Do you remember when your child first started coloring?
You may remember using jumbo crayons and pencils when you first learned how to color or write your name. You may be surprised to learn that handwriting experts and occupational therapists don’t recommend them. Jumbo crayons and pencils are actually age appropriate for toddlers to use!
When learning to write, bigger crayons aren’t better crayons!
So learn why not and what to use instead!
Why should you chuck your Jumbo crayons and Chalk?
It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Toddlers use their whole arm to move the pencil or crayon. They hold it in a fist and use all of the muscles in their arm to make the marks on the paper.
As children begin to develop improved fine motor skills, they use their wrist and fingers to move the pencil or crayon. This is the natural development of shoulder stability. Between the age of three and four, they should be resting their arm on the table and using the small muscles of their hand to do the work.
Imagine how much heavier those Jumbo crayons and pencils are for those little hands! These old fashioned “Jumbo” pencils are only appropriate for babies who are learning how to make a mark on a paper. They are expected to use their whole arm, so it’s okay. Once they start scribbling, it’s time for a regular pencil or a golf pencil.
Using golf pencils instead of jumbo pencils allows a child to manipulate the pencil more easily, which discourages them from using too many fingers, pressing too hard, or scribbling outside the lines. Very often, children who have difficulty holding their pencil correctly have weak muscles in their hands. To compensate for this weakness, they use more fingers or more pressure! Ouch!
Just say NO to jumbo crayons and chalk!
So what crayons should kids use?
Which ones are the best crayons for kids? I recommend two Magical Crayons that will change your child’s grasp, but good old regular crayons are fine too. If you see that your child is using too many fingers, you may want to go with broken crayons. Broken crayons should be an inch or smaller. Many moms cringe at this (teachers too) because we remember the awesome feeling of getting a brand new pack of crayons. There was nothing better than that! If the broken crayon thing bothers you, there are a lot of cute new crayons that are good for encouraging a proper grip.
How can you help your child to develop the proper grip?
There are a lot of things you can do. First, practice coloring. This sounds too simple, and moms who have children who don’t like to color may say, “he won’t color”. There are tons of sneaky ways to get a kid to color. Go online and google “free coloring pages” and get a picture of their favorite cartoon character. It’s more motivating (and less overwhelming) than opening a whole coloring book. Tell your child that Grandma asked for a new picture for her refrigerator. Or Aunt Susie’s birthday is coming and she wants a picture, etc.
Is coloring absolutely necessary? Well, no. There are many ways to learn how to write besides coloring. BUT – Coloring is a fine motor skill. It is exercise for those little muscles in the hand. If your child refuses to color, it could be because it’s hard for them. They may need some hand strengthening activities to work those little hands so it’s not such a chore. Play-doh, clay, and cookie making are all good for hand strengthening.
Another great way to help your child develop shoulder stability (the ability to use their hand without using their whole arm) is to have them color while laying on their belly. This will be hard at first because it takes muscle! Keep at it.
I hope this gives some motivation to chuck those jumbo crayons! Or at the very least – break ’em! The smaller the better. Have fun!
Want more great tips to improve your child’s skills? Check out The Handwriting Book, written by a team of ten pediatric OTs and PTs to help parents, therapists, and teachers just like you!
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~Miss Jaime, O.T.
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