Friday, April 15, 2011

A Word about Handwriting

I thought this might be a good time to mention my thoughts on handwriting...since I just did a blog on fine motor/playdough.  I'm a big fan of playdough.  We have a playdough activity out weekly.  I know some programs that use to leave it out daily but I found that the children would lose interest and would eventually not choose that activity.  It's too beneficial not to be used!  So, for our own program, I pull it out once a week...twice at the most and those hands sure get a workout because they are always so excited to see it.  So, why am I a big fan?  Because the children naturally are working those muscles in their hands...strengthening the muscles and  helping them gain dexterity.  Really, that's the first thing that needs to take place before a child is expected to write.  Though we have many different writing tools available we use them mainly for exploration.  Actual "printing" tasks are not planned for a child until they are almost 4.5, or for some children, boys especially, 5 years old.  Of course, if a child shows readiness prior to that I will plan for it because my belief is we help each child take a step forward from where they are at.  I call it individualization and it's one thing I can truly provide in a home-based program because our group is always small.  However, back to handwriting, I've had very few children truly ready for printing prior to 4.5-5 years old.  One common reason for referral to an OT is often pencil grasp.  Often this is because we are expecting children to write with a pencil before they have the strength and dexterity...they develop an inappropriate pencil grasp.  And this brings me back to a comment I made in a past blog and that is...children play differently now a days and adults have higher expectations then in past days.  It doesn't always do well for the children.

Some activities that  helps children develop strength and dexterity:
* rolling playdough into balls.
* crumpling newspaper into balls.   I like to encourage them to do it with one hand.  Wow!  That works the muscles.  Then switch to the non dominant hand!  :-)  Stuff bags and make scarecrows/pumpkins/snowmen/sun etc.  You can even do a lot with lunch bags.  Hmmm...sounds like another post for the future.  Also, how about finger soccer.  Crumble a small piece of paper and then teach them how to flick it back and forth.
* water bottle sprayers or use dish soap/catsup containers for squirt bottles
* dice games
* using tweezers and tongs
* screws and screwdrivers
* eye droppers
* encouraging a child to turn over Memory or flash cards without sliding them to the edge of the playing area.
* stickers and window clings
* finger puppets
* silly putty
* stress balls
* finger push ups---pressing fingertips of each hand together and doing a "push-up".  This is a great activity to teach a child to do when they are "bored" but still have to sit patiently.  Goes along with twiddling thumbs.  :-)
* legos and other manipulative type toys.
* stacking blocks (inch cubes are the best for stacking!)
* allow a child to "play the piano" using their fingers (not whole hands!).  Even teach them a few songs if you wish!
* roll a ball of yarn or roll yarn/thick thread on a spool
* buttons/zippers and etc
* use a manual pencil sharpener (like we had in school!) vs. an electric one.
* use games that have keys to unlock doors or purchase several different types of locks and put into a basket.  Then provide them with the corresponding keys on one ring.
* teach your child how to cup their hands together to roll dice
* add a turkey baster to the tub toys
* pour water back and forth between two same size cups.
* include your child in cooking and baking. Stirring contents in a bowl/pan is a great hand strengthener!
* hammer!  Hammer eggshells, bubblewrap, tees into styrofoam and so on.
* children love pulleys-create a simple on outside for them to explore with.
* use sponges during water play
* crab walks, wheelbarrow (with you holding their legs and they walking on their hands)
* using hole punches
* opening lids on containers/jars
* let them help you carry the groceries in!  Heavy but manageable bags of groceries.
* paint bags- squirt two primary colors of paint inside of a freezer bag and tape shut.  Encourage the child to squish and manipulate the bag until it is one color.  An idea for the fall...but can be varied for any season/theme.  Use permanent marker to draw a pumpkin on the bag.  Then put red and yellow paint in opposite corners and encourage them to make the pumpkin orange.

Aaron was in a program where he came home with a daily coloring sheet or sheets.  Okay.   Every once in awhile...fine.  But come on!  Every day? had a little chat with them...for a couple being that their art "projects" were not about creative art and I wanted to be reassured that they were not considering coloring pages artwork.  It's not.  My apologies to those how might be offended with that very plain comment "it's not!" :-)  Number two, I wanted to know their reasoning behind all the coloring sheets.  Seriously...that was the bulk of what he brought home...and that is not counting all the lovely daily puppets that were colored also.  (Puppets had their place but that's another story.)  I was told that the coloring pages promoted the children's fine motor development.  Okay.  Fine, but they did coloring with their puppets and that is sufficient for "required coloring".  There are so many different types of activities that can be done for fine motor development then coloring sheets.  But many "old-school" and some newer teachers often fall back on using coloring sheets (which can be very redundant for some children) because it's "easy" and does not take time to plan.  Please.  Take the time to plan non coloring activities and provide children with large blank paper the majority of the time and coloring pages/books only occasionally.  Thanks!  :-P

Well, this is getting long but I still have so much more to say!  Oh well, next post.  Have a good day!

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