(Many thanks to my friend and exceptionally talented and knowledgeable colleague Danielle Shulman for this article!! For information about Danielle, or to read more of her tips on improving handwriting skills visit her website at www.writesteps.com – Dr. Deb)
It’s summer time! The kids are at camp, playing with their friends, watching television, using the iPad, etc. As a parent you are probably thinking, this is great, they are happy and enjoying being free from school. However, you may also wonder what are some other activities they can be doing so they can be fresh for their upcoming school year? As an occupational therapist, one of the biggest areas of regression I see over the summer is in the area of handwriting. What can be done to maintain these skills?
Spend time with your child participating in activities that involve using fine motor skills. This will help your child to maintain hand strength for holding a pencil appropriately. It will also help prevent weakening of the muscles in the hand so that a child can write for longer periods of time without hand fatigue. Activities utilizing a pincer grasp are also important (index finger and thumb) because this is used for holding a pencil to write. These activities can include playing a game with your child that entails using their fingers. A few examples are using play doh to make balls, cut in half with scissors or plastic knife, of using a garlic press to make spaghetti. They can also improve/maintain their hand strength by participating in a craft project. This can include peeling stickers, using small stamps, tearing paper, cutting, squeezing glue, coloring, and tracing.
Review letters with your little ones. It’s a great idea to incorporate writing into their summer time activities in some way. Kids can write letters to family members, play hangman, complete crossword puzzles, and match upper and lower case letters. One of my favorite ideas is writing the capital letters on clothespins and matching them to their lower case partner on paper. The child is practicing letter recognition as well as improving their pincer grasp by clipping the letter on the paper. It’s also important to make learning and forming letters fun. Take out a chopstick and write letters in flattened play doh or sand, sky write letters, or write letters in shaving cream with your child’s index finger.
For more ideas, please check out my website at www.writesteps.com.
Danielle Shulman is a pediatric occupational therapist with over 12 years of experience working with children from different backgrounds. Danielle specializes in evaluation and treatment in order to help children improve fine motor skills and handwriting. Danielle works with children on improving hand strength and pencil grasp, handwriting legibility and letter formation, drawing skills, visual perceptual skills, and sensory integration. Danielle also presents at teacher workshops and parent groups to help provide strategies to parents and teachers on improving fine motor skills. When Danielle is not working, she enjoys spending time with her husband, two sons, and the family dog, Waffles.