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By: Hudi Schweky

In today’s day and age, where everything is computer-based, is there still a need to teach children to write?

The answer is YES!

Leading psychologists and neuroscientists have learned that writing actually makes us smarter. Research shows that when children learn to write they are activating more circuits in the brain, as opposed to just typing on a keyboard.

Writing is an amazing symphony of the muscles, tendons, nerves, and other systems of the body, working together. We need to make sure all the systems are working efficiently. When working on handwriting there are some things to look at:

Hand tendon tightness –tightness at the center of the palm can impede natural grasp development.

Grasp patterns– babies are born with a reflexive ability to grasp objects. With time this reflex integrates or goes away. Sometimes the grasping reflex will linger and interfere with the child’s ability to develop mature grasping patterns.

Wrist and hand strength – are important for stamina and endurance.

Arm/shoulder stability– provide a stable basis of support.

Upper body and core muscle strength– help maintain an upright posture to write.

Visual tracking– the eyes moving in a coordinated fashion follow the next word or letter on the page.

Eye hand coordination –the eyes and hands work together. The movements of our fingers need supervision from our eyes in order to perform tasks properly.

Motor planning of hand and wrist– wrist and/or palm remains stable while fingers move to write.

Visual sequential memory – this is the ability to recall the visual sequence. This is important when learning how to form letters.

Directionality form constancy – this means knowing the direction to write the letters.

Ten Things You Can Do to Help Your Child Learn to Write

1   Tight tendons? Do stretches!You can play “Open, shut them” with your child, opening and closing the hands, making sure to end with the thumb crossing over the index, middle, and ring finger.

2   Wrist lifts:To strengthen the wrist muscles, have your child write on an easel or on a coloring sheet taped on the wall at eye level.

3   Finger fun: Show your child how to form his thumb and index fingers into “o” and join the “o”s together to form a glasses shape. Repeat with each respective finger and thumb. This activity is great for developing a good pencil grasp.

4   Wheelbarrow walking:This activity strengthens the upper body, provides shoulder stability, and stretches the hands tendons at the same time.

5   Bear walking:Walk on all fours with knees slightly bent. This is great for strengthening the trunk and upper body muscles to help with writing.

6   Cool clapping games:Playing hand games such as “Miss Mary Mack” helps develop eye-hand coordination.

7   Visual tracking:Play games that help the eyes and hand work efficiently together, such as having your child first “do” a dot to dot maze with his eyes.

8   Fine motor fun:String beads on a string while telling the child to pick one color to focus on with his eyes while stringing.

9   Get a grip:Have your child color with chubby, small crayons. This encourages him to use a three-fingered grasp.

     Sponge squeezes:Wring out sponges or washcloths in the bathtub to develop the small muscles in the fingers.

Hudi Schweky, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with extensive training in Sensory and Reflex Integration. She utilizes a child-centered, movement and play based approach to assist children with autism, learning challenges, developmental delays, and attention issues. She is also the founder of the Theraflex, LLC in Lakewood, NJ.