It is said that there has been a dramatic rise in the level of children starting school unable to hold a pencil which is linked to the overuse of touch screen devices. Their fine motor skills are virtually non existent which makes holding a pencil and ultimately writing words and drawing pictures hard and painful. This, no doubt, leads to them not wanting to write and so the cycle continues.
A great way to improve writing is by getting the hands and fingers moving and building up those muscles.
Here are a few ideas that do just that:
Play dough, clay, salt dough, anything that can be squished and rolled and holds a shape but is mailable is a great way for little hands to get stronger. It is also open ended and can be themed, coloured, scented, anything can be stuck into it…
My children love sharpening pencils! They noticed the pot of coloured pencils needed sharpening and they sat there for ages twisting each pencil round and round. As an activity it is great for improving wrist strength and there is an obvious result as well which some children like and need.
Cooking and baking
In this photo Alice is rubbing flour and butter together to make Dorset apple cake. We cook together at least once a week but more likely three or four. Kneading bread, rubbing in flour and butter, grating, rolling out biscuit dough are all great for getting those hands, wrists and fingers moving and also there is a yummy result at the end!
Threading beads onto string (or anything with a hole all the way through- think penne pasta) is great for fine motor control. It can be frustrating if the child finds it difficult though. I’ve found modelling the threading and creating necklaces or snakes, for example, helps to engage the more reluctant.
You can get or make yourself, pictures that require outlining with laces. We use this simple wooden board to weave laces in and out.
These tweezers build up hand strength and control. A large tweezer is a good material to invest in (they are not particularly expensive) and can be incorporated into different activities to make them have a more fine motor focus. You may have seen in a few posts back, of Alice using them to move pine cones into an egg tray. She could have moved them with her hands but the tweezers gave it a level of difficulty whilst building up her fine motor skills.
As you can see there are so many different ways in which to build up hand strength and ultimately pencil control. These are by no means exhaustive, a few simple ones to do at home easily.