Writing is one of the most complex tasks that humans engage in, involving both motor and critical-thinking skills. It's not surprising that learning to write is a process that takes years to complete. It also happens in order, with each skill building on the last.
Today modern technology has dramatically changed the way we communicate through writing. However, despite the increased use of computers for writing, the skill of handwriting remains important in education, employment and in everyday life. Handwriting with pen and paper still has an important role from early childhood through our adult lives.
Handwriting readiness can be developed by activities to improve children's fine motor control and isolated finger movements.
Activities to promote handwriting readiness:
- Rolling therapy-putty or clay dough between the tip of the thumb and tips of the index and middle fingers. Use modeling clay or Play-Doh to form words. First, make large flashcards with letters of the alphabet or simple words. (Laminate the cards if you can.) Then roll out thin ropes of clay. Ask your child to trace the words or letters on the cards using the ropes of clay. Not only will he learn to recognize words, but playing with the clay will help build the muscles in his fingers and hone the fine motor skills he'll need to write.
- Use sand to "write" words. Help your child make letters and words out of materials like sand, glitter, or cake sprinkles. Cookie dough and pancake batter work too — and you get to eat the results!
- Picking up small objects with tweezers.
- Pinching and sealing a zip lock bag using the thumb opposing each finger while maintaining an open web space.
- Twisting open a small tube of tooth paste with the thumb, index and middle fingers while holding the tube with the ulnar digits.
- Moving a key from the palm to the finger tips of one hand.
- Drawing lines and copying shapes using shaving cream, sand trays or finger paints.
- Drawing lines and shapes to complete a picture story on chalk boards.
- Drawing pictures of people, houses, trees, cars or animals with visual and verbal cues from the practitioner
- Completing simple dot-to-dot pictures and mazes.
Activities to enhance right-left discrimination includes
- Playing/maneuvering through obstacles and focusing on the concept of twining right or left
- Connecting dots at the chalkboard with left to right strokes.
Activities to Improve children's orientation to printed language:
- Labeling children's drawings based on the child's description
- Having children make their own books on specific topics such as favorite foods, special places etc.
- Labeling common objects in the therapy room.
- Look at pictures together in magazines, catalogs, or storybooks. Ask your child to tell you what he thinks the people are doing or thinking, and write down what he says as a caption. Or ask him to narrate a conversation he thinks two people may be having.