One thing that parents often ask us lots of questions about is how they can help to improve their children’s fine motor skills and handwriting. Luckily, these are things that you can work on at home.
Below, I have shared a home learning grid of fine motor and handwriting tasks along with some information, downloads and resources.
There is a lot of content on this page, so please take your time to read it and don’t feel overwhelmed or that you should be doing every task or activity! Your children can only work on one skill to improve at a time, so choose the skill that is most relevant and work on the others later.
I will continue to add information and links that I think are useful over the coming weeks, but please contact me via email at the school or on Twitter at @MsMcConnellSfL if there is something specific you would like me to help with.
Contents of this Page
- Fine Motor/Handwriting Activity Grid
- Useful Links
- Fine Motor Skills
- How You Can Help At Home
- Finger Gym
- How You Can Help At Home
- Pencil Grip
- Letter Formation
- Letter Size
- Cursive Handwriting
- I will shortly be uploading some letter formation videos and cursive handwriting videos to my Support for Learning YouTube channel which you can find here.
- There are always lots of excellent handwriting and motor skills activity ideas of Pinterest. I have collated some useful articles, resources and ideas on my Support for Learning Pinterest page, which you can browse here. Just click on the ‘Motor Skills & Handwriting’ board.
- The OT Tool Box is one of my favourite social media accounts to follow and I regularly use the advice and tips I learn from this page in school. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram by clicking on the links in the text.
- You can find a good fine motor development checklist and links to lots of useful information here.
Fine Motor Skills
We use our fine motor skills to make movements using the small muscles in our hands and wrists. Children use their fine motor skills to do many of their everyday and school tasks and when they are well developed, children find these tasks much easier.
- school tasks including
- pencil skills (scribbling, colouring, drawing, writing)
- scissors skills (cutting)
- construction skills using lego, duplo, puzzles, train tracks
- doll dressing and manipulation
- IT use (e.g. mouse and stylus manipulation)
- self-care including
- dressing – tying shoelaces, doling up sandals, zips, buttons, belts
- eating – using cutlery, opening lunch boxes and food bags
- hygiene – cleaning teeth, brushing hair, toileting.
How You Can Help At Home
- You can help by giving your child lots of opportunities to mark make, draw and paint using different implements so they have experience of using mark making tools.
- Give them lots of opportunities to use scissors and cut things out, encourage them to cut close to the lines or go back and cut close to the lines again. You can download cutting strips at the bottom of the page to help with this.
- Make a ‘Finger Gym’ to help develop the muscles in their hands and wrists.
A Finger Gym is a set of resources and tasks designed to progressively develop the muscles in the hand and wrist.
I have included a download of Finger Gym instructions and task cards at the bottom of the page, but don’t worry if you don’t have all the items recommended in the task cards, you can substitute them for items easily found at home.
Parents are often concerned about their child’s handwriting and how it looks and as a teacher I know that many children really struggle with their handwriting, particularly if they are Dyspraxic, and I am usually happy as long as I can read their writing.
We do work on different handwriting skills in school through direct handwriting lessons and by reminding the children of handwriting expectations regularly in all of their written work.
Some of the main issues that make children’s handwriting trickier to read are:
- letter formation- correctly forming their letters so that the words can be read
- letter size- too big or too small
- spacing- words too close together so it is difficult to tell when one word stops and another begins
Don’t worry about your children’s handwriting too early though. The picture below shows the different “pre-writing patterns”, with the average age a typically developing child will be ready to achieve these patterns i.e. being able to process visual information and produce a movement in response (copying them).
Note that an X is not typically achieved until 4 years 11 months, and a triangle at 5 years 3 months. If a child can’t form these shapes, then they probably won’t be able to form letters. So don’t worry too much about their handwriting if they are young.
How Can You Help At Home?
There are different ways you can support your child’s handwriting at home directly or indirectly. Some of these are:
- Encourage good handwriting habits in EVERY piece of writing they do e.g. remind them about letter size, spacing their words out and forming their letters correctly.
- Praise for any improvement helps, but please remember, it can be very demoralising for a child if they struggle with handwriting and they are only praised when it is “perfect.”
- Use some of the suggested strategies below to help improve different aspects of their handwriting. Focus on one area/strategy at a time, trying too many new things will overwhelm your child and could put them off or demoralise them.
- Do some short 10-15 minute handwriting practices (shorter for younger children), to focus on letter formation or improving handwriting skills.
- Make a Finger Gym or do some activities to build your child’s fine motor skills (see relevant section)
Strategy: Pencil Grip
One thing that affects handwriting and lots of children struggle with is correct pencil grip. Many children naturally develop their pencil grip through lots of drawing, painting and cutting experience but many need support with this.
- model good pencil grip
- help your child by checking and modelling good grip before they write
- use a pencil grip to help them- they come in various shapes and sizes and can be purchased online
- make your own pencil grips at home- lots of ideas on Pinterest
- chunky pencils- especially for younger children
- use specially adapted pencils
Some children need the support of proper pencil grips or specially adapted pencils to write, and that is OK. When I start to look at their pencil grip, I often make my own so that I can see if their grip begins to correct quickly or whether they might need one for longer term use.
My favourite grip to try involves placing a piece of tissue in the palm of the child’s hand and asking them to hold it down with their ring finger and pinky. This means their other fingers will naturally grip the pencil.
Strategy: Letter Formation
Sometimes children do not form their letters correctly and this can lead to problems with their handwriting and readability of their work.
You can often tell if they have formed their letters correctly by looking at their writing, but if you are not sure, you could watch them write their letters down.
How to support:
- Use some of the letter formation/cursive handwriting videos I will shortly post here for short handwriting lessons with your child.
- Download the Letter Formation booklet below.
- Make your own letter formation activities.
Strategy: Letter Size
Younger children will form larger letters than older children and that is perfectly normal and we usually use jotters with bigger lines in school. You can make your own lined paper by drawing wider lines on blank paper and photocopying it if you can.
Letter size is something that I always practice in my short handwriting video clips which you will shortly be able to access here and it is something that I remind the children of before we start any writing activity.
Sometimes children can find it tricky to guess where the middle of a blank line is to guide their letter sizes. You can help give them a visual clue by highlighting the bottom half of the line- as seen in the picture.
Model good letter size by showing your children the correct way to form the letters and the correct size on the page they are going to write on- this will give them a good visual cue.
Sometimes children’s words are too close to each other and this can make their work very difficult to read. We often talk about ‘finger spacing’ in school, but it is not very practical for children to stop and put their finger in between each word. It takes a lot of time and interrupts the flow of their writing.
If your child does need some help to remember spaces between words, you can download one of the finger spacers below, use a lolly stick to mark the spaces in between each word or give them a very small lump of BluTac to put between each word to mark the space.
Please remember to praise their efforts and show them the difference between older pieces of work with no spaces and the work with spaces.
Cursive handwriting is a method of joining handwriting and is popular in many schools.
I usually teach cursive handwriting in Support for Learning as it helps children to keep their letters to a regular size and there is some evidence to show that it helps with spelling as children form a sort of muscle memory when writing out their words and can tell more easily with cursive if writing the word did not ‘feel’ right.
Cursive can be taught at any age but it isn’t for everyone and can frustrate some children, handwriting that is properly formed and readable is what is most important.
You can practice cursive writing using the video clips I will shortly post here. You can also download the cursive alphabet strip and sheets below.
I will shortly be uploading letter formation and cursive handwriting videos to YouTube here.
*More downloads mentioned above will be added shortly*