Why not to push handwriting for kids

handwriting, preschool, school, writing, visual motor, graphomotor, OT, Miss Jaime OT

Pushing kids into writing before they are developmentally ready happens to be one of my pet peeves. (I actually have quite a few of them, you can read all about them here. )

Experience has shown me is that children should NOT be pushed into handwriting before they’re ready. So many kids are entering Kindergarten without the basic pre-writing skills they need. Yet the Kindergarten curriculum expects them to be writing right away!

Before handwriting, children need to master pre-writing skills

Pre-writing skills are the lines, shapes, and strokes kids need to master and know before learning how to print the alphabet. They develop from 1 year to 5 years old.

Pre-writing skills ARE important.

Kids need to learn and master pre-writing lines, strokes, and shapes and strengthen their fine
motor skills before learning how to form the letters of their name or the alphabet.

Prewriting Milestones

1-2 years old:

A baby is typically scribbling and learning to make marks on a paper. They are probably holding a crayon or marker with their whole hand. This is called a palmar supinate grasp.

As they develop more control, the next step is to imitate. Maybe you make a line or shape and
then your child imitates that same line or shape.

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What’s in my Therapy Bag?

Calling all OTs! Need some shortcuts for back to school? Check out the Ultimate Therapy Bundle! Available this week only.

I’ve been a HUGE organization kick lately. Every month or so I need to clean out my therapy bag. Inevitably, I find things out of order, things I need to change up or replace, and things that are missing pieces, etc.

I once posted a pic of the crazy amount of stuff in my bag and everyone on Facebook went crazy commenting and asking questions. I figured, why not share this “clean out” phase with all of you?

occupational therapy, therapy supplies, pediatric therapy, school-based therapy, missjaimeot

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How to Measure Progress with Your Child’s Manipulation Skills

What is in-hand manipulation, anyway?

In-hand manipulation is the ability to manipulate objects in the fingers and hand or adjust an object within the hand after grasping it.

There are three types of in-hand manipulation:

1) Translation – the ability to move an object from the fingers to the palm or from the palm to the fingers.  An example of this would be picking up a penny and moving it into the palm of the hand, and then manipulating it back to the thumb and fingers to put it in a bank. This skill starts to develop between the ages of 1.5 to 2.5 years old.

2) Rotation – the ability to rotate or turn an object in the pad of the fingers. Simple rotation could be turning a bead so you can put something through the hole. More complex rotation might be making “meatballs” with playdough within one hand using the thumb and fingers.  (This is one is always a challenge for my kids!)

3) Shift – the thumb and fingers manipulate an object in a linear movement after it’s been grasped.  Think of picking up a pencil near the eraser and then “shifting” or “walking” the fingers up toward the point.  (developing between 4 to 5 years)

What to Look For:

When you’re looking at a child’s in-hand manipulation skills, it’s important to note their speed and accuracy. I find that a lot of my kids drop things or “stumble” through in-hand manipulation tasks. Their speed and accuracy improve with natural development but lots of fine motor and manipulation activities are always helpful in pushing these skills along!

Kids who still haven’t developed in-hand manipulation often use compensatory strategies to accomplish the task in front of them. For instance, if they are trying to manipulate a peg into a pegboard, but it’s upside down, they may touch it to their chest to turn it. This is because they don’t have the higher-level manipulation skills to turn it within their hand.

Other compensatory strategies to look for:

  • -dropping the pegs or coins to pick them up in a different way
  • using their other hand to turn the object
  • picking up one object at a time

How do you know if they are making progress?

I like to use progress monitoring sheets to keep track of my kids’ manipulation skills.  These allow me to easily check off what activity I used, what goal I targeted, AND how my student did! 

Progress monitoring and keeping data are an important way to measure how and if your students are making progress. 

This printable Manipulation Activity Packet includes a simple tracking sheet that allows you to keep data while staying focused on your child and the exciting fine motor challenge at hand. 

fine motor, manipulation skills, progress monitoring, data tracking,
The Manipulation Dot Activity Packet is perfect for home or the classroom. Get 25 pages of fine motor activities and countless ways to address your goals. Use the progress monitoring sheet to track your child’s improvements.

Related Reading:

fine motor, core strength, gross motor strength, core exercises
fine motor, manipulation, dexterity, precision,
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The All In One Magic Magnetized Shoe-Tying Miracle

“How am I supposed to teach him to tie his shoes?”
The Occupational Therapy student’s cheeks were pink.  A concerned look creased her face.

Self-doubt was creeping in. I understood.

Sometimes you get a child on your caseload that seems to have a lot of obstacles to face, just to live a normal independent life.

This little boy was no exception.  Charlie was born with amniotic banding, a rare condition caused by fibrous strands of the amniotic sac entangling the limbs or other parts of the body, which can cause deformities in utero.  In Charlie’s case, he was born without his left hand.

How do you teach bilateral skills like cutting, buttoning, and tying to a child with only one hand?  

You adapt.   And you teach them to adapt.  There’s always a way.

    • Every child deserves to live a full and happy life.
    • They deserve to be independent.
    • And they deserve to accomplish typical milestones, such as tying their shoes for the first time.

I love to use adaptive tools to make these mountainous challenges just a bit easier for my little guys.    So I was super excited to tell my OT student about Zubits.

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“Cookie Cutter Therapy”- Why it’s OK with me….

The other day I did an autumn arts and crafts project with all of the students on my caseload.

Every. Single. One.

Kindergartners as well as fourth graders.

Very often we hear about the problem of a “cookie cutter therapist”.

Meaning – a therapist that does one thing with every single student regardless of their goals or deficit areas.

A lot of people have a problem with this and so do I – sometimes.

I might sound like I’m contradicting myself because I said I’m OK with doing the same activity with every single student but here’s the thing:

One of an occupational therapist’s best and greatest qualities is creativity and flexibility. Teachers have this gift, too!

Every single child has different goals – so tweak that activity to work for them!

Change it Up!

Here are some ways to tweak this simple fall craft.

  • For really weak fine motor skills, take one piece of tissue paper in each hand. Hold the student’s hands up in the air like a “Y”. Crunch the tissues into little balls without using his other hand or his chin or even his belly to help with the crunching.
  • To work on mid crossing midline; place the paper to the other side of the student’s body.  Put the helping hand on vacation (meaning behind his back). His dominant hand has to crossover in order to glue on the leaves of the tree.
  • My student with weak grip strength had to use a clothespin to pick up each tissue ball and place it on the tree.
  • My student with really poor scissor skills had to cut the tissue before he crunched. He also cut a piece of green construction paper to make grass for the bottom of his picture.

So – if you were a random person standing at the door of my occupational therapy room, you’d see every student come out with a picture of a tree with different colored fall leaves on it.

It might look like I’m doing cookie cutter therapy but I’m not.

It’s ok to re-use an Idea

My point is – give yourself a break! It’s OK to do the same or similar activity with different students.

Just use your creative mind to tweak it to work for that student and the needs of that student.

For teachers, this may mean creating groups of students who will complete the task in a different way. For example, the red table will use clothespins to pick up the leaves and the blue table has to crunch with two hands in the air in the shape of a Y.

Once you give yourself permission to do one activity with all the kids; you’ll see how easy it is to change it up.

Need an AMAZING Activity to do with your kids this week?

For a limited time, get a FREE E-Book of Sensory Recipes!

FREE SENSORY RECIPES E-BOOK

Available this week only!

It’s only available this week, so don’t miss it!

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5 Reasons to Ditch the Screens and PLAY!

This is a guest post about the benefits of play, written by Jenny Silverstone.

5 Extraordinary Benefits of Playtime

Sticky sap on hands from climbing trees.

Glitter going (and staying!) absolutely everywhere.

Always, the sound of laughter.

Playtime, in all of its various forms, is a hallmark of a happy childhood. However, in today’s fast-paced society children often lose the time they need to play. Some may wonder if playtime is truly a “big deal” and has any sort of positive effect on children as they grown.

The answer is a resounding yes! Playtime has many extraordinary benefits to help children in their physical, mental, and emotional development. Here are just five benefits of play.

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9 BEST SPRINGTIME DOLLAR STORE FINDS

Spring is in the air!

That means nice weather, flowers blooming, and best of all, fun new stuff at the Dollar Store!

By this time of the year, I’m a little sick of all my toys and games. I’m ready for something different and fresh to keep my kids focused and having fun during therapy. BUT – I already spent my OT budget, so I need to keep the costs down.

Like a true budget diva, I head straight to the Dollar Store. Spring is a great time to stock up on cheap supplies that are only available at this time of the year, BUT, you can use them all year long.

I’ve made a quick list for you – along with ideas to for how to use them!

9 Best Springtime Dollar Store Supplies FOR OTs

1). Pool noodles – super cheap and easy to cut to different sizes. You can turn your pool noodle into a bat to hit balloons, use it to help position a child, or use it as a resistive material to stick buttons in. Now is the time to stock up!ot, dollar store supplies, classroom pool noodles, best springtime dollar store supplies

2) Buttons – speaking of buttons, my dollar store (dollar tree) has lots of cute buttons in spring colors. These are perfect for working on manipulation, categorizing by size or sorting by color, and of course, buttoning!

3) Garden “Kneeling pads” – these are great to use as markers for “where” kids should sit during circle time. You can also use them as a visual cue during yoga or core strength activities. My #1 favorite way to use them is to actually have kids kneel. This makes working on a vertical surface fun, or can be a fun “alternative” writing position. You can also use them as a resistive material to stick things (golf tees?) in. They are pretty big, so they last a while.

4) Balloons – Balloons are available all year long, but by now I’ve always run out. Balloons can be used with tennis rackets, pool noodle bats, or hanging on a string from the ceiling. Put your child on a therapy ball and have them cross midline to “swat the balloon”. Use them with the whole class by playing “keep it up” until the music stops. Then have the children hold their balloon and write a spelling word on it with a sharpie.

5) Ping pong balls – Where do I start? Use kitchen tongs to pick them up and cross midline to put them in a bowl. Write words on them and have the children read the words as they “grab” the ball with their tongs. Sort them in an egg carton using word families.

6) Plastic eggs – I love to write on my plastic eggs with a sharpie. Then I can work on rhyming, writing, or matching. Write a capital on one side and lowercase on the other. Putting them together and taking them apart is great for bilateral coordination, visual attention, and motor planning!

7) Jump rope- jumping rope is such a hard skill for some kids. You can also use jump ropes to teach shoe-tying to a whole class. Use them for group games, to make circles for jumping in and out, etc. Teach knot tying and untying. These are daily living skills that are really hard for some kids.

8) Egg dying kits – I love the little different colored baskets that come in the dollar store kit- I have the kids sort spring colored pom poms into the same color basket with clothespins.  The powdered dye can be used to color homemade play dough or to dye pasta for sensory activities.

9) Craft stuff – Check the craft section for all the spring colored pom poms, crafts sticks, buttons, pipe cleaners, and beads. These are perfect for Mother’s Day crafts!

I hope you found this list helpful! So tell me, what’s your favorite dollar store find?

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Get your Free Printable packet- A Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit

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