Middle School and Handwriting

How to Improve Horrendous Handwriting When All Hope Is Lost

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Handwriting and Middle School

Middle School and Handwriting  – part 2

When I first learned that I was getting hired in the district where I currently work, I was beyond thrilled.     A school district job!  It’s like winning the lottery!

Then I heard the rest…

I would be split between two schools.

Okay…I can live with that.

Two MIDDLE schools.  Teenagers.  

Ummm, I’m not sure I can live with that!

I can still remember the creep of red crawling up my neck as I answered the principal on the phone. “Great!  Looking forward to it!”

A million scenarios ran through my head- Will they listen to me?  What if they’re rude? I’m so used to the little kiddos – will I be able to do it?  Butterflies were flying wildly in my stomach.  Self-doubt had totally set in.  

But to tell you the truth – I loved it. The kids were great. Teenagers are just big kids, full of laughter and good-natured mischief.

What really did stink?   All the Handwriting.  Oh, the handwriting.   

Reading messy handwriting is seriously torturous.  Like… comparable to squinting at the sun.handwriting and middle school

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positioning in the classroom

The Crucial Importance of Positioning in the Classroom

School Day Functions – Positioning in the classroom

Positioning in the classroom is a HUGE part of student success.  In fact, “properly fitted furniture is essential if children are to learn handwriting efficiently” (Henderson &  Pehoski, 1995).

One of my biggest pet peeves about working in the school system is the gosh darn furniture.   Children are often seated in furniture that is just not the right size for them, and it totally stinks.

On top of that, many teachers have never been trained to check if a child’s desk or chair is the right size.   For the ones who do check, what are the chances that the school has other furniture available?   Sigh.  Rant Over.

The point is – what adult would tolerate working all day at a desk that was way too high? Companies spend a fortune supplying their workers with wrist supports to avoid carpal tunnel injuries and screen guards to protect employees vision.  Shouldn’t we make sure our students are in the proper position, too? Continue reading

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fine motor Scissors

Fine Motor Skills and Cutting

Learn how to improve your child’s cutting skills with these simple tips from a pediatric OT.   *This post contains affiliate links

How to Improve Your Child’s Cutting Skills 

“Cutting?”   The mom looked at me nervously…. “Um, I’ve never given my child scissors…. I don’t want him to hurt himself….”   Her face turned red.   “Should I?!”

The poor mom was panicking as she asked me about kindergarten.  She was totally nervous that her son wouldn’t be able to keep up.  Trying to reassure her, I asked how he holds his pencil and how were his cutting skills.  And instead of making her feel better, I made it way worse!   Uh-oh.

(This happens all the time, by the way.  Moms don’t realize that kids should be cutting WAY before Kindergarten. But really – if you are worried that your kid will hurt themselves when they are sitting with you in the kitchen, do you really want them learning how to cut while the teacher is also supervising 20 other kids? )

Nah – better to get them started before school so they know what they are doing.  It gives them a “leg up” on the rest of the kids.    You can always give them those little safety scissors if you are worried that they will cut themselves.   Or the playdoh scissors, which don’t have real blades.

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10 pocketbook-sized toys to occupy your kid (instead of your phone!)

 handwriting, fine motor skills

I am totally on the “LIMIT TECHNOLOGY” for little kids bandwagon and am all about “Pocketbook-Sized Toys”! I have been so inspired by some articles I’ve read lately; especially a great article by Your Therapy Source (link at the bottom).  So I decided to make a list of 10 pocketbook-sized toys to occupy your kid (instead of your phone!)

As a public school OT, I work with Kindergarten students two days a week.  The continued decline in the basic motor skills of four and five-year-old children is VERY evident.  There are probably many reasons why, but I feel that lack of functional play time is a BIG contributor.    Nowadays, many kids have their own tablets, TV’s in their rooms, and an IPOD shuffle. They spend less and less time playing outside, which limits their gross motor skills, endurance, and coordination.   When they are inside, they spend less time playing with toys and using their hands and more time with technology.

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#Functionalskillsforkids

Combining Handwriting and Play

This post “Combining Handwriting and Play”  is part of a year-long blog hop called Functional Skills for Kids.  Each month, I will be working with other pediatric OTs and PTs to post on different developmental topics that impact functional skills for kids. I’m so honored to be working with some amazing pediatric bloggers to bring you a well-rounded blog hop that will ultimately result in a BOOK!

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back to school tricks

5 Back to School Tips Every Parent and Teacher Should Know

I can’t believe that Back to School is around the corner.   In honor of back to school this year, I’ve decided to share my 5 best back to school tips!  They may seem simple, but they work!  So here goes!

 

1) For the child who doesn’t hold their pencil correctly…

This is a great tip for kindergarten, first, and second-grade teachers.   Kids still need reminders to hold their pencils correctly.  Why not make it fun?  Rather than spending money on an expensive pencil grip that the kids lose, chew, and pick apart; simply take a sharpie and use it to make a face on each pencil.  For the Kindergarten teacher who spends an hour sharpening every pencil to get ready for the first day of school, this should only take another ten minutes.   For the mom of the child who needs reminders, it takes 30 seconds.  And it works!

  pencil grip trick
Drawing a face on the pencil is a simple visual cue. Kids love it when I ask them what kind of face they want: girl or boy? happy or sad?, etc.
pencil grip tricks,
The thumb goes on one eye, index goes on the other. It’s a quick trick that works wonders!

 

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What parents need to know about jumbo crayons

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!

crayons, jumbo crayons, grasping, fine motor skills

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.

DSC_0377b copy (1)

Toddlers use their whole arm to color, it’s natural! Laying on their belly helps them to start using their fingers, instead of their shoulder.

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!

pencilbigvslittle

The Jumbo pencil is more than twice the size of the golf pencil. Too big!

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.

large crayon rocks

Crayon rocks are perfect for little fingers! They automatically put your fingers in a “pinch” position so kids don’t get in the habit of “fisting” their crayons.

flip crayons

Handwriting Without Tears makes these cute little “flipz” crayons which are perfect for preschool to school age children! Kids have to use in-hand manipulation to “flip” them over and change color.

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!

*This post contains Affiliate Links

One of my favorite students who spent A LOT of time on his belly with me. Mom followed through at home and NOW he is a Kindergarten Success Story!

One of my favorite students who spent A LOT of time on his belly with me. Mom followed through at home and NOW he is a Kindergarten Success Story!

 

 

~Miss Jaime, O.T.


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  Pocketbook sized toys middle school and handwriting
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