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?
- Body Awareness;
- Finger, Hand, and Wrist Strength;
- Vision and Sensory Skills;
- Posture; and
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!
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.
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!
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 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!
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, 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?
Just 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.
But the movement and imitation involved in learning a new dance enhances the senses of sight, hearing, and movement.
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.
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. Climbing, hiking, biking, and even just plain walking enhance balance and coordination while working on the legs, back, trunk, shoulders, and neck 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.
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.
Have the children design their own cards with fun art projects and send them off with a message in their own handwriting.
Lists make great handwriting practice activities: groceries, to-do’s, and people to invite to their birthday party.
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!
KatherineKatherine 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