The muscles used in handwriting begin to develop and strengthen in infancy, and by the age of five most children have developed enough muscle strength and control to begin writing. The small finger muscles are the ones most central to the writing process, but the larger muscles of the hand, shoulder, arm, and wrist also need to be strong and efficient in order to provide the necessary stability that allows the smaller muscles to do their job. Fine motor skills such as thumb opposition and in- hand manipulation rely on muscle strength and control. For children who need help improving the muscle strength that leads to fine motor skill success, here are some ideas:

    • Start with strengthening the larger hand movements, such as squeezing, pinching, and weight bearing, and then progress toward the smaller more refined hand and finger movements that are used for in-hand manipulation tasks. Strengthening tools include Play-Doh, Silly Putty, squirt bottles, bubble wrap, wheelbarrow or animal walks, clothespins, pegboards, etc.
    • To help with muscle differentiation and strength of the small muscles in the hand and fingers, have kids pick up multiple marbles, coins, or sponges cut into small cubes with one hand at a time and squirrel them into their palm. Then have the child move the marbles, coins or cubes back to their fingertips one at a time and place them into a container with a small opening on top.

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      • Use smaller pencils and crayons to help a child achieve a better grasp by encouraging pinching rather than grasping.
      • To increase the stability of a child’s hand so that their thumb and fingers can produce precise motor movements, have them hold a small pom-pom or bead in the palm of their hand with their pinky and ring fingers while coloring or writing.

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      • The modified/adapted tripod grasp is good for those who have weak hand muscles and fatigue easily because it uses the least number of muscles or muscles strength of any grip position.

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It is important to know that a child can have poor handwriting even with good fine motor skills. Other issues such as impaired motor planning skills, visual motor skills, perceptual/spatial skills, attention, memory, and attitude can all affect handwriting. If you feel that your child could benefit from a handwriting assessment, ‘We’d be happy to help.


About Skills 4 Life:

Skills 4 Life Pediatric Occupational Therapy offers a broad range of pediatric occupational therapy services to help your child master age-appropriate developmental skills, become more independent, increase academic success & develop confidence. The experts at Skills 4 Life specialize in handwriting, keyboarding & executive function coaching, but also work with children on social & emotional learning, motor skills, self-regulation strategies & activities of daily living. Skills 4 Life Pediatric Occupational Therapy offers your child a safe, compassionate environment to learn the critical skills they need to be successful. Learn more about our team & services at www.skills4lifeot.com, or you can contact our office by email at karina@skills4lifeot.com or by phone at 303.351.1828 for a free consultation.