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!
For 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.
- With my students, I typically begin with a whole body task or activity, something that will get all the muscles and joints working.
- Next, I will try to use an activity that engages the shoulders, and
- then, we will move on to an activity that uses the small muscles of the hand and fingers.
- 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.
-Walk or run. Bonus points for walking the dog!
-Learn Kids’ Yoga.
-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 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.
-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!
-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.
-Use small tongs or tweezers to pick up mini erasers or other small objects.
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.
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?
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Links to the rest of the series:
Stay tuned! Next week, we will begin our Techie Series. Hope to see you then!