https://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Blog-Handwriting-FeaturedImage.png186183Kimberly Reidhttps://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngKimberly Reid2017-07-12 10:26:482017-07-12 10:26:484 Fun Ways to Practice Handwriting
As babies grow and develop certain milestones are often celebrated, such as rolling, sitting, crawling, and walking. As a pediatric occupational therapist, one of the milestones I always celebrate might not be visible to the untrained eye. Crossing midline, defined as the ability to reach across the body’s invisible midline with your arms or legs to perform tasks on the opposite side of the body, is a required skill for many higher level coordination activities.
This skill typically develops around 18 months of age. Oftentimes when children are referred for occupational therapy due to poor fine motor skills, handwriting, or coordination, they are not crossing midline efficiently.
Some ways to observe whether or not your child is crossing midline efficiently include:
Watching to see if your child switches hands during drawing tasks. Do they switch from left hand to right hand to avoid their arm crossing over when drawing lines across paper?
Evaluating hand dominance: by age 6, children should have developed a hand dominance. Children with poor midline integration may not yet have developed a hand dominance.
Tracking an object across midline: this can be observed during reading, as decreased midline integration can lead to poor ocular motor skill development required for scanning.
Observing ball skills: children who are not yet crossing midline may have a difficult time crossing their dominant leg over their non-dominant leg to kick a ball forward.
Assessing self-care skills: putting on socks, shoes, and belts may be extremely difficult as these are activities that require one hand to cross over to assist the other in the process.
Children who have difficulty crossing midline may not be able to keep up with their peers, which may cause increased frustration during participation at school and in social situations. In addition, crossing midline is a required skill needed in order to complete more challenging bilateral coordination activities, such as cutting with scissors, using a fork and knife to cut food, tying shoe laces, writing out the alphabet, and engaging in sports.
https://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Blog-Crossing-Midline-FeaturedImage.png186183Mary Kate Mulryhttps://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngMary Kate Mulry2017-01-27 12:02:512017-01-27 12:02:51Why Crossing Midline is Important for Development
There are various factors that have an influence on a child’s pencil grasp. In addition to addressing a child’s physical attributes, the environment and tools used can also impact a pencil grasp.
Below are several strategies to assist in the development of an appropriate pencil grasp:
Increase Core Strength & Postural Control
Having a strong base of support can lead to more refined and controlled movements in the hands and fingers. Encourage play and activities on the ground, belly side down and propped up on the elbows and forearms. You can also incorporate animal walks, wheelbarrow walks, and kid friendly yoga poses throughout the day.
During writing activities, set up the child to promote an appropriate pencil grasp. Make sure that the child is seated at a table with his or her feet flat on the ground and that the ankles, knees, and hips are at a 90 degree angle.
Vertical & Slanted Surfaces
Encourage appropriate wrist alignment and grasp by having the child draw on vertical or slanted surfaces.
Various strengthening activities can be implemented to increase the strength in the muscles of the hands.
Playdough, putty, clay: roll, pinch, flatten, make shapes with cookie cutters
Rip paper or tear and crumple tissue paper to make a craft with the pieces
Use an eye dropper and food-colored water to decorate a coffee filter
Pop bubble wrap
Use a spray bottle to water plants or form letters on the sidewalk
Have the child use short writing tools to promote increased control. Break crayons or chalk so they are approximately 1-2 inches long or use golf pencils.
Separate the Two Sides of the Hand
The fingers on the thumb side of the hand should be utilized for holding and moving the pencil. The fingers on the pinky side of the hand (pinky finger and ring finger) should be tucked in against the palm and utilized for stability and control. To encourage this separation of the two sides of the hand, tuck a small object in the pinky and ring fingers during writing activities. For example, have the child tuck a small pompom, eraser, button, or cotton ball on the pinky side of the hand.
Both parents and teachers can incorporate the listed strategies within a child’s day to develop an effective pencil grasp and in turn help increase handwriting skills, confidence, and self-esteem.
https://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Blog-Pencil-Grasp-FeaturedImage.png186183Sima Rashidianfarhttps://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngSima Rashidianfar2016-09-22 05:30:052016-09-16 12:37:04How to Help Improve a Child's Pencil Grasp
Handwriting is a very important skill that can affect a child’s ability to learn, keep up with class, and ultimately express themselves. However, learning and honing that skill can be a stressful experience, for students and teachers alike. There are many factors that affect this (assumedly simple) skill of writing. The position of the paper, chair, and desk along with the paper and pencil used all can positively (or negatively!) affect a student’s writing. Below are suggestions to help make children of all ages beautifully legible writers!
Handwriting for Students Ages 5-6:
Make it a (fun!) multi-sensory experience: Learning letters can be difficult (how to form them, which direction they face). Help children learn with more than just their eyes by practicing letters in shaving cream, sand trays, gel-filled bags, Play-Doh, and Wikki Stix. Using songs can help as well!
Teach uppercase letters: Children’s brains at this point are made for learning how to draw shapes, followed by uppercase letters. If children learn lowercase too soon, they may be forming them inefficiently, which could affect their legibility and speed later on.
Check formation: Formation of letters (i.e. where to start and stop writing letters) is important for efficiency, especially when kids will be learning lowercase letters in the near future. Imitating the teacher writing a letter a certain way is also a great visual motor integration activity that is good for their sequencing of movements and attention to task.
Use thick utensils (ages 5 and younger): Pencils can be difficult for these young ones to hold on to without an adaptive gripper, so give them the thick markers and crayons to help develop those hand and finger muscles needed for holding pencils when they get a little older.
Handwriting for Students Ages 6+:
Use a writing checklist: This can be a list you and your students make for what to remember when writing (e.g. capital letter at the beginning of a sentence and names, punctuation, are my letters on the line? etc). This is a great tool to help students self-monitor their writing and know what is expected.
90-90-90: This refers to the ever-important 90 degree angles of the ankles, knees, and hips. Make sure your students are able to sit at their desks in this position, so they have the right amount of proximal stability to allow their arm and hand do he intricate fine motor movements required for writing at the end of their pencil.
Check the position of the paper: For right-handed students, make sure the paper is tilted slightly up to the right, and the opposite goes for left-handed writers. This gives kids the optimal angle for their arm and wrist for writing smoothly. Also make sure they are stabilizing the paper with their non-writing hand.
Type of paper: Some students may have difficulties with visual-motor integration or visual perception, which could make writing on standard wide-ruled or journal paper difficult. If the student’s spacing between words and/or sizing of letters are poor, try having them skip lines or give them triple-lined paper (with the dotted line in the middle) to help with overall legibility.
Grasp (ages 5-7): Children ages 5 and up are expected to use a dynamic tripod grasp on their writing utensils (pads of the thumb and index finger on the pencil, pencil resting on the last knuckle of the middle finger). If your students have something other than this that seems to be affecting their writing and they are 7 or younger, it is not too late to change their grasp to help with legibility. Using a pencil gripper or a referral to an occupational therapist might be warranted.
Environment: Help make the environment conducive for writing by limiting distractions. This could be anything from helping a visually distracted student move to a desk that faces a blank wall, or allowing a student block out auditory distractions use noise-canceling headphones. Give a particularly wiggly student a structured movement break during long writing assignments (e.g. at 1:10 you can go get a drink of water).
https://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/handwritingfeatured.png186183Kimberly Reidhttps://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngKimberly Reid2016-01-04 05:39:292015-12-31 12:40:54A Teacher’s Guide To Helping Students Of All Ages With Handwriting
As a pediatric occupational therapist, I receive a lot of questions inquiring about children’s pencil grasps from parents, teachers, and other professionals. According to Tseng (1998), pencil grip development follows a predictable progression of skill that evolves as the child ages and matures. However, this does not always occur, as some children experience great difficulty maintaining an appropriate pencil hold on their writing utensil. Past research suggests the ability to hold utensils or writing tools is one of six prerequisite skills children need before handwriting instruction should begin. There are several pencil grips that are considered efficient and mature, including the gold standard dynamic tripod pencil grasp, the lateral tripod grasp, the dynamic quadrupod grasp, and the lateral quadrupod grasp (Schwellnus et al., 2013). However, there are some pencil grasps that are considered age-appropriate, but only up until a certain age. Read below for pictures and a detailed description of different types of efficient pencil grasps.
Dynamic Tripod Marker Grasp- This grip is considered age appropriate for all children beginning
between the ages of 4 to 6 and a half. A dynamic tripod marker grasp uses the index and middle finger to hold the pencil. It requires the thumb to be placed in opposition, with an open web space, as pictured. This is considered the gold standard grasp, as it utilizes intrinsic muscles of the hand to control the pencil. An open web space allows for the writer to have more precision and control over their utensil. In addition, it places less fatigue on the joints, and allows for the writer to write for longer periods of time without fatigue, as compared to some of the other functional grasps.
Dynamic Quadrupod Grasp– This grip is also considered age appropriate for all children beginning
around ages 4-6.5. It is similar to the dynamic tripod grasp, except for the fact that it enlists the ring finger to help support the writing utensil, thereby eliminating the extra support the ring finger would give if it were resting on the table, as in the dynamic tripod grip.
Lateral Tripod Grasp– This grasp is considered an efficient pencil grasp in which the thumb is adducted (pushed closer to the index finger) and lacking the web space described above. In addition, this grasp requires the wrist to maintain its position in more extension as compared to the dynamic grasps. Research shows that this grip tends to contribute to premature fatigue, as compared to the dynamic tripod marker grasp due to the fact that it “restricts the pencil’s movement, eliminates thumb opposition, and compromises balance” (Schwellnus, et al., 2013).
Lateral Quadrupod Grasp– This grasp is also considered an efficient pencil grasp. It is similar to the lateral tripod grasp described above, however also incorporates the ring finger to grasp the pencil, thereby eliminating the support it would give if it were resting on the table, as in the dynamic tripod grip.
These grasps are important to be able to recognize because they allow the hand to rest in an anatomically correct position, place less stress on the joints and ligaments, and are using the intrinsic muscles of the hand to support the pencil for writing tasks. When a pencil grasp is inefficient (i.e. a static tripod marker grasp), the student is relying on the proximal muscles of the elbow and shoulders to control the pencil which can cause the child to fatigue quickly, and may also result in decreased handwriting legibility.
 Tseng, M.H. (1998). Development of pencil grip position in preschool children. Occupational Therapy Journal of Research, 18, 207-224.
 Schneck, C., & Amundson, S. (2010). Prewriting and Handwriting Skills. In Occupational Therapy for Children (6th ed., pp. 555-580). Maryland Heights: Mosby Elsevier.
 Schwellnus, H., Carnahan, H., Kushki, A., Polatajko, H., Missiuna, C., & Chau, T. (2013). Writing forces associated with four pencil grasp patterns in grade 4 children. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 67, 218–227. http://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2013.005538
https://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/pencil-grasp-featured.png186183Mary Kate Mulryhttps://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngMary Kate Mulry2015-12-01 06:18:212015-11-28 14:20:06Evaluating Effective Pencil Grasps
In this day and age, there really is an app for everything! So why not use technology for educational purposes, especially for the fine motor skill of handwriting? Believe it or not, handwriting development begins as early as 12 months of age, as your child begins to first scribble with markers or crayons. Further development of handwriting occurs with an emphasis on fine motor control and precision, along with the development of a functional pencil grasp. With advances in technology, there are now fun, interactive methods to promote handwriting skills. The letters are presented to children with various colors, sounds, animals, and even rewards. Remember, apps are a great supplement to handwriting, but be sure to keep using a multi-sensory approach. Read on for four current Handwriting apps used by your occupational therapist.
Occupational Therapist Approved Handwriting Apps:
Ready to Print
$7.99 google play store
$9.99 iTunes store
A fine motor app created by an OT. The app assists in the development of fine motor skills, including fine motor precision, visual motor tracking skills, visual-perceptual skills and fine motor skills. The app progresses through activities that develop handwriting, including tracing, drawing paths, developing pinch, matching connecting dots, and ultimately writing upper and lower case letters! A great app for building skills that lead to handwriting.
Free demo google play store
$4.99 iTunes store
A colorful, customizable letter tracing app! The app provides children with a multisensory approach, using colors and sound effects throughout the tasks. It also provides your child with a reward system for completing each letter. The app itself also allows for extended customization, allowing you to enter words or even names for your child to trace.
Touch and Write
$2.99 iTunes store
Help the monster eat his cupcakes! The tracing app provides your child develop letter formation skills by controlling his fine motor movements. The app asks that your child stay within the boundaries of the guided path, moving the monster with their finger to collect the cupcakes along the correct path. Trace upper and lower case letter in consecutive order, numbers, and words.
Handwriting Without Tears: Wet-Dry-Try Suite for Capitals, Numbers, and Lowercase
$6.99 iTunes store
The well-known academic writing protocol became an app. The app follows HWT structure, teaching your child to start his letters at the top and write them fluidly. You can follow the app through the traditional sequence of letters in the HWT program in which letters are taught by similarity in formation, or complete letter learning in sequential order. This is a great app if your child is already learning the program and would like more practice or for a new writer having a little bit of difficulty.
https://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/BlogGraphics-FeaturedImage.png186183Monal Patelhttps://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngMonal Patel2015-03-08 16:16:452015-03-08 16:16:45Handwriting: There's An App For That!
Our children use their fine motor skills countless times throughout the day. Anything from picking up the small pieces of cereal that fell to the floor during breakfast, to writing their name at the top of homework, to strumming the strings during guitar class, to painting a Picasso masterpiece incorporate different fine motor skills. Below is list of fine motor milestones to make sure that your child is up to speed with their skills:
12-18 months: Children should typically be able to imitate spontaneous scribbles on a piece of paper with a thick marker.
19-24 months: Children should typically be able to imitate vertical strokes, horizontal strokes, and circles on a piece of paper.
2 ½ – 3 years: Children should typically be able to accurately copy vertical lines, horizontal lines, and circles.
4-5 years: Children should typically be able to copy a cross, square, triangle and ‘x.’ This is also the age to begin practicing the formation of the letters in your child’s name.
5 years: Children should typically have their hand dominance established for fine motor activities.
6 years: Typically, children should be able to copy or write their name. By 6 years of age, they should also be able to write the alphabet without omitting letters. Children should be able to write the alphabet in uppercase and lowercase letters without switching forms throughout.
7 years: Children should no longer reverse the letters of the alphabet while writing (example: ‘b’ versus ‘d’). They should also use appropriate capital letters and punctuation to write complete sentences.
Children develop their fine motor skills at different rates. If your child is delayed, it is not necessarily cause for concern but an occupational therapy evaluation may be warranted. Try to incorporate hand strengthening activities into your day to day routine (examples: swinging on monkey bars, coloring, playing in play dough) and offer your child a lot of praise for any attempts at novel or challenging fine motor activities.
https://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/child-writing.jpg338507Lindsey Moyerhttps://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngLindsey Moyer2014-05-01 12:51:152014-05-01 12:52:21Developmental Milestones for Pre-Writing and Writing Skills
Writing disorders can make every day school tasks like taking notes, writing assignments into a planner, and completing written work very challenging for students. Nonetheless, this does not mean that it should hold a child back from learning to be a great writer. There are many resources available to help assist students become proficient writers and the following is a list that children and adolescents in our clinic have found helpful:
Assistive Technology Devices that may be available in your child’s school:
Focus on one writing skill at a time until the child masters it
Encourage free writing about your child’s favorite topic
Help them talk out key points to cover and reinforce the organization format taught in school
If legibility of writing is a concern, a trial of Occupational Therapy can help with fine motor control and coordination.
Writing is a vital skill that should never be out of reach for any child. For additional strategies, please visit: http://www.ldonline.org. For information about your child’s rights and standards in public education, please visit: Idea.ed.gov.
https://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.png00Megan Pearsonhttps://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngMegan Pearson2014-03-21 12:23:592014-06-23 12:11:59Strategies and Resources for Your Child's Writing Disorder
It’s that special time of the year again. Bags of candy and cards adorned with hearts and kind messages line the aisles of our local grocery and convenient stores. Our kids wait with great anticipation for their classroom Valentine’s Day parties when they are allowed to pass out and receive cards; play games, and eat delicious sugar-filled treats. While this time of the year can be difficulty to enjoy as we’re trudging through the snow covered streets, try to take time to enjoy the season and help your child to spruce up her fine motor skills!
5 ways to turn Valentine’s Day into a platform for improving fine motor skills:
Cutting: This year, instead of buying pre-made cards from the grocery store, help your children cut their own cards from their favorite colored construction paper. For the younger kids, cutting straight lines for a square or cutting across a piece of paper to create smaller squares is the first place to start. For kiddos who are older (4 ½- 6), try to encourage them to cut simple shapes including circles or hearts. If your child is up for the challenge, encourage her to cut out the shape using a hole-puncher. The resistance that the hole puncher provides and repetitive motion to cut the entire shape will surely improve your child’s hand strength. Cutting is an excellent way to improve hand strength, bilateral coordination, visual motor skills, and fine motor planning.
Writing Name: Making Valentines cards is an excellent way for your child to practice writing her name. Practice and repetition is key in building new foundational skills. What a better way to provide repetition than asking your child to sign a card for all of her classmates? If a child needs more help, try to show her how you would write her name, letter by letter, on a separate piece of paper. In your child’s handwriting skills are advanced, encourage her to write a short message to her best friends. The more she practices, the better her handwriting will become!
Gluing: Gluing is another way to promote fine motor skills and hand strength. If your child chooses to use a glue stick, encourage her to use her dominant hand with the same grasp pattern that she uses for writing and coloring activities with her pencils and markers.
Stickers and Stamps: Placing stickers on cards can also help your child to improve her fine motor control. Bending and manipulating a sheet in order to peel the desired sticker from the page and manipulating the sticker to place it on her Valentine takes a lot of patience, bilateral coordination, and fine motor planning.
Folding: Folding is a very challenging activity for a lot of kiddos. Practicing manipulating paper so that the sides match up while folding and stabilizing the two ends together to create a crease in the middle of the paper requires a lot of visual and fine motor planning.
Valentine’s Day, as with many other holidays, affords children an opportunity to practice their fine motor skills. There should not be any limits to their creativity in making cards for their friends. Encourage them to practice new and emerging fine motor skills this season as they’re creating their cards!
https://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.png00Lindsey Moyerhttps://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngLindsey Moyer2014-02-12 10:32:122014-06-02 22:40:065 Ways to Improve Fine Motor Skills with Valentines
Whether you are shopping for a baby, a preschooler, or a pre-teen this season, there are an array of toys to work on kids’ dexterity, upper extremity coordination, and fine motor development. Certain activities that your children take part in during the day may be working their hand-eye coordination and visual-motor skills without you even realizing it.
Between puzzles, arts and crafts, and board games, below are some recommendations for things to look for when shopping for your growing explorer.
Games that promote fine motor skills:
Puzzles are a great way to promote cognitive enhancement and fine motor development during each stage of a child’s growth. For younger kids, puzzles don’t just come with larger pieces. There are many puzzles with handles or pegs on each piece so they can work on pinch, grasp, or grip. Some classic toys for babies, such as ring stacking and shape sorting games, are great for learning how pieces fit together and for working on visual-motor integration and visual perceptual skills. Though it might not look like a typical puzzle, Mr. Potato Head is also a game that encourages fine motor skills. Read more →
https://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.png00Judy Wang, PT, DPThttps://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngJudy Wang, PT, DPT2013-12-02 10:55:342014-04-20 06:54:08Toys to Promote Fine Motor Skills in Children of All Ages