January 23rd is National Handwriting Day. So pull out a pen and paper and write a letter or color with your child!
For children, handwriting reflects the achievement of many developmental milestones. Just as a child progresses from crawling to standing to walking and develops gross motor skills the same is true as your child develops fine motor skills and builds hand strength. Strong arm and hand muscles are needed for an appropriate pencil grasp and to learn the appropriate amount of pressure to apply when writing and coloring. Over time, a child becomes more coordinated and efficient with each task or milestone conquered.
Here are a few developmental milestones related to fine motor skills and handwriting:
At 2 years old, scribbles, draws simple vertical and horizontal lines
At 3 years old, copies a circle with pencil or crayon
At 4 years old, copies a cross (intersecting lines) and starts to copy a few letters
At 5 years old, copies a square and triangle, draws a line connecting large dots, writes his/her name
A little creativity goes a long way when trying to facilitate curious fine motor play and hand strengthening activities with your young child. Have you tried these activities with your child to build hand strength and encourage handwriting?
Building objects with legos and blocks
Using a play-doh set
Making crafts that use stickers, glue, and scissors
Playing Simon Says Draw. Just like Simon Says, but the leader speaks out phrases like: “Simon says write the letter M.” “Simon says draw a circle.” “Write the number one.”
There are many games that encourage the development of fine motor skills and hand strength. Here are a few games the High Hopes’ occupational therapists use in the clinic:
What should you do if you are concerned about your child’s fine motor and/or handwriting skill development…
Observe your child’s overall development and encourage weight bearing over the hands using animal walks or moving around on a scooter board on one’s tummy, etc.
Encourage your child to play outside on swings, riding toys, throwing and catching a ball, and climbing on monkey bars. All of these activities will build your child’s hand strength.
Talk with your child’s teacher to see if he/she has difficulty with art projects or avoids other fine motor activities or certain equipment during recess.
Consult with your child’s pediatrician and consider an occupational therapy referral.