TIPS FROM THE OT
Try these easy tricks!
- Little hands do better with little pencils. Having a mature grasp can be hard for small children, but using a small “golf” sized pencil will force them to hold the pencil low and also provides them less room to use a gross grasp. Just sharpen pencils you already have to about 3 inches from tip of eraser.
- Give them some extra sensory input to help them become more aware of their hands. Do clapping activities, tap on desk to rhythm, complete playdoh activities where they pull and push, snapping to rhythm, or even finger games can all help with handwriting if done right before they write.
- When trying to teach the writing of letters, keep the terminology simple with big line, little line, big curve, and little curve. For instance, when writing a B, you could say big line, little curve, little curve as you write the letter. Another example could be D, big line, big curve. Leave off the “tails”. Most of the time the children add these on after the letter is already written causing choppy letters that are usually illegible.
- For letters such as lowercase a, d, g, and q, o, and upper case O, Q, and G teach them about the “magic c” They can start all of these letters by first starting with a c. Remind them not to pick up their pencils after they finish writing the c but to continue until the whole letter is formed. This method is so much easier than the typical ball and stick method and it makes letter formation much smoother and easier to read.
- Dotted tracer sheets seem simple enough, but for kids who have problems identifying where to stop and start letters they really don’t even know yet causes confusion with letter formation. Instead, write the letter completely in light pencil and have them trace that. Also, don’t have children trace letters on their own if they don’t know how to form the letters correctly. Practicing the wrong way over and over will just reinforce poor letter formation.
- Use the “double guidelines” for lines on paper. The bottom line keeps the writing straight and the top line controls the size. The double lines end the problem of line confusion. (Like they say in Handwriting Without Tears…”Trying to follow the typical beginner lined paper is like learning to drive on a four lane freeway- a blue line at the top, a dotted line in the middle, a red line at the bottom, and another blue line below. It is so easy to understand why so many children have difficulty knowing where to write their words.”) E.G. Put lines about an inch apart. Space the next double lines about 3 inches down.
If you have questions about any of the tips above, please don’t hesitate to email me and let me know. Jennifer Coleman, OTR/LOccupational Therapist
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