Pediatric Occupational Therapists often support educators and parents in helping children with handwriting skills. Long before the student sits down at the desk to complete a writing assignment, there are building blocks that serve as a foundation for success:
5 Activities that Benefit Fine Motor Skills
Allow for Tummy Time:
The prone or belly position is an important step in infant/toddler growth and development. As the child learns to push up on elbows and eventually hands in this position, it helps develop good shoulder stability as well as building the arches of the hands, which are used later for strength and precision activities like throwing a ball or writing with a pencil. Even older children can benefit using tunnel or scooter board activities or try the new Surfloor Tiles to bring some sensory fun to tummy time.
Work on Vertical Surfaces:
From pre-school and up, working on vertical surfaces can additionally support the concepts of tummy time. From painting on easels, to writing on wall mounted white boards, this position helps build good neck and shoulder muscles necessary for stability with writing skills as well as visual tracking skills needed for focus and precision.
Build Strong Hand and Finger Muscles:
Although standard early childhood modeling clay is a staple, consider using CanDo Theraputty or Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty to really give student hands a workout. Hide coins or chips in the putty and have children fish them out using pinch and push skills, which help build intrinsic hand muscles needed for fine motor skills like using scissors and squeezing a glue bottle.
Add Visual Tracking Skills: Tracking bubbles, hitting balloons, playing flashlight games and tossing a balloon or beach ball are great for building the eye muscles and helping with visual plane changes which are key to successful copying skills from board, book or tablet.
Vary the Use of Media for Writing and Drawing:
With so much emphasis on technology, it’s important to remember that effective fine motor skills depend on strong tactile (touch) skills. Add more texture and sensory input by practicing letters or designs using Wikki Stix or drawing with the Squiggle Wiggle Pen. As an LCD ewriter, Boogie Boards make a durable alternative and/or as a segue to using smart tablets with writing/drawing apps.
Introduce Helpful Sensory Tools
If wiggles and fidgets are an issue with in seat/on task behavior, adding simple sensory tools like a weighted lap pad which may provide just the right amount of deep touch pressure for calming.
Allow flexible seating options:: Having flexible seating options may help give that just right sensory input each student needs for focus on fine motor skills. The Runtz and Zenergy stools provide the stability base of a stool with the mobility top of a ball that is perfect for students with the wiggles. The Dream Chair provides deep touch pressure input for good spatial boundaries for those students that need extra body support. Be sure to pair this with the Weighted Lap Desk to ensure a cozy and stable option to work on fine motor skills.
More Occupational Therapy Tips & Ideas
To find more helpful tips, tricks, and ideas relating to Occupational Therapy or with a focus on students with special needs, check out the Special Needs category or peruse the hundreds of other blog articles on our site.
April is Occupational Therapy Month! Supporting fine motor skills is only one component of the diverse role OT practitioners play in helping people of all ages in preventing or living better with an injury, illness or disability. For more information visit aota.org.