Strategies to develop hand function, pre-writing and handwriting skills for Young Children
There are many different components that come together in the functional performance of handwriting skills in children. One is a child’s mechanical writing abilities which are process orientated. Second, will be a child’s written language skills which are knowledge orientated. Some claim that fine motor skills is all that’s needed for writing skills which of course is not true. In order for the fine motor movements needed for handwriting to develop, strong gross motor skills and movements need to be well developed. This would require the following:
- A strong core to help them sit upright
- A strong neck in order to keep the head upright
- Strong shoulders in order to facilitate arm and wrist movements
Thirdly, visual motor skills which includes visual perceptual skills, functional visual skills (such as eye tracking), and eye-hand coordination. Visual motor skills is the ability for the brain to understand and communicate from the eyes to the hands in order to draw, copy, and trace. You can see how this is a very important skill.
Pre-writing skills are the fundamental skills children need to develop before they are able to write. Pre-Writing skills components will be to work on shapes, lines, curves, strokes, hand grasp and fine motor skills. Pre-writing skills are essential for the child to be able to develop the ability to hold and move a pencil fluently and produce legible handwriting. When these skills are underdeveloped it can lead to frustration and resistance due to the child not being able to ‘keep up’ in class, producing legible writing or experiencing writing fatigue. This can then result in poor self-esteem, task avoidance and in extreme instances a child not wanting to go to school.
The components of handwriting also include cognitive skills. At the pre-school level this would include remembering the letter names, the letter strokes, sequencing letters and knowing how to write upper or lower case letters. Core strength, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, visual motor skills and cognitive skills are the most important components needed to promote good pre-writing skills, handwriting and eventually writing skills in children.
When working with very young kids who struggle with forming letters instead of simply scaffolding their task, it is important to look at their pre-writing skills. For a child who is unable to form short lines we would first need to look at the child’s posture and the environment. If the child has good, stable posture and sufficient flexibility in the fingers, the next step would be to encourage a static tripod grasp. A static grasp is when the fingers are still and the wrist and forearm move in order to make the strokes on the paper. To get to this grasp the child would need some activities to strengthen their pincer grip and some activities to enhance the strength and flexibility in their wrists as outlined below.
- Table height suitable for child
- Child has good posture
- Paper is at close to the child
- Hammering with a toy
- Screwing and unscrewing bolts
- Turning doorknobs
- Turning keys in locks
- Use a dropper to squeeze out liquids
- Use tongs to transfer small objects
- Pinching playdoh into smaller portions
We hope you have fun doing these activities with your child. You can always reach out to the DAS preschool team if you have any questions!
Kelly Bijay, Shakthi Bavani and Natasha Mastura
DAS Preschool Team