If your child is in LKG or UKG what are the two most common topics your child’s teacher discusses with you? The first is your child’s ability to stay seated in class, and a close second is your child’s ‘handwriting’.
Parents take great pride in their child’s handwriting. In fact, many Indian parents even use it as a basis to proclaim their child’s ‘high intelligence’. It is easy for parents to recognize a child’s progress because handwriting is such a visible marker of growth.
Students in LKG and UKG typically spend more time learning letter formation while those in higher classes focus on the flow or speed of writing. When students write legibly and fast, they are free to concentrate on the subject matter and complete their classwork on time. Homework is less of a challenge as the child won’t be bored or tired of writing for extended periods of time.
There is another reason to work on children’s handwriting skills. When writing is legible, it is easier for teachers to read the written work. Considering that student assessment in the Indian educational system is still heavily based on written examinations learning to write legibly and with speed is essential for the student’s academic success.
Developing good handwriting skills has to do with motor development and integration. Some children may struggle to write due to developmental reasons quite often it is because they have had very minimal time working with their hands in play before they start formal schooling.
Many children bridge the gap with repetition and a few individualized steps. Unfortunately, teachers in our Indian schools are unable to provide extensive practice due to time constraints imposed by the intensity of ‘portions’.
In this context, parents play a vital role in giving young children opportunities to develop their fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination, and with letter formation.
In the following posts, parents and teachers share simple and easy activities that you can do to develop your child’s fine motor coordination skills, eye hand coordination and letter formation.
Preparing for Handwriting Practice
Your child has just come home after an active day at school, and you want him to practice handwriting. How should you go about it?
Engage in active physical play
Children should have time to engage in active physical play after a busy day at school. While overall physical activity improves your child’s ability to attend and stay on task, the other significant benefit is the strengthening of core (trunk) muscles. Children need good trunk stability to stay seated and do activities at their desk, including writing. If you don’t have a playground or park near you, try other activities at home. Wrestling, picking up heavy objects and dancing to their favourite Bollywood songs or nursery rhymes are fun ways to ‘wake up’ their bodies. Try movement games where kids crawl through an obstacle course or move on their hands and legs.
Remember, watching TV is not a substitute for active play.
Set aside 15-20 minutes of handwriting practice every day. Begin with finger plays and games for crossing the midline. Children spend a lot of time sitting, attending and writing at school. It is unrealistic to expect them to sit in one place to practice handwriting for 40-60 minutes after a busy school day They will tire quickly and writing practice will be a struggle.
Use a slant board
In many homes, children sit on the floor and bend over as they write. Imagine you had to sit like that and write or do other work. You would be extremely uncomfortable in the least. How will children pay attention to letter formation, spellings or content when they are unable to maintain a comfortable posture?
If space is a constraint then how about a traditional Indian writing desk? It takes up much less space than a regular writing table. Do you remember those ‘Kanakku Pillai’ desks where the writing surface is at an incline? That’s an example of a slant board. You can get a simple one made by your local carpenter, or you can buy an acrylic slant board. A simpler version is to use a three ring binder and some tape or clip.
Paint or write on a vertical surface
Tape some newspaper to cover the wall space and tape drawing or writing paper on the newspaper. Now set up painting, drawing or writing activities. The newspaper wil protect your walls from the scribbles and paints.
Children develop better control of their hand movements and extend their wrists (bend their wrist slightly to the back) when they work in the upright position.
Your home is a treasure trove of materials that your child can manipulate and explore. The following posts will give you some ideas on how you can engage your preschooler or kindergartener, and improve his fine motor skills using easily available materials.
Fine Motor Skills and Household Chores
Young children love to show how independent and grown up they are as they help you with chores around the home. These everyday tasks offer an additional benefit in a child’s development.
Household chores can help children develop good postural control as they lift, pull and push heavy objects, develop eye-hand coordination as they fold towels and clip clothes on the drying rack, and fine motor skills as they put away their toys and wipe the table after dinner.
Have your child carry a small bucket of water and mug to water the plants in your garden. In smaller places like a terrace garden or plants on the balcony, give them a spray bottle to squeeze the water on to the plants.
Mealtimes are ideal for jobs where children must use both hands together (like bringing water to the table) or coordinate with each other (like spraying the table with one hand and wiping it down with the other).
Encourage your children to clean up after playtime. They learn to take care of their belongings right from a young age. Did you know that sorting toys before putting them away after playtime is a meaningful way of working on their visual perceptual skills?
Little kids love being called to help as it makes them feel important. Get them to gather and shelve books after reading.
Is it time to do laundry? Have your child sort the wash, load these in the washer or clip clothespins on the drying rack.
Use Ziplock bags to store household items like clothespins or play materials like play dough. Children work on using their fingertips and controlling the amount of pressure needed as they press and seal the bags.
Make carwash a family activity. Dress your kids in old clothes, hand them a big wet sponge and let them wipe the car side by side with you.
Whether you shop for groceries every day or just once a week, get your child to put these away in the right place. Pouring pulses into containers and placing milk and vegetables in the refrigerator gives them practice in controlling their body and their movements.
Art Activities and Fine Motor Skills
Children should have opportunities to use materials of different sizes, shapes and textures to develop their fine motor skills. It is easy to vary the size and texture of materials when you set up art activities for your child. Start with simpler activities and as your kid develops greater fine motor control, increase the level of difficulty. For example, if your child becomes skilled at stringing large beads together, then make the task more challenging by giving smaller beads.
Have you ever met a child who doesn’t like shiny objects? Put out some sequins and watch your child create artwork as she picks them up and glues them.
Henna designs are good not only for the festive look but also to strengthen hand muscles.
Give your child a henna cone and a piece of paper and watch new designs drawn on paper. You may see big blobs and random lines at first as your child adjusts the pressure. Remember that is also art.
Chapathi dough / playdoh
That chapati dough, (or play dough or clay) can be rolled and made into long snakes which can then be twisted and twirled or made into objects.
Give your child beads to string. For very young children large beads and stiffer threads/wires are good and for slightly older kids try smaller beads and thinner wires to challenge them more. (Benefits of beading)
Home decoration with leaves
Add a twist to the stringing activity. Have your child string mango leaves and make a thoranam for festive days.
Strips of paper / felt fabric
Let your child cut or tear tissue paper, origami paper, crepe paper and even felt paper. The varying thickness of the papers will give different levels of resistance.
If you are looking for a simple and yet attractive (for the kids) activity that reinforces fine motor skills, how about weaving? Give paper strips or even felt strips for the craft. Once your child recognizes the weaving pattern, he can do it by himself. Check out this link for ideas on a weaving activity. Felt Cloth Weaving Craft – Educational Craft (Busy Bag)
Stamping can be done with versatile materials, store bought or homemade—wooden stamps, foam shapes, and vegetables.
Stickers, stickers, stickers! Even bindis are perfect for little fingers to peel and decorate themselves.
Cooking and Fine Motor Skills
Cooking activities naturally lend themselves to developing and strengthening fine motor skills and eye hand coordination. When your child helps you with food prep, you are in fact developing essential skills needed for handwriting.
Do you make chapathi at home? This is an excellent activity for children. They use and practice many skills while kneading the dough,
Kneading and rolling
rolling a ball of dough,
flattening it with a roller,
picking up the chapathi with both hands,
Pressing cookie cutter
pressing down with cookie cutters, and pulling the dough off the edges.
Do you make dosa at home? Pour some batter into a ketchup bottle or in the plastic bottles with different tips. Your child can squeeze the bottle to write the names of the family members. (Cooking with Kids: Designer Dosas)
Here’s another use for the chakkli achchu.
Unscrewing and squeezing
Unscrewing/screwing the bottom to insert the mold, adding the chakkli dough,
squeezing the chakkli out all help strengthen the hand muscles.
Just give your child a piece of paper and he can create art without the hot oil
Food prep – Cutting
Food preparation activities like shelling peas and peanuts strengthen the finger pinch. Cutting vegetables lady’s finger (okra,) and cucumber with a butter knife teach the kid some help skills along with strengthening the grip.
Peeling oranges, squeezing orange halves on a juicer, cutting apples for snack develop independence and fine motor skills.
Making sandwiches? Have your child spread the butter, jam or chutney on the bread.
Pouring and mixing
Your kid can pour milk, water or juice from their containers into cups and glasses.
Improve Fine Motor Skills with Stationery Supplies Readily Available at Home
Have you noticed your child imitating you as you write cards, cut fabric or wrap a gift? Little children are fascinated by the tools that adults use, especially stationery items. When children explore different materials and use them in their play activities, they are in fact developing their fine motor skills. Set up a corner in your home with children’s scissors, tape, ribbons and different kinds of clips. If space is a constraint, keep all your stationery materials and office supplies organized in an easily accessible shelf.
Involve your child as you use these tools to wrap presents and write cards for special occasions. You may notice that your preschooler is unable to use some materials correctly. Don’t be discouraged and rush to do the task for her. It means that her skills are emerging and that she needs plenty of practice.
Let your child make her own ‘notebook’ by stapling together papers for artwork or writing.
When you put up posters or room decorations with tape your child can make the loops.
Wrap gifts together. Save used wrapping paper and ribbons for playtime. Add some yarn and even strings of jute and twine, and your child can ‘wrap gifts and tie ribbons’. Folding paper around the ‘gift’, taping the paper down, and tying ribbons use different hand muscles.
Your child can tear the sticky tape with a little bit of help if need be.
Time to organize the papers on your desk? Let your child help. Your child can clip papers together with paper clips or butterfly clips.
Children love to use the scissors. Have you come home to funny haircuts and unexpected holes in your sarees? Set out a pair of children’s scissors with different types of materials to channel this interest.
Use different types of glue dispensers including paste containers with the applicator brush, glue tubes, glue sticks, and school glue. Place a dot or draw a line to show where the glue has to be applied.
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