Another look at Kinesthetic Learning and Pre-Handwriting Skills

Photo credit: renaln
Photo credit: renaln

Each year, as I work with students in elementary school, I continue to worry about their needs being the result of inadequate pre-handwriting skill training.  In short, that really simply means how well they learned to use their hands in play activities and kinesthetic learning.  Children learn to use their hands as tools to help them learn and grow from the moment they are born.  However, sometimes in this accelerated learning environment the we seem to be in now, children are being asked to attempt to learn skills that are far beyond their developmental capabilities.  With this in mind, I offer again my work to draw attention to the learning brain of the child.

 

 

 

Kinesthetic Learning and Pre-Handwriting Skills

by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L

 

Jean Piaget introduced the world to the learning brain of the child.  Through his systematic study of cognitive development, he discovered that children simply do not learn in the same way as adults.  According to his theory of cognitive child development, “children are born with a very basic mental structure … on which all subsequent learning and knowledge is based.

To read the entire article, click here.

 

 

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills and understands the link between handwriting skills and writing.  She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.
 Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; in the Universal Publishing Handwriting Teachers’ Guides; on any guest blog posts or any other social media is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the author of these links/posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.
All photos are property of the owner of the site they are liked to and their use should always provide that link.

The Core Strengthening Handbook: A book review

The Core Strengthening Handbook 2

The Core Strengthening Handbook:  A Book Review

by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L

A great deal of my energy on the internet focuses on reading and sharing the work of my peers and the many knowledgeable professionals in the therapy and educational fields.  My belief in the networking system that technology affords us encourages me to seek out their work and to offer it to others in an effort to support both the writers and the readers.  The realm of social media casts a brand new opportunity in our direction to learn and grow together in ways that were never before available to us.  My quest for knowledge and the responsibility I feel for sharing it freely has set my course as one of impartiality and equality, allowing me to turn so many brilliant people’s work around for others to see.  In the end, that means that I rarely accept promotional offers to review products and to advertise them on any of my platforms.  And when I do, I never accept compensation for the privilege.  Those are the times when a product comes along that I believe offers exceptional benefits for us as therapists, parents, and teachers.

I have just recently come across a publication that speaks in a very eloquent way to a facet of handwriting skill development that I consider to be the most important building block for success.  The Core Strengthening Handbook is a new resource offered by Lauren Drobnjak, BS, PT, and Claire Heffron, MS, OTR, from The Inspired Treehouse.  I feel that it will serve as a valuable resource for parents, teachers, and therapists and I think that you will agree.   Let me share a review of the book to help you get acquainted with what it has to offer.

But before we begin, I’d like to discuss briefly the vital connection that core body strengthening has with handwriting mastery.  Elementary school children spend 30-85% of their classroom time working at their desks, dedicating their visual and fine motor skills to close work that predominantly involves handwriting activities.  (1,2)   Close work places demands on the visual system to maintain efficient focusing, scanning, fixating, and accommodating skills for reading, writing, and copying from text or the board.  The eyes need to stabilize their positon while the head and body move.  Core muscle strength provides the platform for this to happen.  In addition, upper body control plays a key role in the development of an efficient pencil grasp and a fluid penmanship style that allows the hand to glide across the paper in a timely manner.  The core body muscles provide the stability for efficient eye and upper body positioning allowing the student to attend to the task at hand instead of having to expend cognitive and physical energy on maintaining an upright head and body position.  This is accomplished with the help of muscle strengthening and the development of the vestibular system and balance skills.  In a New York Times article, “The Unappreciated, Holding our Lives in Balance,” Dr. Daniel Merfeld, director of the Vestibular Physiology Lab at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, described the Vestibular System’s job in a most interesting way:human-skeleton-johan-georg-heck

“Whenever we stand up and arrange our calves, thighs, torso and head into a stable, vertical configuration, we are unconsciously juggling six inverted pendulums, six mechanically independent units with masses above the pivot point – a feat that amounts to balancing six pencils on your palm simultaneously.”

The Vestibular System figures out where our head is relative to the floor and then tells the brain how to direct the muscles, joints, and ligaments in adjusting all of the masses and their pivot points to maintain our balance against gravity.  However, although an inefficient vestibular system can result in poor postural efficiency, its efficiency can also be limited due to inefficient core body strengthening.

The Core Strengthening Handbook

Lauren and Claire have designed their book to present the important message about core strengthening using developmental guidelines to instruct the reader about the muscles included in the body’s core and the progression of their development following typical gross motor milestones.  Their stated intent was to provide “a guide for supporting the development of core strength in children” and they have done that in an easy-to-understand resource for therapists, teachers, and parents.  They have acknowledged that the progression of a child’s gross motor development can be observed by his parents, who may often be the first to detect that their child is struggling with movement activities, as well as his teachers in their preschool through elementary grade classrooms.  The authors provide a well-written description of the journey a baby takes through tummy time, pulling to stand, and finally jumping using examples of observable movement patterns to help the reader visualize the muscles involved in the baby’s gross motor growth. For readers who are interested in the technical, Lauren and Claire share a brief description of the core muscles.

boy beach toys DariuszSankowski pixabayProbably one of the most important informational portions of the book is the section on “Why today’s kids aren’t as strong as they used to be.”  The authors discuss the importance of unstructured, spontaneous play in a child’s development of his core strength.  While they endorse the benefits of providing goal-directed activities to enhance core muscle strength, they recognize the importance of providing opportunities for children to have fun with simple playtime activities such as swinging, running, and climbing.  In an effort to encourage their readers to investigate the importance of play further, they have provided a link to an excellent article that shares a wealth of additional links and information.

The introductory chapter that begins their exciting list of core strengthening activities provides the reader with a better understanding of the behaviors that a child can exhibit when he is experiencing weak core muscles.  This is perhaps the most enticing method for gaining the attention of their audience and to compel them to buy their book!  When a parent or teacher understands that inefficient core muscle strength can result in poor posture, difficulty with transitional movements such as going from sitting to standing, challenges with dressing skills, and a poor pencil grasp, they will certainly want to learn more about how they can help their children with the fun and easy-to-use activities that follow!

The first impression I had when I began to investigate the book’s activities was that Lauren and Claire certainly know how to have fun!  They have provided a wide-range of strategies designed to engage the individual interests of the children as well as to facilitate their use in the home, classroom, or playground.  The activities range from those that include yoga, ball, and wedge components, which are the more advanced forms of core body strengthening work, through the easier to complete and more readily accessible everyday activities such as helping with chores or playing games on “all fours.”  Each strategy shares suggestions for grading the activity to match the child’s needs and for making the work fun for everyone.  The authors did not forget the babies!  They provide a group of playful activities that encourage tummy time and in turn engage the parent or caregiver in interaction with their child.

babies twins tummy time kangheungbo pixabay

My favorites?  Well, that was a difficult, for sure!  I lean toward selecting the Playground Ball Activities since they engage both the visual and the vestibular system in a very natural way.  But, who could not be interested in their Towel Activities!  I will definitely be including the Oblique Wake-Up Call in my next therapy session!  As far as assessment tools, I feel that their section on “Other Quick Core Strengthening Ideas” will come in handy the next time I’m working with a new client.  These six activities will tell me a great deal about his gross motor skills.

And did I mention that the book has pictures of the cutest children imaginable?  The Core Strengthening Handbook is certainly that – a handbook.  It is designed as both an informational resource as well as a quick reference for selecting activities that will work the core muscles.  If you have a moment, stop by The Inspired Treehouse and take a look at their site and this book.  I think you will be happy that you did!

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills and is the author of “Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation:  A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists.”  She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.

 
 
 
 
 Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; in the Universal Publishing Handwriting Teachers’ Guides; on any guest blog posts or any other social media is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the author of these links/posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.
 
Title photo is the property of  The Inspired Treehouse and should not be used without their expressed permission.  The human skeleton photo was published on the Figure Drawing Website  and its use should include the link to the author’s site.  All others are the property of the photographers at Pixabay.    Their use should include the link provided with the pictures.
References:
(1) Marr, D., Cermak, S., Cohn, E.S., & Henderson, A. (2003) Fine motor activities in Head Start and kindergarten classrooms.  American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 57, 550-557.
(2) Mchale, K., and S. A. Cermak. “Fine Motor Activities in Elementary School: Preliminary Findings and Provisional Implications for Children With Fine Motor Problems.” American Journal of Occupational Therapy 46.10 (1992): 898-903. Web. 26 June 2015.

Hand Dominance – a key factor in handwriting success

Hand Dominance – a key factor in handwriting success

by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L

hand dominance iwanna pixabayHand dominance is a key factor in handwriting mastery.  Handwriting is a complex functional task that demands the hand to work efficiently with a tool.  This is accomplished through the hand’s intricate link with the brain.  Handwriting is considered to be the highest form of unilateral hand dexterity skill attained by the general population.  (1)   The establishment of hand dominance provides the child with a skilled hand for efficient pencil control to facilitate the learning of letter formations and line alignment as well as a stabilizing hand to monitor paper placement.

What is hand dominance or handedness?

Hand dominance is the term used to describe the hand a child is observed using spontaneously during skilled activities such as brushing his teeth, using scissors, or handwriting tasks.  It is the hand a child naturally prefers to use because it performs skilled tasks more efficiently, leaving the other hand to act as a stabilizer.  For example, a child who is right-hand dominant, or right-handed, will use his right hand to manipulate the scissors and his left hand to stabilize the paper during a cutting task.  The development of hand preference is a sign that the brain is maturating and that brain lateralization is occurring. Initial development of a preferred hand occurs from about the age of 4 months to the age of three to four, shifting from a reach that is convenient (such as using the right hand to pick up objects on the right side) to one that crosses the body’s midline.  Hand preference for the completion of unilateral tasks becomes more evident during this time with further bilateral differentiation occurring between 5 and 7 years.  Although children may continue to switch preferred hands at this stage for use with different fine-motor skilled activities, a fully established hand dominance presents itself between the ages of 6 and 9.

What are the behaviors associated with an Unestablished Hand Dominance?

Hand dominance is a foundational skill that promotes using the hands together efficiently during activities that involve more complex motor plans, motor accuracy, and greater skill.  These tasks include tying shoes, buttoning a coat, playing with interconnecting blocks, or handwriting.  Crossing

Little Boy Lacing his Shoes --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis
Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

the midline and bilateral coordination are contributing foundational skills for the establishment of hand dominance and equally important in the performance of skilled tasks.  Difficulties in either of these skills can result in unilateral hand preference (using the right hand for performance on the right side and vice versa), difficulty with symmetrical bilateral hand skills such as catching a ball or holding an object with two hands, or competing dominance where the child switches hands during a fine-motor task.  It is also important to note that if a child who demonstrates a clear preference for one hand is observed switching between his dominant and non-dominant hand during skilled activities, muscle fatigue could be the underlying cause rather than difficulty with any of the above skills.

How can you determine the Establishment of Hand Dominance?

There are several ways to determine a child’s preferred hand and to determine the establishment of hand dominance.

Boy Playing with Building Blocks

  1. Observe the child participating in skilled fine-motor tasks such as brushing his teeth, buttoning his coat, drawing, playing with construction toys, or cutting paper.  Record the number of times that he uses a specific hand as the dominant one within each task, switches hands within the task, or uses only the hand located closest to the object when reaching for it (e.g., using the left hand solely to reach for items on the left side).
  1. Place items at the child’s midline on a table during a fine-motor play or functional activity.  Observe the use of a dominant hand or the switching of hands during the activity.
  1. Place items for use in activities such as puzzles, tangrams, or construction tasks in random positions on the table on the child’s left and right sides as well as in midline. Observe his use of a dominant hand, his switching hands, or the use of a unilateral reach as he completes the activity.

Activities that Promote the Development and Establishment of Hand Dominance.

After collecting observational data that reflects the child’s level of hand dominance, determine the hand that he appears to prefer.  Direct him to use that hand in activities that will reinforce it as the dominant hand.   If the child does not yet appear to have a preferred hand, begin with the foundational activities below to encourage the development of a dominant hand.  Progress to the activities that follow to enhance the underlying skills that promote the development and establishment of hand dominance.

Foundational Activities:

  1. Place objects for a task at the child’s midline. This provides him with the opportunity to select which hand to use and enhances the development of a dominant hand by lessening the chances to use the unilateral hand to avoid having to cross midline.
  1. Use auditory cues to direct the child’s reach across his body during play and functional tasks.  Positions items included in the activity randomly on the table on both sides of his midline.  Ask him to reach for them using the opposite hand.  For example, to direct him to reach across his midline to an object on his left, you might say, “Joey, please pick up the yellow marker with your right hand.”  This activity also promotes the development of crossing the midline and bilateral coordination skills as well as the understanding of directional concepts.
  1. Use auditory and visual cues to establish labels for his skilled and stabilizing hands. This helps him to understand how he uses his hands for fine-motor activities and supports their use as skilled or stabilizing hands.  For example, if the child has been observed to use his left hand predominantly during skilled tasks, you might verbally label his left as the “worker hand” and his right as the “helper hand.”  Demonstrate these labels as you and he complete tasks such as cutting, lacing, or construction play.  You may add a sticker to his worker hand to remind him of its role in the activity.
  1. Use auditory cues as reminders to continue to stay with one hand for the duration of a skilled activity.

Enhancement Activities:

Gross motor games.  Position balls or bean bags on the side of a child’s preferred hand and have him toss them at a target placed at his midline or on the opposite side of his body.  This activity promotes the development of hand dominance, as well as balance, bilateral coordination, visual attention, and crossing the midline skills.  Games of throw and catch (for example, baseball or bowling) and basketball (dribbling and throwing) also promote these skills.

Girl (6-8) Painting an Egg --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis
Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Fine motor activities.  The activities below promote the use of a dominant hand as well as the development of visual attention, crossing the midline, and bilateral coordination skills.

    • Drawing circles or lazy 8’s simultaneously on the left and right sides of a paper taped to the wall or on a chalkboard using a pencil or chalk in the hand on each side
    • Clapping games or games that tap knees and ankles on the opposite sides of the body
    • Tracing the non-dominant hand with the dominant
    • Drawing or coloring with the preferred hand.  The performance of this activity on a vertical surface will further enhance balance and visual attention.
    • Stacking blocks with the preferred hand
    • Activities that include stencils, rulers, or rubbing motions over textures using the dominant hand with the pencil or crayon and the other hand to stabilize the stencil, ruler, or paper.
    • Molding clay or putty using the dominant hand to pull and mold while the other stabilizes the clay or putty
    • Beading, lacing, and interlocking toys using the dominant hand to thread or position the interlocking toy while the other hand stabilizes the string, board, or opposite toy part.
    • Cutting and pasting using the dominant hand to perform the task and the other to stabilize the paper.
    • Construction activities with blocks, hammers, or screwdrivers using the dominant hand to perform and the other to stabilize during the task.
  • Opening containers using the preferred hand to turn or pull open the lid while the other hand stabilizes the container.

Academic activities.

  • Whole body writing (making large movements using the dominant hand) promotes the use of the dominant hand as well as the enhancement of motor movement planning skills.
  • Activities that include non-traditional materials such as finger paints, shaving cream, sand trays, or writing with water on the chalkboard or a piece of paper taped to the wall provide increased tactile input to promote the use of the dominant hand as well as the enhancement of motor movement skills.
  • Create letter formations by shaping them out of pipe cleaners or other tactile tools to promote the use of the dominant hand.
  • Writing or practicing letter formations with a pencil on a piece of paper over fine-grade sandpaper using the dominant hand for tool use and the non-dominant to stabilize the paper provides additional tactile input to promote the use of the dominant hand.
  • Tracing letter formations on a vertical surface using the dominant hand while the other hand positions and supports the paper also enhances visual attention skills.

Children who have not established a dominant hand may also be working with inefficient body image and spatial awareness skills.  It is important to observe the child in a diverse array of activities and provide a variety of opportunities to engage in bilateral tasks in order to determine the underlying  developmental skill needs.

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills. In her current book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation: A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, she shares a comprehensive guide and consistent tool for addressing handwriting development needs. She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.

Collmer Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation

Photos are the property of the  photographers at Pixabay or Royalty-Free/Corbis where indicated.    Their use should include the link or copyright provided with the pictures.

Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; in the Universal Publishing Handwriting Teachers’ Guides; on any guest blog posts or any other social media is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the author of these links/posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.

References:

  1. Yancosek, Kathleen E., and David R. Mullineaux. “Stability of Handwriting Performance following Injury-induced Hand-dominance Transfer in Adults: A Pilot Study.” The Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development JRRD 48.1 (2011): 59. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.
  2. “Texas Child Care: Back Issues.” Texas Child Care: Back Issues. Texas Child Care Quarterly, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2015. <http://www.childcarequarterly.com/spring07_story3.html>.
  3. “Occupational Therapy for Children.” Occupational Therapy for Children. Occupational Therapy for Children, 08 Sept. 2015. Web. 30 Oct. 2015. <http://www.occupationaltherapychildren.com.au/blog/dominance-hand-dominance/>.

Crossing the Midline – an important handwriting skill

Crossing the Midline

by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L

on The Handwriting is Fun! Blog

 

baseball ruthclark pixabayChildren who experience difficulty with the mastery of handwriting skills are often struggling with crossing their body midline.   During the performance of handwriting tasks, the arm, hand, and eyes travel from the writer’s left side to his right, crossing the body’s center many times.  Letter formations also rely upon the writer’s ability to cross from left to right to cross a “t” or produce an “x.”  A developmental skill need that limits the fluid movement across midline prevents a child from mastering the basic facets of handwriting mastery.

 

What is Crossing the Midline?

Crossing the midline is a bilateral skill demonstrated by the ability to spontaneously move one hand, foot, or eye into the space of the other hand, foot, or eye.  This happens when we sit cross-legged on the floor, scratch our elbow, read or write from left to right, draw a horizontal line from one side of the paper to the other, or connect intersecting lines to draw a cross without switching hands.  Crossing the midline is a coordinated movement that is developed as a child experiences activities that include cross-lateral motions, such as reaching across the body to retrieve a toy.  These movements help to build pathways in the brain that facilitate the development of various motor and cognitive skills involved in completing self-care tasks, participating in sports, reading, and writing.

Crossing the midline is an integral skill related to bilateral coordination.  Bilateral coordination is defined as the ability to use both sides of the body together in a coordinated, controlled, and organized manner during tasks that require the use of one hand to stabilize and the other to perform simultaneously.   These activities include crawling or climbing stairs, catching or throwing a ball, manipulating clothing fasteners, tying shoes, stringing beads, cutting, and handwriting.  In addition to the foundational skills of eye-hand coordination and muscular strength, the development of bilateral coordination is dependent upon an accurate body awareness.  This perceptual skill represents the ability to know where the body and its parts are positioned in space without using vision allowing for the spontaneous and efficient completion of tasks.  The development of bilateral coordination indicates that both sides of the brain are communicating effectively in the sharing of information.  The development of a “helper” and a “worker” hand to facilitate bilateral movements is a sign that the brain is maturating and that brain lateralization is occurring.  The lateralization process is strongly correlated with the ability to cross midline.

Brain lateralization is defined by the ongoing process that is thought to begin in the prenatal period and continue throughout early childhood. The brain OpenClipartVectors pixabaycerebrum consists of two hemispheres (or halves) that specialize in different functions which control different areas of the body.  The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body and contains the centers for the understanding and use of language (listening, reading, speaking, and writing), memory for spoken and written language, analysis of information in detail, and motor control of the right side of the body.  The right hemisphere controls the motor movements of the left side of the body and contains the centers for processing visual-spatial information, comprehending and remembering things you see and do, and using pieces of information to form a complete picture.  The two halves are connected by a band of fibers called the corpus callosum which plays an important role in integrating their respective functions.  Lateralization becomes specialized to serve particular functions and involves a preference for using one hand or side of the body more than another.  Hand dominance is a result of brain lateralization.  (1, p. 176-7)

 

What are the behaviors that indicate difficulty with Bilateral Coordination and Crossing the Midline Skills?

Children who have difficulty with these skills may display decreased coordination and motor control, tend to avoid crossing their midline by using alternate hands for performing tasks on each side of their body, and have difficulty establishing hand dominance.  These children may appear to be ambidextrous because they use both hands alternately during and among tasks.  However, they may actually be doing that because they have two unskilled hands.  In addition, children who experience problems with crossing the midline can have difficulty with higher level skills such as reading and writing as they both involve left-to-right eye and hand movements.   This may be observed as stopping in the middle of the page to blink or rub their eyes, losing their place frequently during close work tasks, being unable to master letter formations that include diagonal lines, or stopping in the middle of the page to switch hands during handwriting assignments.  For children who have an inaccurate sense of body awareness, they may appear clumsy and cautious with movement especially when it involves having their feet of the ground.  They may seek or avoid deep sensory input or have difficulty coordinating both sides of their body to complete bilateral activities of daily living.  These behaviors also can result from inefficient eye-hand coordination and muscular strength.

 

What are some activities to promote the development of Crossing the Midline Skills?

The activities listed below are some examples of easy-to-implement tasks or games that will enhance the underlying skills that promote the development of crossing the midline skills.

 

obstacle course Hezsa pixabayFor younger children:

  • Obstacle course activities performed inside or outside that encourage crawling and climbing using verbal commands for directional concepts such as over and under, back and front, and up and down promote gross- and fine-motor muscle strengthening, the understanding of directional concepts, body awareness, and bilateral coordination skills.
  • Floor games such as bean bag toss or ball rolling can be designed to encourage crossing the midline by having children catch or stop the bean bag or ball on the sides of their body versus the middle (e.g., using the right hand to perform the task on the left and vice versa).   Have the child call out the side of his body where he has caught or stopped the object.  These activities encourage body awareness, balance skill development, and midline crossing as the child reaches with one or both hands across the body to perform the task and identifies the sides of his body.
  • Sitting or standing games such as bean bag toss can encourage the child to reach for and pick up an object on the opposite side of the body and throw it at a target on the reverse side (e.g., picking up a bean bag located on the left side with the right hand and then throwing it at a target on the right side and vice versa.)  Provide verbal directions to direct which hand the child will use or have him call out which hand he intends to use before he begins each toss.  This activity encourages balance, midline crossing, and visual attention skills.
  • Push and pull toys or activities that are performed at midline such as pop beads, connecting blocks, lacing, hand exercises (pushing palms together at chest level), or rolling putty into a long snake encourage bilateral coordination, crossing the midline, and upper extremity muscle strengthening skills.
  • Pretending to drive a car using a ball promotes midline crossing as the child holds the ball in both hands and turns it like a steering wheel by crossing his arms over each other as he drives. This can be adapted for children who have sufficient upper extremity strength by having them perform the activity without the ball.  This activity promotes upper extremity muscle strengthening, bilateral coordination, and crossing the midline skills.
  • Clapping and popping bubbles performed in either sitting or standing can encourage engagement in the left, center, and right space in front of the popping bubbles seomyungjuk pixabay-766535_1920child.  This activity promotes visual attention, bilateral coordination, midline crossing, and upper extremity muscle strengthening skills.
  • Keeping time to music by clapping hands, alternating clapping hands and patting knees, tapping sticks together, or marching in place promote crossing the midline skills.  These activities as well as playing games that include following directions such as Simons Says or Hokey Pokey promote balance, body awareness, bilateral coordination, and visual attention skills.
  • Batting a balloon back and forth in sitting or standing promotes balance, visual attention, and crossing the midline skills.
  • Upper extremity exercises performed in either sitting or standing can promote midline crossing skill development.  Exercises can include touching toes with the opposite hand, performing windmills above the head or windshield washers in front of the body (crossing arms back and forth over each other), tapping opposite shoulders with the hands, hugging the body, or swinging lowered arms back and forth slowly across and behind the body.  Provide verbal directions or have the child call out the directions for each hand or side being addressed.  These activities promote balance, body awareness, bilateral coordination, crossing the midline, visual attention, and upper extremity muscle strengthening skills.
  • Large arm movement activities in the air that cross from the child’s left side to his right side and reverse, such as drawing large crosses or figure 8’s (an 8 turned on its side or the infinity symbol) promote midline crossing development.   Activities that include practice for letter formation strokes (circle, up/down, or left/right strokes) can be adapted to address midline skills by first producing the letter on the left side, then in the middle, and finally on the right side using the child’s preferred hand.  Large arm movements in the air promote balance, upper extremity muscle strengthening, bilateral coordination, and midline crossing skills as well as visualization skills for automatic motor memory patterns.
  • Lazy 8s 1296Large movement activities performed on the floor on a large piece of paper or on a sidewalk can encourage crossing the midline.  Have the child trace large crosses or figure 8’s (drawn on their side) using different colors of chalk to create rainbow tracings, drive a toy car through a figure eight driveway, or complete a large simple maze with chalk or colored pencils.  These activities promote visual attention, bilateral coordination, and crossing the midline skills as well as upper extremity muscle strengthening with crawling and movement on all four’s.  The use of chalk provides tactile input to promote handedness and writing/drawing tool control.
  • Tracing activities on a vertical surface that use large arm movements that cross from the child’s left side to his right side and reverse, such as drawing large crosses or figure 8’s (drawn on their side), driving a small car through a roadway system, completing a simple maze, or drawing lines on which to practice letter strokes. These activities promote bilateral coordination and crossing the midline skills.  In addition, activities that are performed on a vertical surface promote upper extremity muscle strengthening and visual attention skills.

 

For older children:  While some of the activities listed below were also listed for younger children, they can be enhanced for the older ones by increasing the challenges with time or speed elements or the inclusion of academic tasks.

  • Large arm movement activities in the air that cross from the child’s left side to his right side and reverse, such as drawing large crosses or figure 8’s (an 8 turned on its side or the infinity symbol) promote midline crossing skills.  This activity can include practicing letter formations or spelling words in the air using his preferred hand, first on the left side, then in the middle, and finally on the right side.  Large arm movements in the air promote upper extremity muscle strengthening, bilateral coordination, midline crossing skill as well as visualization skills for automatic motor memory patterns.
  • Large movement activities that combine arm and leg movements such as drawing or writing on a large piece of paper or a sidewalk promote crossing the body midline.  Have the child trace large crosses or figure 8’s using different colors of chalk to create rainbow tracings, use a pencil to “drive” through a figure 8 pathway, copy a drawing, or complete a large maze with chalk or colored pencils.  These activities promote visual attention, bilateral coordination, and crossing the midline skills as well as upper extremity muscle strength with crawling and movement on all four’s.  The use of chalk provides tactile input to promote handedness and writing/drawing tool control.
  • Tracing activities on a vertical surface that provide large arm movements that cross from the child’s left side to his right side promotes midline crossing.  These activities can include copying a drawing, completing an age-appropriate maze or word search, or drawing lines on which to practice spelling words.  These activities promote bilateral coordination as well.  In addition, activities that are performed on a vertical surface promote upper extremity muscle strengthening and visual attention skills.
  • Keeping time to music by clapping hands, alternating clapping hands and patting knees, tapping sticks together, or marching in place promote playing ball clip art clkerFreeVectorImages Pixabaybalance, body awareness, bilateral coordination, and visual attention skills.
  • Batting a balloon back and forth in sitting or standing promotes balance, visual attention, and crossing the midline skills.  Using a balloon instead of a ball increases the challenge and enhances the development of these skills.  Adding a verbal task such as reciting the alphabet or answering questions further increases the activity’s challenge.
  • Upper extremity exercises performed in sitting or standing can include touching toes with the opposite hand, crossing the right hand to touch the raised left knee and alternating sides in a rhythmic fashion, jumping jacks, or running in place with exaggerated arm movements.   These activities promote balance, body awareness, bilateral coordination, crossing the midline, visual attention, and upper extremity muscle strengthening skills.  Adding small, light weights or a verbal task, such as reciting the directions aloud during the task will further enhance development of visual attention, crossing the midline, and bilateral coordination skills.
  • Ball toss, catch, or kick games in standing or sitting promote visual attention, body awareness, balance, midline crossing, and upper extremity strengthening skills.
  • Construction toys and crafts that encourage the use of two hands to construct a product promote bilateral coordination, crossing the midline, fine motor strengthening, and visual attention skills.
  • Board or card games such as strategy games or solitaire can encourage visual scanning from left-to-right. These activities, as well as most board or card games, promote visual attention, bilateral coordination, and crossing the midline skills.
  • Mazes, word search, hidden picture, and tangrams performed on a vertical or horizontal surface promote visual attention and crossing the midline skills.  Activities performed on a vertical surface promote upper extremity strengthening skills.
  • Yoga postures. These activities promote body awareness, balance, bilateral coordination, crossing the midline, visual attention, and muscle strengthening skills.
  • Playing sports or tug-of-war.  These activities promote balance, visual attention, bilateral coordination, crossing the midline, and muscle strengthening skills.

 

Crossing the midline skills are developmental and should appear by the age of 3-4 years.  This article is meant to provide information about its development and the symptoms that indicate a need in this area.  If you find that your child has not achieved this milestone by the age of 4, it would be wise to consult with his or her pediatrician to determine if there is an actual need that would benefit from intervention.

 

(Blog edited May 2018.)

The Handwriting is Fun! Blog is published by and is the property of Handwriting With Katherine.

 

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills. In her current book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation: A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, she shares a comprehensive guide and consistent tool for addressing handwriting development needs. She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.

Collmer Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation

http://www.handwritingwithkatherine.com/handwriting-development-assessment-and-remediation-book.html

 

 

 

The Handwriting is Fun! Blog is published by and is the property of Handwriting With Katherine.

 

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills. In her current book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation: A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, she shares a comprehensive guide and consistent tool for addressing handwriting development needs. She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.

Collmer Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation

http://www.handwritingwithkatherine.com/handwriting-development-assessment-and-remediation-book.html

 

 

 

 

Photos are the property of the  photographers at Pixabay where indicated.    Their use should include the link provided with the pictures.  All other photographs are property of the author and are not to be used without her written permission.

Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; in the Universal Publishing Handwriting Teachers’ Guides; on any guest blog posts or any other social media is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the author of these links/posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.

 

 

References:
  1. Shaffer, David R., and Katherine Kipp. Developmental Psychology: Childhood and Adolescence. 9th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2013. Print.
  2. Edwards, Marissa, M.S., OTR/L. “Help Your Child Develop the “Crossing the Midline” Skill.” Nspt4kids.com. North Shore Pediatric Therapy, 18 Apr. 2011. Web. 28 Oct. 2015. <http://nspt4kids.com/parenting/help-your-child-develop-the-crossing-the-midline-skill/>.
  3. “What Is Brain Lateralization?” Nspt4kids.com. North Shore Pediatric Therapy, n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2015. <http://nspt4kids.com/healthtopics-and-conditions-database/brain-lateralization/>.

 

OT and Handwriting Programs: What is our role?

 

For the month of September, the Handwriting is Fun! Blog will be sharing insights about the role of Occupational Therapy in the classroom.  In recent years, the role of OT, in general, has been changing with the waves of healthcare and education reforms.  Despite a certain amount of turmoil and confusion where those changes may have thrown us a curve ball, most often they have provided us with an opportunity to make a difference in an area in which we’ve longed to see an improvement.  For me, that has been handwriting mastery.  For others, it has been the role of OT in the educational system as a whole.  This first article in our “OT in the Classroom” series addresses the first of these interests – the role of OT in handwriting mastery –  and brings up points that I hope will generate discussion and help us all to learn and grow within our profession.

 

Handwriting PracticeOT and Handwriting Programs: What is our role?

by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L

 

 

 

 

I have been asked often to reveal my “favorite choice” for a handwriting program. The question inevitably arises, “Which handwriting program do you use for instruction in your specialized OT practice?” And the answer is always the same, “I have none.” I’ve actually never considered the selection of one program over another, nor have I recommended one as my “preferred,” feeling that in my practice it is not my role to do that.  My business goals are to assess and remediate children’s handwriting development skills.  My first priority is to identify and target the underlying problems that are revealed in the student’s handwriting struggles.  My next step is to evaluate the capability of the classroom’s handwriting program to facilitate the student’s success with remediation.  If I feel it cannot, then I will speak with the teacher and parents about addressing the student’s needs with a different program.  For the older students, this is commonly not an issue, as they are not receiving handwriting instruction in class.  In both of these cases, I will address the student’s individual needs with a handwriting program that blends with his learning styles and remediation goals.  Handwriting “instruction,” per se, is not the mission of my particular business.

 

Of course, Occupational Therapy has certainly made a presence in the handwriting program environment. And rightly so, as we understand the underlying developmental skills that build handwriting mastery and our interventions in both instruction and remediation have been effective in advancing students in their handwriting mastery.  (1)  Occupational Therapists have designed effective handwriting programs based upon developmental principles, worked with a handwriting program publisher,* and most certainly have used handwriting programs in their therapy sessions.  But, what IS our role with handwriting programs?  Where does the value of our expertise and the validity of our responsibility fit into the provision of handwriting instruction?  These questions are legitimate and warrant a discussion in search for answers.

 

1.  What are handwriting programs designed to do?

 

First, let’s make the distinction between the two types of handwriting programs, the curriculum program and the published handwriting program, and the facets that define each as beneficial.

 

curriculum-wokandapix-pixabay-614155_1280

A curriculum handwriting program is one that is designed to provide

  • structured, consistent, and guided instruction in the development of letter formations, letter alignment, and spacing, both during copying and independent writing tasks;
  • instruction that provides handwriters with the tools to edit and correct their own work;

and

  • handwriting tasks across the subject areas                                                      that will promote the functional use of that skill.

 

A published handwriting program is designed to provide:

  • teachers with a structured program that will assist them in providing their students with consistent and guided instruction in the development of letter formations, letter alignment, and spacing, both during copying and independent writing tasks;

cursive-blackboard-kyasarin-pixabay-209152_1280

  • tools that assist the teachers in their instruction, as well as the students in their learning; and
  • a network of professionals who can guide teachers in their use of the handwriting program.

 

Published handwriting programs are a facet of a curriculum’s handwriting program. It is ultimately the role of the school to assess different published programs and select the one that fits their students’ and teachers’ needs.

 

What makes a good handwriting program?

There are a few basic characteristics that are included in the development of an effective curriculum and published handwriting program. Each must be:

 

  • Structured: The instruction is delivered in a format or plan that allows a developmental progression of skill development.
  • Consistent: The instruction is provided in a format that allows students to practice the skills sufficiently to enhance learning.
  • Guided: The instruction provides tools to assist teachers in their instruction and offers students one-to-one assistance and additional learning strategies during classroom instruction.

 

These tenets are integral to the development and mastery of handwriting skills. The development of a published handwriting program is a task as complex as the mastery of the skill itself and, therefore, research and experience play a vital role in the development of a good handwriting program. Occupational therapists, educators, and literacy experts have spent a great deal of time, energy, and finances toward building effective and valuable handwriting programs that address the diverse needs of our young learners.   Some published programs offer online teacher assistance, free downloads for creating worksheets, in-class technology to enhance visual and kinesthetic learning, or inexpensive teaching materials to help with school budgets. Some schools have included handwriting instruction as an integral part of their elementary school curriculum, while others are streamlining their instruction to meet overall educational requirements.  But, when it’s all said and done, an effective handwriting program – both a curriculum or a published program – is one that is “structured, consistent, and guided.”

 

2.  What makes a good fit for an OT-Handwriting Program Relationship?

As a school-based, private practice, or clinic-based occupational therapist, we do not assess or select the handwriting programs that our clients will be mastering in their classrooms…unless, of course, we are on the curriculum selection committee, where we would indeed be an asset.  However, although studies indicate that “having preschool classroom teachers implement an occupational therapy-based curriculum to teach handwriting readiness skills reflects a more inclusive service model that benefits all students,” (1) at present the selection of a handwriting program most often remains in the hands of the school system.  Therefore, at the elementary school level, it isn’t our role to select another program to use in our therapy sessions that we might feel provides a better instructional format.  This gets confusing and does not provide the “structured, consistent, and guided” instruction that builds mastery.  Our role as OT’s is to assess and remediate handwriting development skills….which are the same skills he will need for handwriting mastery no matter which program is being taught in the classroom.  Our expertise guides us in the creation of instructional adaptations that can enhance a student’s learning, as well as cognitive, sensory, and physical suggestions to promote success in the classroom and at home.  This also allows us to consider the student’s individual needs to determine if he would benefit from a different program and if the discussion of a program change is warranted.   In the end, our role as OT’s continues to be the assessment and remediation of handwriting development skills….no matter which program the student is working with in the classroom.

We have a much broader role when we are working with older students (fifth grade and beyond), however, one that allows room for us to introduce a new handwriting program.  Their struggles may result from the lack of a structured, consistent, and guided program in elementary school; or they may have needed the assistance of an OT at that level but had not been provided with those services.  At this point, there would be many choices for us to consider that would meet their needs.

So, I pose the question that, instead of looking for a “good fit for an OT-Handwriting Program Relationship,” wouldn’t the more appropriate question here be

 

3.  What makes a good fit for an OT-Handwriting Relationship?

April is OT Month!
OT’s build independence by providing information! We are “information stations!”

 

Building an OT-Handwriting Relationship in the classroom begins with prevention.

One of our primary services has always been to inform our clients about choices and information relative to their needs.  For instance, in the adult community, we are a valuable link between those who are experiencing the results of a traumatic brain injury and the durable equipment options to increase independence in activities of daily living.  In the older community, we can share vital home safety tips about inexpensive modifications that can help clients and their caregivers extend a person’s ability to age in place.  We provide ergonomic and backpack safety information to office workers and students, as well as pain management techniques and tools for those suffering from osteoarthritis.  Moms welcome our early intervention skills as we share information about sensory needs and developmental milestone stages.  We ARE the “information station!”

This integral part of our practice also weaves its thread through our relationship with handwriting development skills.  Prevention is our first step in helping students with their handwriting needs and for building a recognized and valued OT-handwriting relationship.  We are the frontline source for fine- and visual-motor information for teachers and parents and the best member of the community to guide them toward building healthy habits for handwriting success.   In light of our position as “information stations,” we must take time to

 

  • share information with teachers and parents about pre-handwriting skill development and the appropriate ages for working on grasping patterns and for introducing a pencil;
  • help teachers and parents understand the positive benefits of movement and play in the development of body awareness, physical strength, and sensory skills;
  • become involved in the assessment and acquisition of a developmentally sound handwriting program; and

And we need to do these things BEFORE children are referred to us for occupational therapy to address their handwriting development needs. Prevention first!

information station logo property of handwriting with katherine

 

 

 

Building an OT-Handwriting Relationship in the classroom thrives through student success. 

The benefits of any practice are validated only by their visible successes.  Handwriting development skills are most often “invisible,” with the only evidence of their need for service being a poor handwriting style.  Hence, a functional penmanship style becomes the visible success.  In some instances, the teacher and parent won’t ever become aware of the myriad of underlying skills that we have addressed in our therapy sessions to bring about that result. Most often, however, our work with a student’s handwriting development skills will enhance his successes in other subject areas, validating even further the benefits of addressing handwriting needs.  There are times, of course, when an evaluation of the student’s skills will reveal that his struggles would benefit simply from the provision of a more structured and guided method of instruction, rendering the need for direct services as unnecessary.  The “ounce of prevention” tips offered above can help prevent those students from being referred for services as we assist teachers in assessing their needs and adapting their teaching style to meet them.  But, when a student does arrive at our doorstep with underlying handwriting development needs, it is important for us to have the skills to assess and remediate those needs…no matter which program the student is using in the classroom.  And no matter whether or not he is receiving any handwriting instruction at all.  It is our responsibility to seek continuing education instruction and practice guidance that will add these skills to our tool boxes. Handwriting assessment and remediation is an OT-related service.  And our students’ successes will pave the way for enhanced recognition of the role we play in handwriting mastery.

 

Handwriting programs are important, for sure.  But as OT’s in general, our primary concern is, and always should be, the development of the underlying skills that form the foundation for handwriting success.

 

Please join us next week for an article by a guest blogger that will showcase the significant impact that a school-based OT can have in handwriting success!

 

 

(1)Lust, C. A., and D. K. Donica. “Effectiveness of a Handwriting Readiness Program in Head Start: A Two-Group Controlled Trial.” American Journal of Occupational Therapy 65.5 (2011): 560-68. Web. 18 Aug. 2015.

 

* I was honored when Universal Publishing valued occupational therapy and my work by including “Katherine’s OT Tips” in the Teachers’ Editions of their latest edition of their Universal Handwriting Program.  It was a positive way to build a relationship between occupational therapy and a handwriting program publisher.

 

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/LKatherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills and author of the book, “Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation:  A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists.”  She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.
 
 
 Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; in the Universal Publishing Handwriting Teachers’ Guides; on any guest blog posts or any other social media is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the author of these links/posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.

Handwriting and a Healthy Diet Pair Up!

baby-pixabay-84686_1280

Handwriting and a Healthy Diet Pair Up!

by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L

 

Eating is an essential activity of daily living.  It is also considered to be an important family social event.  In these harried and hurried times, eating can become a “grab-and-go necessity” that gets shoved to the back of the line as we travel to and from school, sports, daycare, and dance lessons.  A baggie of gold-colored fish, a sack of dried apricots, some type of boxed drink, and away we go!  “Quick, get in the car.  We’re going to be late!” Sound familiar? Sometimes the amount of time between getting the packages opened and jumping back out of the car is not even long enough to finish the “healthy snack” we’ve substituted for dinner.  Then there are the times when the return trip home is far past any reasonable dinner time, leaving only enough room in the schedule for homework or a bath – and perhaps some more “fish.”

Healthy eating is a key facet in a child’s physical, cognitive, and emotional development.  Research study results have shown that better nutrition builds strong bodies, but they also suggest that it has a positive effect on academic performance and school behaviors.  It appears that students who eat a healthy diet are not only better able to learn but will attend school more consistently and demonstrate improved classroom behaviors. (1)   Eating a well-balanced diet provides oxygen, minerals, and nutrients that enhance cognitive skills, develop and maintain muscle strength, and allow students to manage the educational and social demands of the school environment.  Learning is a demanding “occupation” for our young learners.  It only makes sense, then, to educate them on healthy eating habits.

What are eating habits?

I read a quote the other day that may not be the result of long and technical research studies but speaks to common sense:    “The eating habits your children pick up when they are young will help them maintain a healthy lifestyle when they are adults.”   No, not a new revelation.  But it is certainly one that bears discussing as we and our children plough into our schedules each day.

Eating habits simply include:

  1. Meal Plans,
  2. Eating Times, and
  3. Eating Environments.

Healthy eating habits, on the other hand, require:family-eating-at-the-table-skeeze-pixabay-619142_1280

  1. Nutritious Meal Plans,
  2. Consistent Eating Times, and
  3. Stress-free Eating Environments.

Learning healthy eating habits allows children to:

  1. consider healthy food choices over those that have little nutritional value,
  2. manage their snack choices, and
  3. recognize the difference between hunger-related and stress- or boredom-related eating.

Where does handwriting fit in?

You may be asking at this point, “What does all of this have to do with handwriting?”

learn-geralt- pixabay -586409_1280

Handwriting development skills are primarily those included in:

  • our ability to understand how our bodies move and what we can do with that movement (body awareness, directional concepts, and spatial relations);
  • our visual processing skills that allow us to gather data through our senses, understand what the data is telling us, and make modifications if needed to our movements; and
  • our attention skills as we focus on a task, ignore distractions that do not relate to the task, and maintain our attention on it until it is completed.

The same facets of a healthy diet that I mentioned above –  oxygen, minerals, and nutrients – also provide students with the ability to develop those body awareness, visual processing, and attention skills they’ll need for handwriting mastery.  A healthy diet pairs up very well with a healthy mind!

 

How do we teach healthy eating habits?

If we are going to attempt to teach children, or anyone for that matter, about an important topic, it’s always a smart choice to “make if fun!”  From preschoolers to middle schoolers, children can benefit from learning to think healthy when it comes to food and eating.   Cooking or kitchen activities provide excellent opportunities for hands-on learning that combine healthy eating habits with fine and visual motor development.  So, with all of that in mind, I’m offering some functional activities that can turn “teaching into learning” at home, in school, or in a therapy session.  And to add a handwriting twist to the learning, I’ve added some ways to turn handwriting from “practice into functional.”  (You know that I can pair up handwriting with just about any learning activity!)

Here we go:

  • PLAN cooking lessons! Select a healthy recipe that’s easy and quick for preschoolers to “learn to cook” or simple to make in a classroom or therapy session with elementary and middle school children.  Banana Smoothies are always fun and so nutritious.  All you need are recipe card open clips pixabaysome bananas, a few extras to add inside, and a blender.  I found the “Sandwich-on-a-Stick” to be a very creative idea for involving a child in making lunch.  And Homemade Applesauce is a delicious and nutritious snack that can be made on the stove or in the microwave.  Preschoolers can practice their pre-handwriting skills by drawing a picture of their finished product, while elementary and middler schoolers can write down the recipe in their very own Healthy Food Journal.

 

  • Grocery Shopping is a TEAM Sport! After you select a fun recipe to try, have the elementary and middle schoolers write a list of ingredients that you will need (the preschoolers can draw them!) and take a trip down the grocery aisles looking and touching and selecting the “just right stuff.”  (PS:  A Hint:  Avoid the inner aisles of super markets because “that’s where all the junk lies.”)
  • Browse and Ponder. It’s so important to take your time and discuss the different choices available in the grocery store.  A smoothie can contain any number and variety of fruits and yogurts.  A sandwich can have vegetables, healthy cheese and meat, and as much or as littleMother And Daughter At Fruit Counter In Supermarket With List bread as you’d like.  This is a nice time to talk about how foods can be eaten both as a meal and as snacks and how they keep us healthy.  When you get home, have the children jot down (or draw) those healthy foods or ways to use them in their Healthy Food Journal.
  • Get your hands dirty!  Infants learn to accept foods by touching them, squishing them between their fingers, and rubbing them all over their faces.  They feel them, smell them, and taste them.  Give the children a chance to do the same when you are cooking your meal.  Experimenting with an unfamiliar vegetable by getting up close and smelling it, licking it, or breaking it into pieces can give the child a chance to feel “safe” with it.  Let’s face it, some vegetables can look pretty intimidating to them.  Let’s take broccoli, for instance.  What ARE all of those little bumps on the ends?  They can then record their very favorites in the Journal, as well as those that they may be willing try at a later date.
  • Creativity rules! Colors play a major role in a child’s life.  We are always asking them what the color of something is!  They even choose their crayons based upon their favorite colors.  And the same can be said for food.  Select some reds and oranges when you are picking peas and carrots condesign pixabayout peppers.  Add carrots to the celery and yogurt snack. Adding pimentos on your eggs for eyes, a nose, and a mouth is a fun way to introduce them.  Have all the children draw their favorite food or snack in their Journal using only their favorite colors.  That should make for some interesting food colors!

 

  • Seated and Slow. After the final product is ready for consumption, have the children help you set the table and learn to enjoy the “ritual” of eating together at the table.  TV, video games, and other forms of technology should be set aside and attention should be focused upon the wonderful meal that you’ve created together.  Just for fun, have the children make a few notes about what they ate, talked about, and felt during their sit-down lunch or dinner.  (Note:  Food and eating should be considered fun (and essential) activities and are not recommended to be used as rewards or punishments.)
  • Snacks and Treats:  Oh, yes!  There’s no reason to exclude in-between meal snacks for your children.  We all get the “munchies” outside of meal times, especially if we are being very active – like children!  And, although healthy snacks are the preferred choice, treats are still an acceptable way to curb the midday stomach growls.  Baking homemade treats can help you to maintain a higher level of “healthy” than store-bought items.  But, don’t restrict your child totally from those (or candy) because, let’s face it, they will be out in the “real world” soon and those choices will be there for the taking.  Learning to eat them in moderation is a more realistic tool than trying to avoid them altogether.  Discuss this concept with them and have them write their ideas for controlling the amount of snacks they eat in their Healthy Eating Journals.

Healthy eating and handwriting certainly DO go well together!

 

Do you have any creative ways in which you teach healthy eating habits to your children, students, or clients?  We’d love to hear about them!  Please share!

As always, thanks for reading!

Katherine

 
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/LKatherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills and understands the link between handwriting skills and writing.  She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.
 
 Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; on any guest blog posts or any other social media is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors of these links/posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.

 

 

 

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