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DS is going into Y1 and is doing fine generally. However, he struggles with handwriting in many respects - pencil grip, controlling his movements, big handwriting, reversing letters and numbers.
He has had an OT assessment suggested by the school, which identified some delays in motor skills although not enough for a formal diagnosis of anything.
We've been doing a few things to encourage him over the holidays such as a holiday diary and post cards to friends and to be fair he quite enjoys writing, it's just not very legible! His teacher gave us a laminated sheet of letters to copy but he doesn't have much patience with that. To be fair I expect part of the issue is being young in the year.
What else can we do to help him? He has plenty of time outside doing the trampoline / climbing frame / climbing trees and gross motor skills seem to be coming along well (these were also a bit delayed) but are there other things we could do to support his writing?
Thanks very much!
Anything to build both hand/finger strength and also arm/shoulder/torso strength helps. DD2 has dyspraxia and the OT did lots of work with her on core/shoulder stuff - things like building towers of bricks while on hands and knees without pulling knees up underneath her to make it easier; pulling herself around on a skateboard on her tummy (she loved this but it knackered the shit outta her); play dough and theraputty (Amazon sell it) and picking bits of “treasure” out of a big ball of it... things like that. Another one I remember from the huge pile of stuff I have are those little tiny spinning tops you get in party bags - they’re good for finger strength too.
I wouldn’t put the pressure on too much though - school did with DD2 in year 1 about her letter size and formation (and completely ignored the fact the content, spelling and punctuation was actually pretty damned good) and it really ended up with her getting very distressed and switched off writing for a good while - to the point school and us took the decision to back off completely, let her type her work a bit, and suddenly her handwriting improved dramatically!
Other things the OT did was really emphasise writing on a vertical surface and BIG (they have a huge chalkboard on the wall) as it puts the hand in a better position to hold the pencil naturally - and kids naturally start writing big and get smaller as they mature - think of how the size of lines in their writing books progresses down.
Could try things like mazes and dot to dots as well. My daughter writes much better using Faber Castell “Grip” pencils and pens too - or she has a dinosaur pencil grip which she likes just because it’s a dinosaur really.
I have two boys who both found handwriting difficult. My now 10 year old who has several diagnoses that affect his fine motor skills has lovely writing now. It just took him a little bit longer to get there. My younger boy still finds writing hard.
My boys really like pen boards and pens. They also have a child's easel that has a pen board on it. This means that they can write and draw but rub it out whenever they want. This takes the pressure off getting it right. We have found that even playing things like naughts and crosses helps them practise.
They also enjoy writing in sand, bubbles, shaving cream etc. It is easier in softer materials. Anything that involves precision and a pincer grip can be helpful. Playing Time Shock, Operation and Rush Hour has helped.
Thank you both.
I definitely agree on not putting pressure on him, in other European countries he wouldn't really be expected to write at this stage. The funny thing is he really enjoys writing and it's just a bit frustrating that it is so hard to read!
I will definitely try some of the suggestions you have both made. We have an easel but it doesn't get used much - I shall dust it off and draw his attention to it!
My older DD's handwriting is also not good, but she has great motor skills, she just doesn't care very much what her writing looks like! A different problem.. the hard thing with DS is that he tries so hard, bless him.
I think the skateboard is an excellent idea actually, his core/upper body strength is not good and this will really help.
My DD was terrible at writing, it didn't really improve until Year 4. There wasn't really anything "wrong" she just didn't write very well. She was actually brilliant at weird things, in hindsight possibly just to be different, she used to write all her letters and numbers backwards, and in fact could write the entire alphabet backwards and in mirror writing beautifully, the teachers were quite impressed although a little bemused. She also found swimming really hard, and couldn't ride a bike until about 13/14.
I mention all this, because in the end it made no difference at all. While all this was going on, she learnt the clarinet up to grade 6 (in primary), and self taught piano. She can also do odd things like she's learnt and scribes "elvish", from Lord of the Rings, and ancient Greek, I suppose her brain is just wired a bit differently.
I think we can worry too much, too early, and put too much pressure on our DC's, and perhaps try to find reasons, but sometimes it just is, and often it will sort itself out naturally. In the meantime, she did find the triangular pencil grip thingies helpful, I don't know if they are still used.
I wouldn't make him write at home - if it is something he finds hard, I would look to do other activities at home. What he needs to do is work on the muscles in his hands and fingers:
Playdough / plasticine / clay / (actual food) dough (for pizzas or making bread) - using rolling pins...... needing.... both good. Can also hide small items (paper clips / buttons / coins in playdough and get him to find them and pull them out
Pegs - putting clothes pegs on things and taking them off - can get them to literally hang washing out, or do games / races where they have to try to put 10 pegs on a piece of card or a piece of string before you / their sibling / friend
Wringing out wet tea towels / cloths / flannels etc - really good for finger strength
Peg boards - either the boards where you put the coloured pegs in to make patterns, or, even better, the ones where you stretch elastic bands round the little sticky up bits to make patterns - elastic bands are great for finger strength
Card games - putting the cards on a table or floor, face down and having to pick them up to turn them over is a good pincer grip practice - can be playing cards or lotto type games - anything where they are picking them up and turning them over.
Teach him to play patience and you won't even have to sit and play with him
Games with tweazers - such as 'Operation' - where you have to use tweasers to move things. Can 'home make' similar with tweasers from your make up bag, or your granny's sugar tongs, and get them to move small things from one pot to another (smarties / raising / peas / pieces of pasta / etc)
Squeezing a sponge ball / water out of a washing up sponge / those rubbery, bouncy balls is also great for building strength.
Then, as mentioned above - writing is a struggle if their whole arm (gross motor) movement isn't as strong as it could be. For this you are looking for big, whole arm movements:
Fill an empty washing up liquid bottle with water and let them "draw" circles or letters or long lines on the patio or in the garden
Fill a bucket with water and give them a (decorators) paint brush and get them to "paint" the length of your fence or the back wall of your house with water
Pin some lining paper or even old newspaper sheets on the fence or wall and let them paint really big pictures, using as big an arm movement as they can
Go to the park and play on the monkey bars as often as you can
Also play on climbing frames
Pour water out of fairly full jugs, into smaller containers - pouring their own drinks when you are outside, or (less mess!) give them a big jug and smaller containers to play in the paddling pool or bath - it is really helpful to be able to pour from a realtively weighty jug accurately into smaller cups
Carry something like a chair - again, a weight at arms length
Encourage any way you can some 'commando crawling' (make you own garden obstacle course maybe, where he has to crawl under a sheet or some tarpaulin ??)
None of these will seem like "more work" to him, but all will help those muscles grow and be better and 'more trained' when he needs to use them for writing.
Following, as have a just turned 4 year old who starts school in September. She is extremely hyper mobile and is struggling with pencil grip, which nursery have been teaching. I feel she is quite young for this, but her new school want them to be able to write and use scissors.
Sorry, meant to say there are some great tips on this thread!
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
The following activities ought to be done frequently to increase postural muscle
strength and endurance. These activities also strengthen the child's awareness of
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.
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.
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.
Wow thank you so much for those brilliant tips. That certainly gives us loads of fun things to be getting on with! He'll love the water play particularly, but lots of these sound fun. Great!!
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