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Handwriting, Fine Motor Skills & Pencil Control Oh My!

By Cayla Woodburn

As surprising as it might sound, fine motor skills impact nearly every aspect of life. Without fine motor skills, we wouldn’t be able to button our pants, brush our teeth, open our lunch, write our name, and so many more everyday activities. Many children struggle with their fine motor control, precision, grasp, bilateral coordination, pencil control, and especially handwriting. If fine motor skills are so essential to develop in childhood, why is it so difficult?

Handwriting is actually a rather difficult task because it combines fine motor skills, strength, vision, and cognitive functioning, attention, and bilateral coordination to use both sides of the body. Children may have difficulty with handwriting due to difficulties with one or multiple of the components it requires. Below are some ideas and suggestions of how to work with your child to strengthen their fine motor skills, strength, visual motor skills, and handwriting. All of these ideas can be completed at home and incorporated into playtime. The more fun the activity, the more your child will learn!

Strengthening: Weight-Bearing on Hands

  • Wheelbarrow walks
  • Donkey kicks
  • Crawling
  • Yoga poses
  • Using rolling pin
  • Wiping windows and countertops
  • On all fours while completing tasks

Strengthening: Squeezing/Pulling

  • Gluing- fill a liquid glue bottle about ¼ full to increase the amount of hand strength needed to get the glue out
  • Putty, Floam, and Play-Doh
  • Spray bottles
  • Squirt guns
  • Chip clips and clothes pins
  • Using tongs or tweezers to pick up and carry items
  • Balloons filled with rice, sand, flour, and/or play-doh.
  • Hole punching
  • Velcro
  • Lego building and deconstructing
  • Pegboard

Fine Motor & Pencil Control

  • Cutting with scissors- Start with snipping the edge of paper, cutting play-doh, snipping straws. Use other hand to stabilize the paper while cutting.
  • Mazes- don’t hit the walls with your pencil!
  • Coloring in the lines
  • Make continuous mountain peaks between lines. It will look like zig zags.
  • Make continuous cursive “l.” Do not pick up your pencil! It will look like many loops.
  • Making continuous cursive “c.” Do not pick up your pencil! It will look like connected waves once completed.

Toys Focusing on Fine Motor Skills

  • Squigz
  • Pop Toobs
  • Marble Run
  • Legos
  • Potato Head

Recommended Workbooks

  • Handwriting Without Tears

Cayla Woodburn is an occupational therapy graduate student at Xavier University and is completing her final internship at PediaSpeech.  She has previous internship experience in inpatient rehabilitation, the school system, and in mental health.  Cayla grew up in the Atlanta area.