Why Is Wrist Extension Important for Kids?

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Did you know that wrist extension plays a role in good handwriting? The position of the wrist determines how well your child will be able to control a pencil. Try it yourself and see!

hooked wrist position for handwriting



Hold a pencil in this position with your wrist bent forwards (flexed) and try moving your fingers. They probably feel stiff with not much movement happening.



good wrist position for handwriting

Now hold a pencil in this position with your wrist extended (hand comes up) – now try moving your fingers. You should be able to get more movement of the pencil with greater control over your fingers. This is because some of the muscles that move the fingers come down from the forearm.


Extending the wrist means the muscles operating the fingers can work freely.

alt text

Many children hook their wrists, or have flat wrists when they write, as you can see from the picture alongside.

They do this because their fine motor skills are poor or because they have some low muscle tone.

This affects the control they have over the pencil, so ideally we want the wrist to be held in a slightly extended position to help the fingers move more easily.

Wrist extension is also particularly important for left handed children, who tend to hook their wrists in order to see their written work

writing with a hooked wrist

We also want the wrist to be stable, in other words to be held in position without constantly lifting up from the table and hooking.

Many children with a degree of low muscle tone, or with poor fine motor skills, may lack good wrist stability.

They often lift their wrist up from the table while writing, and may also write with movement from their wrists instead of their fingers.

This is very tiring, and usually leads to messy work.

If your child has had a poor wrist position for a while, some of the wrist muscles may be slightly shortened and tight. You will need to help your child do some wrist stretching exercises.

wrist stretching activity for kids

Playing a restaurant game will give your child a chance to carry a tray on an outstretched hand. Start with very lightweight toys and gradually increase the weight as your child’s wrist strengthens and the muscles stretch – for example filling the cups with water, or adding a light book to the tray.



crab walk can stretch wrist muscles

Try some gross motor activities such as hand push ups, a wall push or crab walking that stretch the wrist muscles automatically (see this page of shoulder exercises for kids to view photos of these activities).

Strengthening the shoulder muscles will also enable your child to use the hand and finger muscles more effectively.


wrist stretching activity for kids



You can also ask your child to lean on the outstretched hand while playing games on the floor, as you can see the child doing in this photo.



A Word of Caution for the above activity!!
This means that your child will be leaning on the dominant hand and playing the game with the non-dominant hand. For the purpose of stretching the wrist muscles of the writing hand, this is acceptable. However, if your child has any issues with switching hands, or your child is not yet strongly left- or right-handed, then please do NOT do this activity!


For more ideas, try my simple wrist strengthening activities and
wrist exercises for kids to help your child develop better wrist extension.

Why not visit my Fine Motor Activities page
for more ideas to boost your child's fine motor skills?

Or return from Wrist Extension
to Home Page of OT Mom Learning Activities

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