One of the things that Zach really had to work on throughout his Reception year was his writing. He picked up reading pretty well and the maths came on in leaps and bounds towards the end too. But with his writing, it was the one thing that he struggled with. He would do his letters backwards, he’d write some letters huge and some small, and he didn’t have a great grip on his pencil, so it was all a bit wonky. We tried to help him at home, but getting him to sit down and practise made him not want to do it at all. If you think your child might need a helping hand with getting those hands ready for writing at school, this guest post by my lovely friend Lizzie is just perfect for you 🙂
I’ve got a year until my three year old joins his big brother at school. It’s a terrifying thought because I already know how quickly that year goes.
One of the questions I asked when my eldest went to school was ‘what do they need to know before they get there?’ The answer was ‘nothing’.
Teachers don’t need children to know phonics or maths before they begin reception. They are taught everything from scratch when they start.
Teachers are more interested in life skills. Can they zip up their own coat and put on their shoes? Can they use the toilet by themselves? One of the essential skills they require is the ability to control a pencil.
All these things require decent fine motor skills. Now, both my boys have global developmental delay and hypermobility and their fine motor development is below that of their peers. Their hypermobility – extreme flexibility – means navigating everyday life can be really hard for them.
From building duplo to opening yoghurt pots and even picking small things up off the floor – everything is difficult.
However, building up strength and dexterity in hands and fingers is hugely important for ALL children. Over the years we’ve found ways to make it fun rather than a chore. Here are five fun activities to help your child get ready for writing without even picking up a pencil:
1. Play catch
Did you know that outdoor and gross motor play is vital to developing the fine motor skills needed for writing? Throwing a ball, climbing, hanging, swinging, and dangling from monkey bars or other playground equipment are all great ways of strengthening the upper body and getting it ready for fine motor development.
2. Play with tweezers
The play and learning opportunities with tweezers are immense.
* Pick up penne pasta and drop it into a shampoo bottle
* Lay out coloured bowls and drop objects of the same colour into the bowls. We love mini motors counters from Amazon and there are lots of of different themes in the same range..
* If you’re feeling creative, make a bird’s nest out of an egg box and Pom poms. Cut up a pipe-cleaner into worms and feed the worms to the birds using the tweezers. Make two and make it a race to see who can feed their birds first.
3. Spray gun
According to our occupational therapist, a spray gun or water pistol is one of the best ways of strengthening the finger muscles needed for pencil control. It’s also a fun activity to do in the summer. Have a water fight in the garden or set up a target on the wall and see how many times you can hit it.
4. Screw up newspaper
My three year old loves this game and anything that gets the hand muscles working is brilliant for pre-writing, as these muscles control the movements of the thumb and fingers. Screw up sheets of newspaper and throw them into a waste paper bin target. Big shoulder movements such as throwing also helps those small muscles to work. Tearing newspaper into strips also develops the hand-eye coordination needed for writing.
5. Stress ball
A couple of years ago I found this great stress ball in Sainsbury’s for £2 or £3. When you squeeze it, it produces neon bubbles. We’ve got a pink one and a blue one and my kids love them. The squeezing motion also strengthens the hand muscles and helps control the movements of the thumb and fingers ready for writing. We keep ours in the car for idle hands on both short trips or long journeys.
Lizzie writes over at A Curious Journey, where she helps parents of young children with additional needs get the right support in place so that their daily lives have less stress and more joy. She is also a Yorkshire journalist and mum of two lively boys, age six and three, both of whom have additional needs: developmental delay and hypermobility. Her eldest is awaiting assessment for autism. Lizzie writes about parenting, life, and travel in the hope that her experiences can help others. You can find Lizzie over on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.