A Handwriting with Katherine Thank You Note

A Handwriting with Katherine Thank You Note

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

 

 

thank you artsy bee pixabayThis summer, I was honored and humbled by the thoughtfulness of eight inspiring and knowledgeable Occupational Therapists who so lovingly shared their time and expertise with my readers on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog. Their willingness to jump in and give me a hand when I needed it most won’t ever be forgotten, for sure.

Most importantly, however, their words of wisdom in the 10 blogs they shared will help so many readers for years to come.

 

In that light, I wanted to take a moment to thank them personally and to share their work with you once again.  And, as always, thank you to my readers.  You are the foundation upon which the success of the Handwriting is Fun! Blog is built.

 

Thank you so much

Spaghetti and Meatball Spacing by Miss Jaime OT
Spaghetti and Meatball Spacing by Jaime Spencer, MA, OTR/L, Miss Jaime OT

 

Jaime Spencer from Miss Jaime OT,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for Getting Away From Table-Top Activities by Rebecca Klockars, OT Mommy
Tips for Getting Away From Table-Top Activities by Rebecca Klockars, OT, OT Mommy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rebecca Klockars from OT Mommy,

Low Tech Assistive Technology: MacGyver Inspired by Rebecca Klockars, OT, OT Mommy
Low Tech Assistive Technology: MacGyver Inspired by Rebecca Klockars, OT, OT Mommy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Summer Handwriting Fun? by Stacy Turke, OTR/L
Is Summer Handwriting Fun? by Stacy Turke, OTR/L, On the Road with @stacyturke OTR

 

Stacy Turke from On The Road with @stacyturke OTR,

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Challenge of Moving Toward Self-Sufficiency with or without Assistive Technology by Eleanor Cawley, MS, OTR/L
The Challenge of Moving Toward Self-Sufficiency with or without Assistive Technology by Eleanor Cawley, MS, OTR/L, EleanorOT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eleanor Cawley from EleanorOT,

Learning and Retaining through Technology, by Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L
Learning and Retaining through Technology, by Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L, EleanorOT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Help With Handwriting: A Screening Activity by Lyn Armstrong, OTR
Help With Handwriting: A Screening Activity by Lyn Armstrong, OTR, LynOT

 

Lyn Armstrong from LynOT,

 

 

 

 

 

 

An OT Advocate for Change - Handwriting gets the help it deserves, by Marie Toole, OTR/L
An OT Advocate for Change – Handwriting gets the help it deserves, by Marie Toole, OTR/L, School Tools

 

Marie Toole from School Tools, and

 

 

 

 

 

 

No child wants to fail!
Behavior and Transitions in School Settings by Cara Koscinski, MOT, OTR/L, The Pocket OT

 

Cara Koscinski from The Pocket OT.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you!
 Thank you! I couldn’t have done it without you!

 

 

 

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.
 
Photos are the property of Handwriting With Katherine, the authors, or the photographers on Pixabay and are not to be used in any fashion except as links to the appropriate blog or the Handwriting With Katherine website without the expressed, written permission of Katherine Collmer or the authors.  Use of the photographer’s work should include the link attached to their photographs.

 

5 Nifty Handwriting Helpers Revisited

5 Nifty Handwriting Helpers Revisited

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

On June 16, 2015, I posted the original version of this blog, titled “Five Nifty Handwriting Helpers.”  (Don’t click yet, but you can find it here.)  Today, I am reposting it in a different format in an attempt to gather information about your reading preferences and learning styles.  The “Handwriting is Fun! Blog” runs for one purpose:  to share information.  If the information we share, however, does not meet your learning and reading needs, then we haven’t achieved our goal to provide our readers with pertinent and helpful information about handwriting development skills.

So, in the interest of bettering our blog and achieving our highest goals, I am asking you to read the first version (not yet!) and then to read this revised format.  After you have done that, I would be honored and thankful if you would share two pieces of information with me in the comment section of THIS BLOG VERSION:

  1. Which version did you prefer?
  2. Why did that version appeal to you?

Thank you in advance for participating in this informal research study!  I look forward to your feedback!  NOW YOU CAN CLICK ON THE FIRST VERSION!  (Don’t forget to return here to read the revised version!)

 

Five Nifty Handwriting Helpers

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

This month, I am sharing a “Summer Handwriting Fun” series chock-full of articles written by myself and other therapy bloggers who have so graciously offered to share their work on my site.  This is the third in our series.  I hope you will find it useful and return to read some more next week!

 

What do we need before we get “good” at handwriting?

Alphabet Written on NotepadHandwriting mastery is actually based upon 5 basic handwriting helper skills.  They are:

  1. Body Awareness;
  2. Finger, Hand, and Wrist Strength;
  3. Vision and Sensory Skills;
  4. Posture; and
  5. Practice.

 

 

Although these five helpers are very important skills in handwriting development, they are not too be taken too seriously.  They can be developed during most play experiences all along a child’s developmental stages.  Today, we are going to take a look at the ways that we can engage our elementary school-aged “handwriters” in some “Summer Fun” that works on these skills!

 

The Five Nifty Handwriting Helpers!

  1. Body Awareness

This helper is

  • our “internal map” that lets us know where all of our body parts are – without our having to look at them to find out!
  • how we understand directional concepts, like up and down, left and right.
  • what gives us a perspective about navigating our environment.
  • the foundation that provides a child with the basic skills for learning letter formations, spacing, and fitting words and sentences on a line and a page.

 

Body Awareness can be developed through activities such as:

Yoga helps us with our body awareness!
Yoga helps us with our body awareness!

 

+  balance and coordination,

+  concentration, and

+  visual attention skills.

 

 

 

+  make left and right turns,

+  look up,

+  check on top or behind, and

+  look under.

 

Watch a cool movement video from The PE Update Blog!
Watch a cool movement video from The PE Update Blog!
  • Relay races, tug-of-war, musical chairs, or simply rolling down a hill provides children with opportunities to

+  use the left and right sides of their bodies,

+  manage their weight against gravity, and

+  determine the distance between themselves and other people or objects.

Skateboarding and roller skating will definitely do the trick!

 

 

 2.  Finger, Hand, and Wrist Strength

This helper provides the foundation for

  • efficient pencil control skills, and
  • the ability to write for sustained periods of time with legibility and speed.

 

Fine-motor strengthening can be developed through activities such as:

 

  • Spending time on the playground.   Playground equipment offers children opportunities to use their fingers, hands, and wrists to

 

Playgrounds build both gross- and fine-motor skills!
Playgrounds build both gross- and fine-motor skills!

+  push,

+  pull,

+  grab ahold, and

+  hold on.

And, as an added bonus, playgrounds also help to build gross motor strength for posture!

 

 

 

+  use their two hands together for precision work;

+  manipulate different tools and textures; and

+  use their fingers, hands, and wrists for sustained periods of fine motor activity;

Art also allows older children to enhance their fine-motor strength as they develop their creativity and visual perceptual skills.

 

 

  • Gardening projects such as potted or plotted gardens for herbs, vegetables, or flowers, allow children to use their hands to

 

+  dig in the soil,vegetables-condesign-pixabay

+  plant seeds, and

+  pull weeds,

while they experience a sense of joy and accomplishment and build self-esteem.

Sewing, woodworking, and building model airplanes also work well for that!

 

 

3.  Vision and Sensory Skills

These helpers are those that allow children

 

They also provide children with an understanding of their environment through their senses of

  • sight,
  • hearing,
  • touch,
  • taste, and
  • smell.

 

Vision and Sensory Skills can be developed through activities such as:

  • board game dantetg pixabayBoard Games.  They offer opportunities for children of all ages to

+  maintain eye contact,

+  focus with near vision, and

+  use eye movements to follow the game.

If you add a bit of mystery, let’s say by hiding the pieces of a word game in a plastic bin filled with sand, then you are working on the sense of touch at the same time!

 

 

  • Music and dancing activities that ask children to learn new motor planning sequences, or practice previously learned routines, provide sight, hearing, and tactile experiences through dance-alexas fotos pixabay

+  movement and

+  imitation.

 

 

 

 

  • magic-cube-domenicblair pixabayPuzzles, both of the magic cube and interlocking type, provide visual skill enhancement as they demand

        +  visual attention,

        +  efficient scanning techniques, and

        +  visual perceptual skills to complete them.

 

 

4.  Posture

This helper allows children to learn using efficient

 

Postural skills can be developed through activities such as:

  • Walking, climbing, hiking, and biking, as well as exercises such wheelbarrow walks and races.  These activities enhance a child’shiking family-pezibear pixabay

+  Core Body Muscles

+  balance, and

+  coordination.

 

 

 

  • Sports enhance both vision and postural muscles!
    Sports enhance both vision and postural muscles!

    Sports that include visual attention skills, such as ball challenges for the younger children, or bike riding or skateboarding through an obstacle course for the older ones, provide opportunities for

 

        +  building core body muscles and

         +  vision skills.

 

Vision and Posture are developmental partners:  Vision skills enhance the development of the core body muscles – and the core body muscles enhance the development of vision skills.

 

 

+  understand what “posture” is,

+  develop good postural habits, and

+  appreciate the importance of having good posture.

 

 

5. Practice

This helper allows children to

  • master their handwriting skills and
  • understand and appreciate their functional use.

 

Functional Practice of handwriting skills can be accomplished through activities such as:

 

 

 

 

 

To-Do-List_PrintableMaking lists for groceries, to-do’s, and people to invite to their birthday party.

 

 

 

 

trip maps

Recording their creative thoughts or journey experiences using writing prompts or travel journals.

 

 

 

 

 

I hope I’ve shared some different and exciting ideas for including the 5 Nifty Handwriting Helpers in your child’s Summer Fun!

As always, thanks for reading!  And I look forward to your comments and feedback.

 

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; 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.
 

IS Summer Handwriting Fun?

Welcome back to our Summer Handwriting Fun series!  This week we are sharing some very creative ideas that will spark your children’s interest in building handwriting development skills!  Our guest blogger is Stacy Turke, OTR/L, an Occupational Therapist from Michigan!  I think you will find her suggestions helpful and easy to do.  If you think so, too, drop her a note and let her know how much you’ve appreciated them.  Okay, Stacy, you’re on!

 

 

Summer Handwriting Homework

Summer Handwriting Practice

Summer Handwriting Fun!

 

sad student clikerfreevectorimages pixabayFor many kids, this statement is an oxymoron:  how can ANYTHING related to Handwriting be fun?  Good handwriting takes practice, lots and lots of it, and practice of almost any kind is boring.  Plus, kids want to be outside playing in the summer, or inside creating, and just generally having fun with their families and friends.  So a Summer Handwriting Program is a waste of time, right?

 

Not if it’s done well!

 

For kids with handwriting challenges, the writing itself is rarely the whole picture.  Handwriting is a very complex process, combining

  • motor planning,
  • postural control,
  • muscle strength and endurance,
  • joint stability,
  • bilateral coordination/control,
  • attention and focus,
  • visual processing,
  • fine motor skills,
  • eye hand coordination,  PLUS
  • visual and auditory memory

…and all that comes before the child begins to put pencil to paper to write down the language in their mind’s eye.  Practice the skills in these areas, and you’ll help your child maintain and strengthen their ability to write while having fun, without the feel of homework or practice. Who wouldn’t want that?!

 

So what EXACTLY do you do to practice?

There is no concrete, universal “Practice THIS List” because every child’s needs are unique and individual.   So instead of a “prescription,” consider these general areas and suggested activities to create a strong foundation for handwriting, and then get creative!

 

For tons of ideas, visit these Internet spots for ideas:

  • Blogs, such as Handwriting with Katherine (you’re there now!).  Also Google “handwriting,” or any of the skills listed above for more blogs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Pinterest:  Search for “fine-motor skills, handwriting, eye-hand coordination, muscle strengthening for children” – or any of the skills listed above for many “boards” where people have collected activities.  These will also lead you to new sites to explore!   ——–|

 

 

  • Facebook:  In the “Search” block at the top,

——–>

type in “key words” such as, “children, occupational therapy, or education.”  If you have a favorite Facebook page that discusses children’s activities, click on its “Likes” section and browse through the sites there.

 

 

  • Twitter:  In the top right-hand block, search  for hastags (#) such as “#pediOT,  #occupationaltherapy,  and  #handwriting”  —————————————–|
Again, if you have favorite Tweeters that you enjoy, take a look at their profiles and click on their “Follows” and “Followers” ———-> for more suggestions.

 

 

You will find more activities that you have summer-time for!

 

So how EXACTLY do you get creative?

Consider the things your child likes to do, and then expand or adapt to allow for greater targeted practice and skill development.

  1. exercise_girl_pushups_word classroom clipart comWith my students, I typically begin with a whole body task or activity, something that will get all the muscles and joints working.
  2. Next, I will try to use an activity that engages the shoulders, and
  3. then, we will move on to an activity that uses the small muscles of the hand and fingers.
  4. After all that, we get a little actual penmanship practice in, once the body is ready for that level of focus.

 

 

 

Strengthening both the core and fine-motor muscles helps to build the foundation for handwriting skill development.

 

Let’s see if this strategy will work for your child!

Let me share some movement activities that Engage and Strengthen the whole body and follow the strategy I described above.  (Who couldn’t benefit from these activities?)

First, A Word About Strengthening:

As with any strengthening program, begin with very small expectations, and slowly build the amount of time your child engages in these tasks or with these materials.

 

Here we go!

1.  First, try these activities to help to wake up and strengthen all of the muscles, including core muscles and the muscles of the arms and legs, all at the same time.

-Practice Simple Calisthenics (sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks, etc.).

-Ride a bike.

-Climb a tree.

-Visit the local park and climb/slide/swing on the playground equipment.

5 Kid-Friendly Yoga Poses From Mind-Body-Green.com

-Swim.

-Walk or run.  Bonus points for walking the dog!

-Learn Kids’ Yoga.

-Play soccer.

-Roll down a grassy hill.  (Be careful if, like me, you have a dog in your yard…)

-Include some Screen Time (believe it or not): Websites like GoNoOdle offer fun, brief “brain breaks” that involve movement and music. Many kids will be familiar with GoNoOdle because their teachers use it in their classrooms!

Looking for more activities?

Search all of the Internet sites listed above with keywords or hashtags: #grossmotor   #proprioception   #heavywork   #kidsexercise   #kidsyoga

 

2.  Next, try these to Engage the Shoulders and Arms.

These activities will help strengthen the larger muscles of the shoulder and arm, while still being fun and engaging, and will also help support bilateral coordination (using both sides of the body together).

-Play T-ball.

-Play tennis.

-Play on the floor on the tummy, propped up on elbows.

-Push-ups on the floor if your child can manage this, or against the wall:  Place arms shoulder height on a wall, approximately shoulder width apart. Take a step back from the wall.  SLOWLY bend the elbows, bringing the face close to the wall, then SLOWLY push the body back to the starting position.

-Rake the yard.

-Shovel Snow.  (Hey, it’s snowy in the Southern Hemisphere in June-August!)

-Carry bags with groceries from the car.

-Help carry laundry.

-Use a spray bottle with water and “wash” the windows using big arm movements.

-Play in a sandbox or on the beach with shovels, buckets, trucks, etc.

Making Bread Dough With “My Small Potatoes.com”

-Sweep the sidewalk or the house.

-Vacuum.   (Hey, some kids LOVE using the vacuum!)

-Knead bread dough.

-Create artwork with sidewalk chalk on the sidewalk or vertical chalkboard.

-“Paint” (using simply water and a 1-2″ paintbrush) on the garage door or sidewalk.

-Use the water and paintbrush idea to “erase” a picture drawn with sidewalk chalk outside.

For more activities, try these suggested searches or hashtags:   #bilateralcoordination   #shoulderstability   #shouldercoordination.

 

3.  Then, move on to Engage the Hands and Fingers.

These activities will support and strengthen the muscles and joints of the wrist, fingers, and thumb.  Bonus points if you combine several together creatively!

 

Turke 2-Play with playdough: roll it; pinch it; hide small objects within it and find them by pinching or twisting; cut rolls using scissors.

-Play with Silly Putty:  Use in the same activities as with the playdough.  Or create design “transfers” by pressing silly putty onto a newspaper comic or simple pencil drawing and peel away to reveal a picture.

Insert Q-tips into the holes in the tops of cleaned out spice containers.
Insert Q-tips into the holes in the tops of cleaned out spice containers.

-Insert Q-tips into the holes in the tops of cleaned out spice containers.

-Use small tongs or tweezers to pick up mini erasers or other small objects.

 

 

Push small pompoms into parmesan cheese containers.
Push small pompoms into parmesan cheese containers.

         Push small pompoms into parmesan cheese containers.

-Build with Duplo or Lego bricks.

-Rip up strips of paper, then use a mini “broom” and dustpan to sweep up the pieces.

-String fruit-loop type cereal onto yarn to make a necklace.

Create a bracelet using a rubber band loom.
Create a bracelet using a rubber band loom.

-Create a bracelet using a rubber band loom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here some suggested searches/hashtags  for more activities like these:

#finemotorskills   #eyehandcoordination   #graspingskills

 

4.  Now it’s time to write.

After all the above preparation, your child is ready for a little handwriting practice.  My recommendation is that, whatever process your child is using, whether it’s a structured, formal handwriting curriculum or if it’s something that is more teacher created, it is important to offer opportunities to practice each letter, numeral, or word repeatedly. After all, one time through a workbook is rarely enough for kids to demonstrate mastery of a skill.   If you don’t have a writing program provided by your child’s teacher or OT, you can easily find some type of handwriting practice workbook at your local Target, Walmart, or similar store.  You can also Google #freehandwritingworksheets  (or similar key words) and you will be able to choose from all sorts of free resources online.

 

What about those kids who HATE to practice?

Girl Writing Notebook raphaeljeanneret pixabaySome of my students hate to simply practice letters and numbers because they see no purpose in it. So we try these ideas:

  • We write notes to ourselves.
  • We send letters to their parents, grandparents, or friends.
  • My students make lists of the movies they want to see or of their favorite foods.
  • One student who was really into one particular online game spent a couple of weeks writing a tutorial of sorts for me, so that I could understand all the characters and powers. (Full disclosure: I still don’t understand much about the game, but I do have handwritten instructions prepared by a student who would have otherwise balked at writing!)

 

Mix it up!

Keep a box of different types of writing tools and materials readily available for your child.

  • Crayons, both primary sized and the more traditional sized.
  • Pencils, both traditional and mechanical, and pencil grips.
  • Water-color markers.
  • And papers, to include lined, unlined, and construction.

 

My favorite writing practice tip?

Take that workbook you’ve purchased or been given and either tear the pages out and place them into clear plastic page protectors in a binder, or use a clear plastic overlay on each page. Using a dry-erase marker, you’ve created reusable practice pages, and your child can practice over and over until letters and numbers are legible and written with ease.

 

My next best tip?

Aim for about 5-10 minutes of writing practice after the warm ups (above), several times per week in the summer.   If you can.   If you can’t…just make sure your child is playing, creating, and helping around the house.  Keep your approach light and playful, and you will have your child working on improving their handwriting all summer long…and he or she might not even know it’s work!

 

 

I have been employed in my dream job as an Occupational Therapist at a county-level intermediate school district for almost 30 years. My career has ranged from working in a “center-based” school to working in public and private schools throughout the county, including rural, suburban, and urban schools. I have been blessed to have been able to work with students with a wide range of educational needs, to include cognitive impairments, Autism Spectrum Disorder, physical challenges, sensory processing needs, and learning disabilities (plus many more). More recently, OT within the school district has broadened somewhat, giving me access to working with all students and their teachers, focusing on self-regulation, classroom design to enhance learning, and handwriting support. This career has been fulfilling, always presents new and interesting challenges, and is NEVER boring!  If you want to get in touch, you can reach me at sturke@inghamisd.org

 

 

Links to the rest of the series:

10 Tips for Summer Handwriting Fun
10 Tips for Summer Handwriting Fun
Spaghetti and Meatball Spacing From Miss Jaime OT
Spaghetti and Meatball Spacing From Miss Jaime OT
5 Nifty Handwriting Helpers
5 Nifty Handwriting Helpers

 

Stay tuned!  Next week, we will begin our Techie Series.  Hope to see you then!

Tips for Getting Away From Table-Top Activities
Tips for Getting Away From Table-Top Activities

Top 5 Ways to Get Away From Table-Top Writing Activities

The “Summer Handwriting Fun” series proudly presents a Guest Post from    OT Mommy!  We are thrilled that she has joined us to share her inspirational strengthening activities that will help children enhance the physical skills they will need to master handwriting.  Handwriting brings cognitive, fine-motor, and physical skills to the table each time we sit down to write.  Mommy OT is here to offer ways to work on those skills while we are away from the table!  I know you will enjoy her work!  Be sure to visit her site and comment on this article so that she knows how much you appreciate her!  OK, OT Mommy, we’re ready!

 

Top 5 Ways to Get Away From Table-Top Activities

 

 

student falls alseep at desk with book open
Clipart provided by Classroomclipart

If you are tired of the same ol’ sitting at the table, pencil and paper tasks, try switching it up with change of scenery, or at least a change in position. Altering body positions can be easily incorporated to enhance a therapy session individually or as stations in an obstacle course.

Take a look at my Top 5 Summer Themed Positions for Writing.

 

 

  1. The Backstroke

Have the student lay on his/her back under a table while coloring or writing. Not only will this position encourage bilateral use of hands by forcing the child to keep the paper from falling, it will also address shoulder strengthening and visual attention.

 

  1. The Doggy Paddle

High or Half Kneeling at a wall or an easel during a painting or writing activity will challenge the student’s core. A strong and healthy trunk can help to improve posture, digestion and respiration. Make sure to provide a yoga mat or a pillow to help with any knee discomfort.

 

  1. The Crawl Stoke
boy-wearing-hat-in-pool-sitting-inner-tube
Clipart provided by Classroomclipart

Clear the floor to provide enough space for your student to lay on his/her belly. My students love navigating through an obstacle course and ending with writing practice on the yoga mat. Weight bearing through the shoulders helps the students keep the forearms down and achieve a more dynamic grasp pattern during pencil paper tasks.

 

  1. The High Dive

Have the student stand at a canvas taped to the wall or door. Add a challenge by having the student complete wall push ups between tasks.

 

  1. The Free Style

Free Style is just that. It is the chance to mix it up for the student to experience the complex skill of handwriting in an environment other than at the table. No pencil or paper is needed here. Watch the child visualize the letters when a peer uses his/her finger to write on his/her back. Or head to the sandbox and use sticks to draw in the sand. Or to the sidewalk to challenge the tolerance of vibratory feedback when the chalk is dragged along the pavement.   Or barefoot in the grass using their feet to form the letters with different muscle groups. Open it up to the students to guide how they want their therapy to be done.

 

By changing the way an activity is presented, you can awaken the senses and get more bang for the buck.

 

Rebecca Klockars is a mom, occupational therapist, RESNA certified assistive technology professional and author of the blog OTMommy Needs Her Coffee.  When not ranting and raving about things to do with her children (her own and the school-based kids too) she enjoys cooking, reading and building things with PVC, duct tape and velcro.  For more information, visit www.otmommy.blogspot.com

 

 

 

10 Tips for Summer Handwriting Fun
10 Tips for Summer Handwriting Fun
Spaghetti and Meatball Spacing From Miss Jaime OT
Spaghetti and Meatball Spacing From Miss Jaime OT
5 Nifty Handwriting Helpers
5 Nifty Handwriting Helpers

Five Nifty Handwriting Helpers

Five Nifty Handwriting Helpers

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

This month, I am sharing a “Summer Handwriting Fun” series chock-full of articles written by myself and other therapy bloggers who have so graciously offered to share their work on my site.  This is the next in our series.  I hope you will find it useful and return to read some more next week!

 

What do we need before we get “good” at handwriting?

Alphabet Written on NotepadHandwriting mastery is actually based upon 5 basic handwriting helper skills.  They are:

 

  1. Body Awareness;
  2. Finger, Hand, and Wrist Strength;
  3. Vision and Sensory Skills;
  4. Posture; and
  5. Practice.

 

Although these five helpers are very important skills in handwriting development, they are not too be taken too seriously.  They can be developed during most play experiences all along a child’s developmental stages.  Today, we are going to take a look at the ways that we can engage our elementary school-aged “handwriters” in some “Summer Fun” that works on these skills!

 

The Five Nifty Handwriting Helpers!

  1. Body Awareness

    What is body awareness?  It’s simply our “internal map” that lets us know where all of our body parts are – without our having to look at them to find out!  It helps us to understand directional concepts, like up and down, left and right, and gives us a perspective about navigating our environment.  All of this provides a child with the basic skills for learning letter formations, spacing, and fitting words and sentences on a line and a page.

 

What are some fun body awareness activities?

Yoga has been shown to develop balance and coordination, concentration, and visual attention in children, as well as adults.

Yoga helps us with our body awareness!
Yoga helps us with our body awareness!

A fun yoga session can be as simple as including two or three “special for kids” poses outside on the lawn, just before bed, or during a quiet time in the afternoon.

 

 

 

 

Treasure and Scavenger Hunts are excellent “follow directions” activities that encourage children to use their internal maps to locate and discover the hidden objects.  Be sure to provide written directions that ask them to

  • make left and right turns,
  • look up,
  • check on top or behind, and
  • look under.

 

Anything that produces movement enhances body awareness!

Watch a cool movement video from The PE Update Blog!
Watch a cool movement video from The PE Update Blog!

Relay races, tug-of-war, musical chairs, or simply rolling down a hill provide children with opportunities to use the left and right sides of their bodies, manage their weight against gravity, and determine the distance between themselves and other people or objects.  Skateboarding and roller skating will definitely do the trick!

 

 

 

 

 

2.  Finger, Hand, and Wrist Strength

Why do we need this?  These three guys are vital components in efficient handwriting.  They provide children with pencil control and the ability to write for sustained periods of time with legibility and speed.

What are some fun fine-motor strengthening activities?

Art can enhance writing!
Art can enhance writing!

Art is simply the best way to introduce fine motor strengthening activities to children!    There are so many fun ways to develop these skills with sensory and creative components using simple paints, play dough, and putty.   Therapy Street for Kids offers a selection recipes for these supplies that I think you will find interesting, easy to make, and easy on the budget.

There’s even one for Pretzel Dough where you get the eat the final product!

 

 

Playgrounds build both gross- and fine-motor skills!
Playgrounds build both gross- and fine-motor skills!

The playground is an excellent place to build strength in the fingers, hands, and wrists.  Pushing, pulling, grabbing, and holding on are all fine-motor workouts.  And, as an added bonus, playgrounds also help to build gross motor strength for posture!

 

 

 

Gardening with children encourages lots and lots of fine-motor skill development.  Whether you choose potted or plotted gardens, herbs or

vegetables-condesign-pixabayvegetables, children can dig in and get their hands dirty as they work the soil, plant the seeds, and pull weeds!  The activity itself brings a sense of joy and accomplishment that builds self-esteem, too!  Sewing, woodworking, and building model airplanes also work well for that!

 

 

3.  Vision and Sensory Skills

 

Why do we need to worry about vision and sensory skills?

Efficient visual skills are essential toward the mastery of handwriting.  Seeing clearly, focusing effectively at near and far distances, and being able to remember what we see are necessary tools for learning and remembering letter formations. Since 75-90% of what a child learns in a classroom occurs though his vision, it is very important for us to care about his vision skills.    Sensory processing skills are those that allow us to experience and understand our environment through what we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell, as well as from how our bodies move.  Efficient sensory processing gives children the information they need to feel safe, learn without distraction, and remember what they’ve learned.

 

What are some fun vision and sensory processing activities?

board game dantetg pixabayJust about any Board Game will hit upon the visual skills.  They demand eye contact, focusing with near vision, and eye movement to follow the game.  If you add a bit of mystery, let’s say by hiding the pieces of a word game in a plastic bin filled with sand, then you are working on the sense of touch at the same time!

 

 

Music and dancing can work for just about any of these five nifty skills.  dance-alexas fotos pixabay

But the movement and imitation involved in learning a new dance enhances the senses of sight, hearing, and movement.

 

 

magic-cube-domenicblair pixabay

 

Puzzles, both of the magic cube and interlocking type, provide plenty of visual skill enhancement as they demand visual attention, efficient scanning techniques, and visual perceptual skills to complete them.

 

 

 

4.  Posture

Why should we care about posture?

Posture and head positioning play a big role in efficient handwriting.  We’ve all heard the commands “make sure your feet are flat on the floor” and “sit up straight.”  Appropriate table and chair heights are crucial to providing a child with the support he needs to maintain his head up, shoulders back and back straight.  But, if a child is experiencing difficulty keeping a good postural alignment despite having the correct measures in place, then chances are he has weak postural muscles.  But it can be so difficult at times to help children understand the importance of building those muscles and protecting their backs.  The Kids Health Network shares a “posture perfect poster” that helps us to explain this in a “kid-friendly” way.

 

What are some fun posture enhancing activities?

 

Attention paid to the Core Body Muscles is attention well spent!  Exercises, presented in activities such as wheelbarrow walks and races, are fun ways to encourage the strengthening of the postural muscles.  hiking family-pezibear pixabayClimbing, hiking, biking, and even just plain walking enhance balance and coordination while working on the legs, back, trunk, shoulders, and neck muscles.

 

 

 

 

Sports enhance both vision and postural muscles!
Sports enhance both vision and postural muscles!

What you see is what you get when it come to posture.  Vision skills enhance the development of the core body muscles – and the core body muscles enhance the development of vision skills!  So, it is important to incorporate visual attention within the gross motor activities that you choose to enhance postural skills.  Vision-enhanced gross motor activities range from playing fun ball challenges with the younger children to maneuvering a bicycle or scoreboard through an obstacle course with your older guys and gals.

 

5. Practice

Why do we need to practice even in the summer?

In order to learn a skill – any skill, we need to practice it in a functional manner.  If a child is interested in volleyball, then he must eventually get out onto the beach and kick up some sand by the net.  If he’s interested in skiing, he can watch all of the instructional videos, build his core muscle strength, and buy the best equipment.  But, in the end, he will only master the sport by slipping and sliding down the slope.  The same goes for mastering the handwriting skill.  Build the skills and then use them!


 

What are some fun handwriting practice activities?

 

Nothing beats writing a letter to a friend or family member.  Nothing.  elephant mosaic ben kerckx pixabayjpg

Have the children design their own cards with fun art projects and send them off with a message in their own handwriting.

 

 

 

 

To-Do-List_PrintableLists make great handwriting practice activities:  groceries, to-do’s, and people to invite to their birthday party.

 

 

 

 

trip maps

And there’s always the great writing prompts or travel journal.  This is my favorite way to encourage handwriting practice during the summer.

 

 

 

 

I hope I’ve shared some different and exciting ideas for including the Five Nifty Handwriting Helpers in your child’s Summer Fun!

 

As always, thanks for reading!  And I look forward to your comments and feedback.

 

And please return next week to discover some more Summer Handwriting Fun tips from our next Guest Blogger, Becca Klockars, an OT from Providence, RI!  Hope to see you there!

 

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; 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.
 
Summer Handwriting Fun Series #1            Summer Handwriting Fun Series #2
10 Tips for Summer Handwriting Fun
10 Tips for Summer Handwriting Fun
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Spaghetti and Meatball Spacing From Miss Jaime OT
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