5 Easy Fine Motor Warm-ups for Handwriting

Fine-motor exercises that use everything in your pencil case!
Fine-motor exercises that use everything in your pencil case!

Handwriting mastery places a heavy demand on the muscles of the arm, wrist, palm, and fingers.  A pencil may not seem a formidable object, but the ability to manipulate and manage its movements can take its toll on fine-motor muscles.  So, it is a good idea to warm-up the key handwriting muscles with the “Handwriting With Katherine 5-minute Fine-Motor Workout!”  It’s simple and FREE!*

 

 

The Handwriting With Katherine 5-Minute Fine-Motor Workout

 

Before your students pick up their pencils, have them spend one minute on one or more of these easy activities that use the simple tools that they already have in their desks!

 

  1. Textbook Turnovers:
  • Grab a textbook and place it flat on the desk in front of you. Pick it up with two hands, one on each side.
  • Turn it over 5 times by switching hands from one side to the other, first from right to left, then left to right, without placing it back on the desk.
  • Next, hold the book as though you were going to read it, but with your elbows off the desk just a little. Push it out toward the front of the desk and then pull it back toward your body 5 times each way.
  • If your arms get tired, you can rest them on the desk for a bit!

 

  1. Ruler Wigglers:
  • Grab your ruler with one hand at each end.
  • Place your elbows on the desk with the ruler reaching toward the ceiling. Wiggle the ruler back and forth 5 times in each direction.
  • Lift your elbows up and stretch your arms and hands toward the front of the desk. Wiggle the ruler back and forth 5 times here!
  • Stretch your arms up to the ceiling and wiggle again!
  • If your arms or wrists get tired, you can rest for a moment!

 

  1. Eraser Challenges:
  • Grab an eraser or any small object that will fit into the palm of your hand. Place it in your “writer hand” first, with your arm on the table and your palm facing up.
  • Move it around in your hand by using only your fingers and thumb. Try not to drop it on the desk!
  • Switch hands and practice this exercise using your “helper hand.”

 

  1. Finger Flexers:
  • Keep that eraser handy for this exercise. Place it anywhere on your desk.
  • Reach over with your “writer hand” and pick it up using only your thumb, index, and long fingers. Do this 5 times from 5 different places.
  • Do the same thing with your “helper hand.”
  • Next, place the eraser in the palm of your hand and squeeze it with your fingers 5 times. Do this with both hands.
  • Of course, if your fingers need a rest, it’s okay to do that!

 

  1. Push-up Power:
  • Put a piece of notebook paper between your palms and hold it there at chest level.
  • Gently push your hands together and release just a little bit 5 times. Don’t let the paper fall out!
  • With your palms still touching, stretch your arms toward the front of your desk and back 5 times.
  • Now, stretch your arms toward the ceiling and do the same thing!
  • Tired? You can rest for a bit, you know!

 

It only takes 5 minutes, and some laughs, to get the fine-motor muscles in gear for handwriting practice.  These are also good activities to help prepare the arms and hands for any writing project.

 

*Be sure to download my free handout, “Handwriting With Katherine’s 5-Minute Fine-Motor Workout,” for students to take home!

 

Handwriting With Katherine's 5 Easy Fine Motor Warm-ups for Handwriting!
Handwriting With Katherine’s 5 Easy Fine Motor Warm-ups for Handwriting!

 

As always, thanks for joining me here at the Handwriting is Fun! Blog!  I welcome your comments and enjoy your company!

See you next time,

Katherine

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

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; 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.

Vision Skills: Can you see them?

 

Vision Skills: Can You See Them? www.handwritingwithkatherine.com
It is important to protect your child’s vision!

 

The next time you are sitting among a group of children, take a look around and see if you can pick out those who have a vision problem.  Now, setting aside eyesight, as it is only one of the 17 visual skills we use each day, don’t count those wearing glasses.  They are obviously living with a visual issue.  But, what about the others?
 
 
You may be surprised to learn that about 25% of children are experiencing a vision problem, with 11.5% of teenagers living with an undetected or untreated vision issue.   But, when you surveyed the group of children, were you able to tell which of them needed help?  Don’t feel badly.  I wouldn’t be able to pick them out that easily either.  Vision skills can be “invisible” and difficult to detect.  But, if you have just a small bit of information, you can uncover the behaviors that indicate that a vision problem may exit.  These are the “Vision Red Flags.”  And we are going to chat about them right now!

 

FIRST, THE REASONS WHY WE SHOULD CARE ABOUT VISION HEALTH!

 
Simply put, we should discuss vision health because approximately 80% of the learning that a child does occurs through his eyes.
1.  Reading
– plays a key role in learning through the gathering of information.
– requires efficient visual skills to see both near and far clearly, and to switch between the two effectively (e.g., copying from the board).
– demands efficient eye movements to follow a line of print or scan a page for information.
– demands that a reader interpret and accurately process the information he is seeing (visual perceptual skills).
2.  Handwriting

Basic Strokes - Universal Handwriting Program
Basic Strokes – Universal Handwriting Program
– plays a key role in learning through the communication of knowledge and ideas.
– requires efficient visual skills to learn and remember letter and word formations.
– demands accurate spatial awareness to produce a legible product.
– requires good posture to facilitate a fluid handwriting style.
3.  Everyday Activities
– require efficient coordinated eye movements for using our two hands together to tie our shoes or to write in a notebook.
– demand accurate tracking and scanning skills to play sports, video games, or work on the computer.
–  require good visual perceptual skills to help us navigate our environment, drive a car, or ride a bicycle.
– demand good visual attention skills for following a schedule, participating in school and work, or to remember information we have read.
 
Vision skills can work well only if we have taken the time to “see” if they are in good working order.

NEXT, THE WAYS THAT WE CAN SPOT VISION PROBLEMS!

Vision Red Flags Checklist
A free Vision Red Flags Checklist!

 

 

It is simple, really!  Spotting the red flags that indicate the possibility of a vision problem can be done just by watching a child “in action.”  Observe him as he participates in his normal activities:  eating, dressing, reading, writing, and playing.  As you do, note if you observe any of the following behaviors:

 
 
 
Does he:
– stumble or walk into walls as he explores familiar environments?
– appear awkward during running or climbing activities?
– have difficulty with coordinated movement sequences (e.g., Simon Says or playing soccer)?
– walk on his toes frequently?
– have difficulty recognizing right/left, up/down directions (on himself or in games)?
– hold a crayon or pencil awkwardly, at times switching hands?
– apply too much or too little pressure on a coloring or writing tool?
– lean on his hand, rest his head on the desk, or lean in close to his work?
– rub his eyes or forehead or put his hands over his eyes periodically during close work?
– appear to be looking through you or avoiding eye contact during activities he enjoys?
 
Also take a look at his eyes for these movement behaviors:
 – Does one or both of his eyes drift in or out, either consistently or inconsistently?
– Do you observe fast movements of his eyes, either with or without engagement in a movement activity?
– Is there tearing or redness of the eyes?
– Does he demonstrate excessive blinking or squinting?
 
If one or more of these behaviors exist, especially these last movement behaviors, it would be a good idea to have his vision assessed by a developmental optometrist to determine their source.
 
And just so you can record your observations, I’ve included a free download on my website, “Vision Red Flags Checklist,” that can be used by parents, teachers, and caregivers during everyday activities!
 
It is important to note that school vision screenings routinely check children’s distance vision – what we refer to as 20/20 on the eye chart.  This exam is used to refer children for glasses if they complain of blurry far-away vision and/or can’t eye-charts All About Visionsee the board from the back of the room.   For most pediatricians, this is the same situation. 
Children’s vision, to be accurately assessed, should have the attention of a developmental optometrist.
 
For more information about the importance of vision assessments, when your child should receive them, and the free vision assessment available to ALL children ages 6-12 months, please click here:  InfantSee.
 
Well, folks, I hope that this information has helped you to SEE the hidden value of efficient vision skills!
 
As always, thanks for reading!  I look forward to your comments and hope to see you next time!
 
Katherine
 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures above that are the property of the author must provide a link back to this article or her website.

Pictures that provide a link to their source should include the link provided with the photo to give proper credit to their owners.

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.


 

What Do Handwriting and Optical Illusions Have in Common?

sciencebob
   Image Credit:  Science Bob

(previously published November 2013)

Optical illusions fascinate us with the tricks they play on our visual system.  Combinations of angles, contrasts, and geometrical shapes have the power to confuse our brain into thinking that stationary objects are moving and that flat images have 3-D qualities.  The information received through our eyes competes with the data we have stored in our brains in an attempt to make “sense” of what we are viewing.    The past struggles with the present in order to assimilate the information that we are seeing and square it with what we have previously seen.  When the brain has difficulty matching what it knows to be true (or has learned from experience to be true) with what we are looking at, it tends to take on a leadership role in transforming the scene into what it “should be.”  Hence, static and straight lines become moving, curved ones.   Susana Martinez-Conde, Director of the Laboratory of Visual Neuroscience at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, AZ, defines visual illusions as “the dissociation between physical reality and subjective perception of an object or event.”  It appears that when we view an optical illusion, we are experiencing “the ways in which the brain can fail to recreate the physical world.”

eyesThe brain’s re-creation of the physical world begins the day we are born – the first time we set our eyes upon a physical object.  Our first sighting may be blurry and limited to a face, but the information that we obtain from it becomes part of our visual memory.  As newborns, however, we suffer from too many disorganized visual cortex connections, “which must be carefully pruned, based upon visual experience, into crisply defined columns.”  Less is more in the case of our development of fine detail and shape and pattern recognition skills.  Vision skillsranging from color and form perception, to face and object recognition, and to motion and spatial awareness are strongly influenced by “expectations based on past experience.”   Vision is the dominant sense in the acquisition of approximately 75-80% of what we learn and is a powerful force for how we perceive ourselves and the world around us.  It is this very power, however, that can lead the brain to incorrectly “see and respond to the visual world,” as it is drawn into misperceptions while it attempts to match what it knows with what it sees.  While visual perception plays a key role in the misperception of an optical image – resulting in an optical illusion, it also maintains a significant place in the mastery of handwriting skills.  “From the detection of light and dark in the retina, to the abstraction of lines and edges…to the interpretation of objects and their spatial relationships in higher visual areas, each task in visual perception illustrates the efficiency and strength of the human visual system,” and its vital link to handwriting mastery.

In order to appreciate the mystery of optical illusions and their visual perceptual link to handwriting skills, we must begin with the one fundamental necessity for efficient handwriting – automaticity.  Virginia Berninger, in her paper “The ‘Write Stuff’ for Preventing and Treating Disabilities,” identifies handwriting automaticity as “a strong predictor of the quality of composition in normally developing and disabled writers.” Automaticity, in this context, is defined as the ability to correctly produce letters without having to consciously think about them.  When a writer can do this quickly, “memory space is freed up for higher level composing processes, such as what to write about, what to say and how to say it.”  Automaticity does not develop automatically, however.  It is heavily dependent upon guided handwriting instruction and practice.   As a student delves into the world of shapes, letters, and words, he begins to develop the visual perceptual skills that he will need for automatic writing.   The lines, angles, and curves that form letters begin to transform into communication tools in his long-term memory, ready memoryfor retrieval and storage into his short-term visual memory for use in writing quickly, legibly, and creatively.  The writing process from start to finish – from scribbling as a toddler to fluent handwriting skills – is a complex one that involves a myriad of strengths.  Physical, cognitive, and visual skills lay the foundation for automaticity…and the ability to see into the future.

Dr. Mark Changizi, in his book, The Vision Revolution, compares our ability to think about the future with our ability to see the future. Thinking about what will or might happen tomorrow is reflective of words and sentences coursing through our thoughts.  Sometimes we get it right and other times quite wrong.  Dr. Changizi states that, “visual perception is just a special variety of mental processes, one that leads to seeing rather than sentences running through your mind.”  He describes the visual system as one that creates “a perception that represents the way the world should look in the future” and that we must concede that it sometimes will get it wrong.  Optical illusions are an example of a misperception resulting from our brain trying to predict the future.  But he cautions us against worrying that these misperceptions are the result of faulty brain-vision designs.  Instead, he presents his theory that they are “useful fictions” and actually have a purpose in guiding our behavior as we interact with our world (as in the case of “filling in the blanks” when we can only see a portion of a familiar object).  Misperceptions occur when the object or event that we are perceiving “does not compute” with our experience of how that object should look or how the event should play out.  The brain steps in to make it right by rearranging the facts a bit, encouraging a match with a memory byte it has stored from the past.  This makes for great fun with optical illusions; but in the case of handwriting automaticity, “useful fictions” serve a more important function as they guide a writer’s behaviors by “filling in the blanks” for letters and words.

As we are composing or copying written material, we can’t wait around for the brain to figure out what is wrong and to make adjustments.    achesWhen a writer begins to form the letter “H” starting with the first vertical line, he must already KNOW that the next two lines are another vertical and a horizontal link.  As he writes, the information he produces matches his perception of the letter in his stored memory and he can quickly move on to the next letter.  In reverse, if he sees a vertical line with a short horizontal line extending from the middle right side of it, he will quickly form the letter “H” in his mind’s eye, allowing him to read or reproduce it. No matter the font,  an “H” is an “H” according to his visual perception!

In all cases, he is seeing into the future.

Our visual perceptual skills are in a constant state of motion. Neuroscientist Mo Costandi stresses that we do not see the world as it actually is.  Instead, he contends that “our perception of the world is the brain’s best guess at what is actually happening based upon the information it receives through the senses.”   Movement is a key component in learning as it engages the senses, particularly our vision.  As we learn through the experience of our bodies’ movement – from our trunks to our fingers – while they travel through space, we begin to understand how our bodies work and how they interact with the other objects in our environment.  This is vital to our development of directional concepts and spatial awareness.  These are not only critical skills for navigating physically through our lives, but they form the foundation for handwriting mastery.    Movement continues to play a significant role in our perception of the world as we use the skills we have learned.  Dr. Changizi stresses that we cannot “simply sit back and wait for the world to tell us what’s happening.”  Life, indeed, would be passing us by, both figuratively and literally.  Our visual perceptual skills need to be focused and engaged as we anticipate “the next moment and build a completed perception of it by the time it arrives,” moving with the moment – or at least a tenth of a second behind it.  (I suggest you turn to page 134 in Dr. Changizi’s book for this!)   Handwriting mastery – not simply the learning of handwriting – begins when a writer can anticipate the next movement of his hand in the production of letters before he is required to perform it.  Letter recognition, automaticity, and creativity demand that we remain one step ahead of our visual perception, staying clear of misperceptions.

Unlike optical misperceptions, there is no illusion to handwriting mastery – it’s all very visible, indeed. 

handwriting2
(origin unknown)
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

Pictures above that are the property of the author must provide a link back to this article or her website.

Pictures above are the property of the photographers at Pixabay or an outside site.  Their use should include the link provided with the photo to give proper credit to their owners.

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.

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