A wonderful post below from the folks at sensorysmartparent.com

School occupational therapists (OTs) often work with children on fine motor delays and other difficulties that contribute to poor handwriting. All of us are handwriting less often, and technology is offering new ways to translate words to a page or screen. As a result, fewer children have enough time to practice handwriting to the degree that they can print fluently much less have legible cursive writing. While handwriting challenges for your child may be less of a problem as technology advances, we will always need to jot notes and have unique cursive signatures to prevent identity theft. Children who have fine motor delays and handwriting difficulties due to sensory issues may well need more handwriting help.


A child with poor fine motor skills in toddlerhood often will develop handwriting issues. If you see signs of poor fine motor skills such as difficulty buttoning or using snaps, doing puzzles, or using eating utensils, ask for an evaluation from your state’s Early Intervention program (which may be called a Birth to Three or 0 to 3 program) or the school district. This evaluation will be done by an occupational therapist (OT). If your child is over age 3, or school age, contact your local school district if you have concerns about pre-handwriting skills. Put your request in writing and send it by certified mail, and follow up! You can also hire a private OT to help your child with handwriting and fine-motor skills.


Meanwhile, at home, you can provide fun, low-pressure activities that challenge your child to develop not just fine motor skills but hand/eye coordination and good posture to help them handwrite at length. Remember, your goal is a “just right” challenge where you push your child enough to help her develop skills but not so much that she becomes anxious, overwhelmed, and resistant. Try different activities, be encouraging, and sit next to your child working with him (did you forget how much fun it can be to color or do mazes?).


Use a variety of writing tools and grips. Kids with sensory issues often find it easier to write with a writing utensil you might not naturally choose for them. They might prefer a very thick crayon, for example, or a pen or pencil with a soft grip, or a textured pen casing. Offer plenty of choices, including thin and thick paint brushes. An OT can advise you on whether your child has a good grip and show you which soft rubber grips can be used to correct the wrong finger grip (the wrong grip can lead to hand cramping when he starts doing more handwriting, at length).


Offer a variety of coloring and drawing options. Writing words is a different skill from coloring or drawing, using different parts of the brain, but the fine motor skills developed from coloring or drawing can help make it easier to master handwriting. Provide simple, then more complicated, mazes or connect-the-dot puzzles to complete. Offer coloring books with both large and small spaces to color in. Offer him scratch paper to draw on and encourage him to copy simple shapes. Provide “how to draw” books for kids who resist drawing and encourage cartooning. Being able to draw the basic shape of a beloved cartoon character can build confidence in using a pen or pencil.


Break away from paper and pencil. Many kids with sensory issues have difficulty with adjusting the amount of pressure to write on paper with a pen or pencil and can become frustrated. Practice fine motor and handwriting skills by having them write with a stick in wet sand, with a finger in a tray of shaving cream, fingerpaint on fingerpainting paper or a shower wall, or with chalk on a sidewalk. Provide a chalkboard at their height where they can write with thin or thick chalk pieces. Make it fun—write little notes to each other. If you place the chalkboard on a wall or easel, it will help your child to build handwriting muscles.


Do arts and crafts projects. Gluing and cutting may be a challenge for her, but the fun of carefully arranging small items (such as eyes on a hand puppet) and anticipating the final product (have a sample or a picture of the completed craft for her to view) may inspire a sensory child to push through these challenges. Start small and build to more complex projects.


Do lacing, beading, macrame, knitting, crocheting, or embroidery together. These projects can be simple or complex and involve larger items (such as big wooden beads and shoestrings) or small ones (such as embroidery needles). Some children may need hand-over-hand instruction. Again, start small. If your child resists completely, find a simpler project to work.


Play card games with your child. Simple games that don’t require the child to hold too many cards in her hand in a “fan” fashion are a good start, then work up to teaching her how to hold cards, shuffle them, and deal. Apples to Apples and Uno are fun card games that family members of different ages can all participate. Traditional card games such as gin rummy are also a terrific way to promote interaction between kids and grandparents.


Have your child play fine motor games or use toys that require fine motor skills. Operation, Don’t Break the Ice, Ants in the Pants, Mr. Potato Head, Lite Brite, and other games offer fun ways to build fine motor skills. You can also make up games using chopsticks, tweezers, or jointed plastic tons such as Zoo Stix: have the child use these to pick up pieces of cereal, candy, or small toys. Legos and other building toys are excellent for developing fine motor skills. Jigsaw puzzles and 3D puzzles will especially appeal to children who are visual learners and provide excellent opportunities to build fine motor skills.


Teach your child the basics of playing an instrument. You don’t have to have great piano skills or guitar skills to play simple chords or melodies. If you know how to play, or can find a music teacher willing to keep lessons simple and fun, your child who enjoys music may push herself to develop fine motor skills by plucking out a melody or holding down piano keys or guitar strings to form a chord. Other instruments can build fine motor skills as well, but keyboards and guitars are often available in social situations.


Remember that it takes time to build fine motor skills, and to keep your child motivated, you may have to mix up activities. Try a variety of approaches and be sure to check with a sensory smart OT as handwriting demands increase or if you feel your child is developmentally delayed.


For a list of fine motor benchmarks, see the Dealing with Developmental Delays chapter in Raising a Sensory Smart Child.




Check it out!


You can find fine motor toys and products on the sensory smart parent website at: http://sensorysmartparent.com/TE-finemotor.html

Occupational therapists help children at home and at school with fine motor difficulties and other challenges. You can learn more about OTs on the sensory smart parent website at:http://www.sensorysmartparent.com/SSOThelp.html

Did you forget how to play those card games of your childhood? No worries! Check http://www.pagat.com to brush up on the rules!

Applications that can help with fine motor skills include Cut the Rope, Dexteria, and Dots for Tots.