I'm going to focus on some specific, playful activities with him to help him develop the skills he needs for handwriting. If you aren't quite sure which skills a child needs for handwriting, read my last post.
I've used affiliate links in this post to share some great toys for developing skills necessary for handwriting. You can read more about affiliate links in my policies.
Getting Your Child Ready for Handwriting
Thinking of these areas, I've put together 10 activities that we will work on this year.
1. Sitting on a balance ball- Core strength is one of the biggest players in handwriting. Children develop this through their many hours of play. But, if it doesn't seem to be developing naturally, I little extra help might be needed. Sitting on a balance ball helps engage your child's core muscles. For several short periods a day, take away your child's chair and replace it with a balance ball, or simply spend short intervals practicing with it. In one of my public school classrooms, children were encouraged to bring in balance balls to replace their chairs. This not only helped with core strength, but engaged their bodies so they could more easily pay attention. The whole classroom took on a gumball machine feel!
2. Using stickers- Stickers can be used intentionally to help a child develop skills for handwriting. Peeling the sticker off of its backing can be difficult for children with fine motor skills deficiencies, so practicing this can help. Also, if you encourage your child to cross the mid-line while placing stickers on paper, you've incorporated an entirely different skill. Encourage your child to peel off the sticker with their dominate hand, and then place it on the opposite side of the paper.
3. Play catch- Catch is a simple way to help your child develop visual tracking skills. Your child must "keep an eye on the ball" as it moves closer to them in order to make the catch. Switch it up by using a brightly colored ball, which will be more eye-catching.
4. Tweezer pick up- Using tweezers helps develop the muscles in the hand that so often get tired while handwriting. You can have your child pick up small objects in nature, or small pom poms (for example), and then put them down while crossing their midline. When I was a child, I remember that these sorting bears were about the coolest thing ever! Your child can sort them into the different colored cups using the tweezers.
In the classroom, it usually didn't take more than a few minutes of writing until a child started noticing their aching hand muscles! Handwriting takes stamina, and stamina requires muscles.
5. Play-Doh- Besides being so much fun, Play-Doh also helps fine-tune your child's ability to manipulate objects in their hands, which is the most important fine motor skill they'll need for handwriting. Also, it helps strengthens their hand muscles as they knead and roll it.
Play-Doh is something that I've always loved as a pre-handicraft project for little ones. It gives them the chance to create without the pressure to make something long-lasting and beautiful. We have had several different Play-doh sets over the years, but this frozen treats set and truck set have been our favorites. Of course, individual tubs are fun on their own, and you can even make your own salt dough. I use this recipe from I Heart Naptime.
6. Monkey Bars- My eager-to-write firstborn and my hesitant-to-do-anything-academic second born are different in many ways. But, my eager child was able to do monkey bars at a young age. My more reluctant child has not mastered this skill yet, though he is still young and has plenty of time to learn. I know that correlation is not causation, but I can't help but think there might be a connection.
Moving across monkey bars requires core strength, hand strength, and visual tracking. I am no OT, but I personally think that being able to do monkey bars is helpful preparation for handwriting! Currently, I help hold my son as he does monkey bars, which I think must still be very helpful for him as he bears some of the weight and tracks his hands.
7. Spray bottles- This is probably one of our favorite ways to develop hand muscles and the ability to manipulate objects in the hand! My kids love to spray natural cleaning sprays as we mop together or clean the windows. We also have a set of outdoor spray bottles that are fun in any weather, but especially summer! We spray the sidewalk, wash rocks and other natural objects, and sometimes just spray each other! Our set is similar to these.
8. Drawing or painting on an easel- When the surface is vertical (or almost vertical!) there are many benefits regarding handwriting skills. This article goes into detail about why this is helpful, but the short list is that it allows your child to cross the midline, develops muscles in the hand and arm, and helps improve hand-eye coordination.
9. Digging in dirt- All those hours we spend outdoors have a big purpose! Digging in dirt, a favorite of my two boys, helps little ones develop their grasp and the muscles that control it.
10. Giant rainbow art- On a big sheet of paper, start a rainbow by drawing a big, red arc. Have your child sit in the middle, and while they stay in that spot, complete the rainbow. This allows him or her to rotate through their core, cross the midline, and even practice that pesky pencil grip.