There are many things children do through play that prepare their fingers for handwriting. As they reach 3 years old, children are naturally drawn to activities that require them to use both hands, such as building with Duplo’s and Lego’s, rolling Play Dough, and stringing beads. All of these activities begin to develop the small muscles in the fingers required for writing. They also help develop ‘arches’ in the palms of the hands. These arches allow the palms to ‘round,’ allowing the fingertips to be used for holding pencils and crayons. They also require the two sides of the hands – the thumb and index finger side and the last three fingers side – to begin to work separately for tasks like using scissors.
1. Hide small objects in Play Dough for your child to find; this will require the use of fingertips.
2. Play with magnets on the refrigerator. Things on a vertical surface vs. horizontal surface require the hands to work in adifferent way.
3. Play with eye droppers. You can use colored water to drip onto coffee filters. Encouraging your child to try ‘just one drop’ will help increase finger control.
4.Use tongs to pick up small items. Many stores offer plastic chopsticks that are connected at the top, perfect for this activity.
5. Coloring allows children to begin to grade the small muscles in their fingers by the starting and stopping required to ‘stay within the lines.’
6. Legos and Duplos require fingertip use to put them together and help to increase strength by taking them apart.
7. String beads, macaroni, or round cereal such as Cheerios onto strands of string or yarn. Younger children may be more successful starting to string with pipe cleaners.
8. Lite Brites require very small fingertip precision.
9. Begin using card games like Old Maid to challenge fingers to hold multiple cards at one time.
10. Learn how to snap fingers.
These may not be new or different activities to you but maybe you will see your child doing one of these things and realize that there is a functional reason for their play.
If you have a child over 5 years of age who is having difficulty with using a proper grip for writing, the above activities may help develop the muscle strength and manipulation skills to change their grip.