz has come up trumps as always!

I woudl also bear in mind that some conditions like dispraxia, dyslexia first show themselves in an inability to get words down on paper, so if this persists, press the school to get him assessed.

I want to echo somethign a pp said - it can really help to get him to tell you what he wants to write, not in the usually chatty everything tumbles out way, but to say it in sentences, and then wrote down the sentence.

NoCapes Thu 20-Apr-17 10:33:59

That's interesting steppemum he's been assessed for autism before but it was decided he was NT although I was never convinced, so it wouldn't be a great surprise to me if there was some other underlying condition tbh

Last night he played with playdoh for about 15 minutes which was longer than I expected! I also got the outdoor chalk out and they all coloured in the patio for a while and I've stuck some big sheets of paper on the patio doors and some sticker sheets besides them, although only DD has played there so far

I keep referring back to mrz lists and trying to work out way through with what we have

Hoping for some Amazon deliveries today smile

steppemum Thu 20-Apr-17 10:38:25

if he is borderline ASD, oculd it be that he is struggling with being asked to write something that is imaginary?

he may write better if listing facts, recounting something he has done. This will get him going and make writing easier.

Mistoffelees Thu 20-Apr-17 10:49:06

Fantastic advice from mrz, what's he like if allowed to type?

NoCapes Thu 20-Apr-17 11:04:58

He's not allowed to type at school Mist so I couldn't really tell you, although he does play on the computer/iPad at home and certainly knows what he's doing, he doesn't do much typing though, maybe I could try to encourage that and see how he goes

Steppemum I do think the open endedness of writing is a problem tbh, he's very good at maths and loves science and I think he's better st these things because they have a definite answer, so when his teacher says 'write a story about space, I want at least 3 sides' he freezes
He likes order and responds better to very specific instructions so yeah, creativity isn't really his 'thing'

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