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      Handwriting Basics . . . 

Designed by Lisa Marnell, MS, OTR/L

Occupational Therapist

Click below to learn more about these 5 important skills for Handwriting!


Visual Motor Skills

Visual Motor Skills:


* This term describes a child's ability to use vision to guide his or her hand movements, such as when copying shapes, letters, or numbers.


Basic visual motor skills for the preschooler entails drawing a line to join objects. More advanced examples of this skill involves copying cursive letters accurately. 

* Address visual motor skills through dot to dots, simple mazes, and simple and safe cutting tasks.

Visual Perception

Visual Perception:


This term describes a child's ability to use visual information to make meaning of what he or she sees. When learning letters, a child must be able to recognize letters, recall what a letter looks like and discriminate between the familiar letters such as "b" and "p". 


Barring problems with vision, improving a child's visual perception can be achieved through a variety of activities:

      * Using form boards or magnetic letters, play a recognition game. Starting with a limited number of letters, ask the child  to recognize a letter and then place it in order of the alphabet (for younger children, use the abc's song).

      * Place several letters face-up on the table and ask the child to find a specific letter. Try using stickers that are letters for this game. Then the child can peel the letter off.

      * Place an alphabet strip before the child. Draw part of a letter, such as a circle. Ak the child to find and draw as many letters as he or she can that include this shape.


Fine Motor Skills

Fine Motor Skills:


As fine motor skills mature, three hand characteristics develop. These include:


1- Development of a transverse arch from the thumb side to the pinky side of the hand, giving a curved look to the back of the hand.

2- An "open" web space between the thumb and forefinger is noted when holding objects in the hand.

3- Separation of the two sides of the hand evolves, with the thumb side of the hand developing refined dexterity skills while the pinky side of the hand offers strength and stability.

Difficulty with fine motor skill causes a child to have difficulty with fasteners such as buttons or snaps, poor pencil grip (often holding a pencil in a fisted grip) and an inability to work manipulatives such as stringing beads or joinging lego pieces.


Ideas to improve fine motor skills include the following:

     * Cut or tear paper, construction paper, cardboard, or putty.

     * String small beads to make snakes or necklaces, complete lacing cards.

     * Play with resistive putty to make food (hot dogs, pizza with toppings, pancakes with blueberries).

     * Hide small objects in putty, such as pennies or beans and then try to find them.

     * Pick up small items using tweezers.


Trunk Control

Trunk Control:


To understand the importance of a strong and stable trunk, just think about a fishing rod. Imagine a rod made of rubber. Try casting a line - it simply wouldn't work. With a floppy rod your control of the line and hook would be non-existent.


A child's trunk is like the fishing rod. A strong and steady trunk provides the base of support needed for delicate fine motor tasks like writing.

Improve trunk control with these activities:

     * Animal walks such as crab walk (sit on the floor, put your hands on the floor behind you and then lift your bottom up) or bear walk (put your hands and feet on the floor).

     * Encourage child to perform activities on his tummy on the floor. Try coloring, drawing, playing with lego or blocks. Do not allow him to rest his head on his hands. This is a great way to strengthen back muscles.


Shoulder Stability

Shoulder Stability:


* In order to develop excellent fine motor control, a child must master shoulder stability. This is the ability to hold the shoulder steady during tasks.

Address shoulder stability through the following activities:

     * Wall push-ups, regular push-ups from a knees-on-floor position, chair push-ups.

     * Ball-on-the wall game - using a big, inflatable ball, try to move it on the wall in a certain pattern. 

     * Drawing, writing, coloring, painting on a vertical surface.






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