Posts tagged ‘Fine Motor’

Choosing the Right Coloring Pages

Many of the children we see in our clinics struggle with coloring skills.  Whether the difficulty is rooted in poor fine motor control, visual perceptual skills, attention or regulation, it is common to see a child begin coloring a page with good intentions, then end up scribbling or abandoning the task.  We are careful to present the children with a coloring page with a “just right challenge”, but there are an abundance of free printable coloring pages online.  Here are some of the things we look for.

  • Choose a topic or character your child is interested in. He may be more motivated to color a picture of a Lego Ninjago character than a holiday themed page.
  • Look for bold outlines. Children who have difficulty with the motor control necessary to efficiently direct their crayon will benefit from the extra “wiggle room” between sections, while children with visual perceptual difficulties may be able to better identify different areas of the picture.
  • Find pages with little or no background detail at first. Check out the difference between these two images. Both are Lightning McQueen, but a child with decreased attention or ability to maintain a regulated state may give up on the more detailed picture before it is finished.

detailed lightning simple lightning

  • Encourage your child to choose one area at a time to fill in.  If your child needs help to stay organized, ask questions like “What color should his tires be?”   Praise your child for his effort and make some room on the refrigerator for the masterpiece.

Kindergarten Readiness Camp

Attention Parents:


Pencil Grips

Many children we see at the clinic have difficulty assuming and maintaining a functional pencil grasp, which impacts their ability to write. What do we mean by “a functional pencil grasp”? Here are a few grasp patterns that we encourage:

Tripod Grasp – this is often seen as the “gold standard” for pencil grasp, however it is not the only tripodfunctional and efficient way to hold a pencil. The pencil is held between the thumb and index finger and rests on the side of the middle finger. The ring and pinkie fingers are tucked into the palm while the shaft of the pencil rests in the open webspace formed by the thumb and index fingers. This pattern requires strong intrinsic hand muscles and good stability at the joints.

Quadrupod Grasp – this pattern is closely related to the tripod grasp, however, the pencil is held by the thumb, quadindex and middle finger and it rests on the side of the ring finger. The pinkie is tucked into the palm and the pencil shaft rests in the open webspace just like a tripod grasp. This pattern provides slightly more stability but does not sacrifice control or joint positions.

Modified Tripod Grasp – Although this pattern looks quite a bit different than a standard mod triptripod grasp pattern, the pencil is held the same way by the tips of the thumb and index finger. The difference is that the shaft of the pencil rests between the index and middle fingers. This pattern may be beneficial for children who lack stability of their webspace and arches of the hand. The movement of the pencil remains unimpeded and the joint positions are ergonomically correct.

Chances are if you are reading this article, your child does not use one of the patterns listed above. Some children tuck their thumbs under their index fingers, which is referred to as a thumb tuck.

thumb tuck

Others place their thumb on top of their index fingers for added stability, which is referred to as a thumb wrap.

thumb wrap

Then there are a wide variety of other dysfunctional grasp patterns like this one:

five finger

Perhaps a teacher or other professional has suggested the use of a pencil grip but with so many different grips available, how do you know which one is right for your child? Speak with your occupational therapist to investigate the need for a grip. Here are some of the common grips available. Click on the pictures below for a larger image.

A Word of Caution Regarding Any Pencil Grips:

  • Whenever exploring the potential use of a pencil grip, the following must be considered:
    • Does the grip support participation in handwriting tasks or does it cause more of a distraction?
    • Can the child consistently place their fingers correctly on the grip or do they need assistance each time they pick up the pencil?
    • Is the child willing to use the grip or will they hide it in their desk or “lose” it?
    • Is the child working to develop the intrinsic musculature of the hand in order to transition away from needing a grip?
    • What are the other factors impacting their writing? How is their trunk control? Are the seat and desk heights appropriately matched for the child? How is their proximal stability at their shoulder? What is their wrist position? Does the child efficiently separate movement between the two sides of the hand? How do their visual perceptual skills impact their writing? How does their regulation impact their attention and ability to sit long enough to master grip and graphomotor skills?
  • Before a child enters Kindergarten, there is little need to use pencils or grips. Encourage the use of short crayons or pieces of chalk instead. A child’s grasp patterns continue to develop into a “mature” pattern around the age of 5-6 years old, so it is not uncommon to see a child alternate between functional and less functional grasp patterns up until this time.

Making a Homework Zone

homework zone

School has started and the homework is coming at full force. Here are some things to consider when making homework area for your child.

  • Look at the potential distractions present near the homework zone. Is your child easily distracted by auditory input? An area away from the TV or a noisy window may help. What are the visual distractions? Sit in your child’s seat and see what she will see.
  • Keep the homework zone stocked with supplies. Try to keep pencils, erasers, scissors, rulers or any other items typically needed for your child’s homework assignments handy in this area.
  • Lighting is very important. Use a desk lamp at eye level rather than overhead lighting to reduce glare.
  • Consider seating options. If your child has a hard time keeping an upright posture, he may benefit from a chair with arms and a solid surface to place his feet on. Other children may enjoy sitting on a small yoga ball. Ideally for all children, the table surface should be 2” below the height of bent elbows.
  •  For children who tend to wiggle and fidget, provide opportunity for controlled movement that does not interfere with the completion of homework. Tie a length of theraband across the legs of the chair for her feet to push on. Affix a material with texture your child likes on the underside of the desk – try the fuzzy or bumpy side of Velcro, a small piece of corduroy or something squishable, like an icepack at room temperature or a water-filled teething toy. This will provide your child with a textured fidget toy, without the chance of it becoming lost or getting in the way.

Handwriting Practice for the Summer Months

Children work very hard on handwriting skills each day during the school year. Don’t let the summer months slip by without encouraging handwriting practice. Here are some ideas to incorporate handwriting into vacation without bringing out the structured workbooks.

  • Play games that include handwriting in the activity, like the board game Scattergories Jr. or have your child complete Mad Libs.
  • Alter the rules of board games or card games to include a handwriting component. Have your child write their questions to play Guess Who, or write the new color after using a “Wild” card in Uno.
  • Create a fortune teller. Put your child in charge of writing the words for the inside flaps. Here is a link with instructions. There are also templates for math-themed fortune tellers. We like to make ours with sensory activities written in them, such as jumping, catching a heavy ball, etc. Check out our indoor proprioceptive activities post for more list
  • Have your child write out a shopping list of his favorite groceries that you will be buying at the store. During the shopping trip, have him cross off the items as you place them in the cart.
  • Take a picture of a family activity each week and have your child write about it. Young writers could simply label the picture, while older children could write a journal entry.

Games We Love: Rush Hour Jr.

Why We Love It: The perfect blend of visual perceptual, fine motor and motor planning skills, Rush Hour is a favorite for staff and children. The concept is simple: place the cars on the grid to match a picture, then slide the cars to allow the ice cream truck to drive out the door. There are 40 cards of increasing difficulty, with each level building on the problem solving lessons learned in previous scenarios. Puzzles can be solved again and again because it is practically impossible to remember the solution sequence.

This is a great activity for children who get lost in multi-step tasks and those who need to work on their problem solving skills. Take the game a step further by hiding the pieces in a bucket of dried beans, creating a scavenger hunt around the room or having your child “deliver” the pieces little by little by riding their bike, doing animal walks or even an obstacle course. Also, the solutions are printed on the back of each card. If your child is learning the concepts of left and right, give the instructions to solve the card and have your child follow them.

Why the Kids Love It: This is one of the most requested games in the clinic. Younger children enjoy the concept of rescuing the ice cream truck, and older children enjoy the challenge of harder levels. The game pieces are brightly colored, but not juvenile. There is a real sense of mastery as the child moves from “Beginner” towards “Expert” levels.

Manufacturer Age Recommendations: 6-8 years

Our Age Recommendations: Younger children (4-5) can copy the grid like a puzzle. Older children (9-11) with visual perceptual and motor planning difficulties may benefit from this “Jr” version of Rush Hour before moving to the more advanced edition.

Available in toy stores and online.

Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. Want to take advantage of this opportunity to help your child practice fine motor skills, such as coloring, cutting, stringing and handwriting? Here are some great websites with ideas for Valentine’s Day crafts, cards and more.