Handwriting development begins well before a child even picks up a pencil. Handwriting requires hand strength, fine motor coordination, posture and core strength, visual motor integration, hemisphere integration, sensory processing, and pencil grasp. Phew! It’s a tricky skill for kids to master and in my opinion it should not be rushed. Just like reading, we want to lay a solid foundation to prevent future issues.
I’ve worked with so many students (K-5th) that absolutely hated writing because their hand would quickly become fatigued from an inefficient pencil grip. A poor grasp can limit range of motion making it much more difficult for a child. It is SO much easier to help a child develop a correct grasp than it is to try to change it later. We know how hard it can be to break a habit!
Here are some ways we can help our littles develop the skills for a proper pencil grasp:
Build hand strength: tongs, tweezers, clips, squeeze bottles, scissors, hole puncher, snap blocks, sponges, etc.
Individual finger control: finger plays (Where is Thumbkin or 5 Little Monkeys), dot stickers, glue items on a line, string beads, buttons, zippers, finger push activities, etc.
Build tactile tolerance: sensory experiences such as rice bins, sand, drawing in shaving cream, glueing objects, play dough or ooblek, food exploration, etc.
Cross the midline: activities or exercises that require children to reach across the imaginary line down the middle of the body with arms/legs
Do not assume or push hand dominance
A tripod grasp (holding the pencil with the pointer, thumb, and middle finger) is the goal, but there are several variations of pencil grasp you might see (SWIPE ). To encourage a proper grasp from the beginning, try using broken crayons or short golf pencils. .
In addition, remember handwriting posture is key: feet flat on the floor, hips and knees at 90 angle, wrist stable and extended (not bent or hooked). For more information, contact a pediatric occupational therapist. Early intervention can prevent struggle and tears in the elementary years!
I’ll share handwriting tips next
NCLE, Whole Child, Center for Ped. Therapy