Your child’s handwriting skills will affect his performance in school, beginning as early as preschool. How your child holds his pencil, sits in his chair, and attends to the task of handwriting can affect your child’s ability to feel successful in completing a handwriting task.
4 ways you can promote your child’s handwriting skills before his pencil hits the paper:
- Address his posture: Your child’s posture at the table is directly associated with his fine motor control. He does not just use his hand muscles to write—his core muscles are important too. Make sure that the height of his chair allows for his feet to be placed flat on the floor. Ideally, you want your child to be sitting so that there is a 90° angle at his knees and his hips. This will put his body in a position that supports good handwriting. Sitting on a wedge cushion (move ‘n sit cushion, air-filled cushion) that provides vestibular activation can sometimes help to improve his posture.
- Address his grasp: Your child’s pencil grasp can hinder or support his ability to write neatly. Encourage your child to hold his pencil between the tips of his thumb and pointer finger. The pencil should rest on the side of the tip of his middle finger. Keeping the space between his thumb and pointer finger (the web space) open will ensure that he is utilizing his muscles in the most efficient manner and will reduce fine motor fatigue. Sometimes, utilizing an adaptive grip on his pencil can help him to maintain the grasp with decreased difficulty.
- Address his attention: Your child’s attention can support or detract from his ability to accurately complete a handwriting task. To support his attention, minimize the distractions in the room. Your child’s desk should face an area with minimal visual distractions (ie. a blank wall.) In addition, your child’s homework area should be quiet and well lit. Some children benefit from additional supports, such as completing heavy work (chair push-ups, animal walks, etc.) prior to sitting down at the table, wearing a weighted vest during table-top work, or sitting on a movable chair cushion. Speak with your child’s occupational therapist regarding the option that is best for your child.
- Address his “non-dominant” hand: An important factor in your child’s handwriting that is most often missed is the importance of his “non-dominant” hand in the writing process. Be sure that your child is utilizing his non-writing hand to stabilize his paper. This will improve his accuracy, as well as the legibility of his handwriting. In addition, be sure that your child is not utilizing this “non-writing” hand to prop up his head. This can negatively impact his ability to see his paper, as well as control his pencil.
Many children avoid handwriting tasks because they find it difficult. Making just a few adjustments in these areas can support your child’s success before he even begins, which in turn, will help your child to feel successful. Happy Handwriting!
If your child needs handwriting help, a pediatric occupational therapist can assist with developing these important handwriting skills in your child. Schedule a consultation today.