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Having good pencil control may help your child form letters smoothly and more neatly during handwriting lessons.(*)
These simple finger exercises and activities can be used to help improve your child's pencil control. They make great warm-up exercises before a handwriting lesson because they can help your child master the use of a pencil or pen.
Some of the exercises on this page focus on in-hand manipulation skills (with a pencil), while others help your child develop the smaller finger movements that are needed for good handwriting.
They are best attempted once your child has developed some degree of
dexterity and skill using the thumb, index and middle fingers together - check out my other fine motor pages if your child needs more basic activities.
These fine motor activities are intended to encourage your child's normal fine motor development. If you suspect your child has fine motor delays, please seek a professional opinion.
Have your child hold the pencil with the tripod fingers, and hold the other hand with the palm facing the pencil.
Ask your child to bend and stretch the fingers to enable the pencil to “pop” over to touch the palm of the other hand and then come back.
Repeat a few times. Aim to increase the number of repetitions as your child improves
This is a good fine motor classroom exercise as a warm up for handwriting!
Use a pencil with an eraser on the end. Or use a fun pencil topper/eraser at the end of the pencil.
Have your child touch the paper with the tip of the pencil, then flip the pencil over in the hand (without using the other hand) to have the eraser/pencil topper touch the page.
You can also have your child touch the palm of the other hand (as in the exercise above) with first the tip then the eraser.
Flipping the pencil over like this, is a great in-hand manipulation activity that really gives the hand and finger muscles a good workout!
Good handwriting requires that we use small movements of the
fingers to form the letters. Most letters are formed with a combination of curved and straight lines.
Coloring small circles is one way to encourage your child to use small finger movements in a circular direction.
I find it best for the child to first trace the border of the circle and then color it in with circular movements.
I often add small circles as decorative detail on a shape that will be cut out.
Coloring a square on a grid picture can help your child get a back and forth movement of the fingers while coloring one square at a time.
Choose a simple grid picture that has blocks about 1cm square. Have your child color one block at a time using a back and forth/up and down movement of the pencil.
I recommend doing just a few blocks or circles at a time, as these exercises are very tiring for kids who are just mastering pencil control.
TIP: Working on a vertical surface may help your child to rest the wrist on the wall and to isolate the fingers, so that only the fingers are moving.
View the printable dot pictures and grid pictures that I use.
This exercise is an extension of coloring small circles, and may help your child to develop the smaller finger movements that are needed for good handwriting.
Draw some simple spirals going in each direction, and have your child trace over them with a marker or colored pencil.
I added some interest by extending the spirals to make snails.
Your child can start on the inside of the spiral and trace out, or on the outside and trace in.
Working on a vertical surface may help your child isolate the finger movements if the wrist is resting on the surface.
Just do a few at a time until your child becomes more proficient.
I include 2 pages of printable spirals in my Fine Motor E-Book.
If your child struggles to control a pencil, and found these suggestions too challenging, then take a step back. Look for opportunities to spend some time working on strengthening the hand muscles and getting the fingers to work together in fun activities that don't use a pencil.
Here are some of the pages on my site that may help you:
If you or your child's teacher are concerned about your child's fine motor development in comparison to his/her peers, then please do get an occupational therapist evaluation to see how best to help your child.
Believe it or not, these deceptively simple, everyday objects can be effectively used to help develop pencil control.
PFOT stock an "In-Hand Manipulation Kit" that contains all these objects and instructions on how to use them.
This is a great fine motor resource for older kids who find other activities too childish. The Kit will help them to work on using the intrinsic muscles of the hands through various in-hand manipulation activities, which could have a beneficial impact on pencil control
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Visual-motor integration and fine motor skills work together to help your child master good handwriting, so please do check out my visual motor pages as well.
There are also other factors that can affect a child's handwriting, such as visual perception, orthographic coding and much more.
Read my article about the Foundation Skills Needed for Good Handwriting to find out more.
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Cornhill, H; Case-Smith, J. Factors That Relate to Good and Poor Handwriting. 50(9):732-9 · November 1996 http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.50.9.732
Ohl, A. M., Graze, H., Weber, K., Kenny, S., Salvatore, C., & Wagreich, S. Effectiveness of a 10-week Tier-1 Response to Intervention program in improving fine motor and visual–motor skills in general education kindergarten students. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 67, 507–514. Sep/Oct 2013 http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2013.008110
Weintraub, N. ;Graham, S. The contribution of gender, orthographic, finger function, and visual-motor processes to the prediction of handwriting status. The Occupational Therapy Journal of Research; 20(2):121-140 · March 2000 http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/153944920002000203
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