I am a pediatric occupational therapist with 24 years experience providing quality OT to children, along with caregiver instruction and support. My mission is to educate and empower therapists, teachers, caregivers, and parents of children with special needs.
How many times have you worked on coloring within the lines with a child only to look at the child and he is coloring away and his eyes are nowhere near the paper and crayon? This has happened more than I'd like to admit. Thanks to a tip from an OT friend, I have a new technique that I'm going to share with you. Items needed: Plastic Canvas Needlepoint Sheets (found at craft stores or Amazon), File Folders, Construction Paper, Crayons, Slant Board (optional).
Cut the shapes that you want the child to color in the center of the file folders then laminate them. Cut out the shapes once again.
Here are the Plastic Canvas Needlepoint Sheets-Clear and White.
Place the Needlepoint sheet down first, followed by the file folder cut out, then the construction paper with the same size shape drawn on it.
Be sure to line up the shapes on the file folder and the construction paper.
Have the child color within the lines of the square. As she colors inside the square, she will "feel" the bumpiness of the needlepoint sheet, but if she goes outside the lines, the file folder blocks the bumps, so she will be more motivated to color within the lines! Plus, the feeling bumps draws her visual attention to the task! A double reward!!!
Children who have challenges with handwriting are often encouraged to “practice, practice, practice,” but sometimes practice doesn’t result in improved legibility. In some instances, occupational therapists will recommend a weighted pen or pencil to improve handwriting, but the evidence supporting the effectiveness of weighted utensils is scarce. That’s why I was encouraged when I recently read a 2017 research article in the Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools, & Early Intervention on the use of weighted pencils.
The article reviewed a series of three case scenarios of children whose handwriting improved after initiating the use of weighted pencils. However, it is important to note that the reported improved legibility was anecdotal, with no formal assessments or statistical analyses included in the study.
The article shares some information that therapists might find useful. For example, when recommending a weighted utensil, the therapist should be sure that the child’s joint integrity is intact, and that the child will be safe and responsible with the utensil. The authors of the article also stressed that each child should provide input regarding the amount of weight that is added to the pencil so that it is comfortable for them and also improves legibility. It is important to note that the evidence provided in the article is very preliminary, and additional studies are needed.
Below is an image of a DIY weighted pencil.
Reference: Brown, M. J. (2017). Use of weighted pencils to improve handwriting legibility. Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools, & Early Intervention, 10(1), 52-68.
Hi friends! Here are some free spring-themed worksheets that are good for a child's visual motor and visual perceptual skills. Completing these worksheets is a fun and engaging way for a child to improve motor skills that are so important for everyday tasks. How? Coloring promotes bilateral upper extremity skills, or the use of both hands together in a coordinated way. For example, when the child stabilizes the paper with one hand while coloring, drawing, or writing with the other hand, she is utilizing bilateral skills, and bilateral coordination is necessary for tasks such as handwriting, cutting, buttoning, and zipping.
I hope your child will enjoy these free spring-themed worksheets!
Any child can color the sheet using crayons or color pencils, and they can also work on their fine motor skills by decorating the shamrock using torn pieces of paper. Tearing the paper into small bits is good for grasping and fine motors skills. Once the torn pieces are ready, instruct the child to use white school glue to squeeze a small glue dot on each piece of paper before pressing it onto the coloring sheet. The glue can be messy which can be a great sensory experience!
What a beautiful shamrock! Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!
Because many of our sensory systems contribute to the process of writing legibly, when a child struggles with handwriting, it may be helpful to incorporate sensory strategies in with handwriting instruction. I call this “Sensory Writing!” Here are some fun, sensory-based ways to work on handwriting skills.
Shaving Cream Writing: Put a small amount of shaving cream on a surface. Remember, a little goes a long way! Then have the child smooth it out across the surface and practice forming basic shapes, letters, or numbers. Mistakes are not a problem! Simply erase them with a swipe of the hand!
Rice Writing: Have the child use a marker to color the surface of a paper plate. Once it dries, sprinkle a layer of rice on the plate. Now it’s time to practice writing shapes, letters, and numbers in the rice!
Putty Writing: Roll play dough or therapy putty to form various letters. Squeezing, pulling, and pinching are all great for fine motor skills, and making the letters helps with letter formation.
Remember, it's important for children to have plenty of opportunities to move throughout the day. This will help them pay attention, and it warms up their muscles and joints for writing and other fine motor activities!
I love Valentines Day! Here are 5 free Valentine's Day worksheets that address visual perceptual skills and fine motor skills. Just click on the worksheet to go to a PDF copy. Enjoy, and have a happy Valentine's Day!
Many children have difficulty holding a pencil correctly. This may be because they were never instructed how to hold a pencil properly or because they were exposed to writing too early, and their little hands weren’t ready to grasp and manipulate a writing utensil. No matter what the cause, if a child has a poor pencil grip, it can lead to problems down the road, especially if the poor grasp is causing stress on certain joints or if there is fatigue or pain during writing tasks.
Here is a DIY adapted pencil that can be used to promote a better grasp. All that you need are a pencil and a short piece of clear vinyl tubing. The piece of tubing should be approximately 1 to 1 ½ inches long, depending on the size of the child’s hand. Cut a hole in one end of the tubing that is just large enough for a pencil to fit through and slide the pencil in. (I use wire cutters to cut the tubing.)
When holding the pencil, the tubing should be just long enough to wrap the ring and pinkie fingers around it.
As a pediatric occupational therapist, I'm often asked about the importance of crawling. I have to say that I'm convinced that there is a relationship between crawling and the development of a number of important skills. For example, the physical act of crawling strengthens a baby's hand, arm, should, and core muscles, and research suggests that crawling influences the development of visual-spatial skills and social-emotional development. I've written about this topic quite a bit! (For more information, see the links below.)
Because I'm such a proponent of early exploration and crawling, I was super excited to learn about a product called the CrawlAhead! This is a portable device used to assist a baby with crawling on all fours by supporting the child's trunk while he or she is in the hands and knees position. When a baby has muscle weakness or other challenges, the CrawlAhead can be used to lift the trunk off of the support surface, allowing the baby to assume and maintain a quadruped position. This provides opportunities for weight bearing and strengthening, which we therapists know is very important! Additionally, a parent or therapist can guide the child's arms and legs "through the motions" of crawling while the support by the device, which will help with motor planning! With practice and time, strength and coordination improves, and the need for the device is reduced, and hopefully, baby will eventually crawl independently! An added bonus of the CrawlAhead is that it is collapsible and fits into a sturdy bag for transporting, which is important for parents and therapists who are "on the go!"
Bai, DL & Bertenthal, BI (1992). Locomotor status and the development of spatial search skills. Child Development, 63, 215-226. Benson, J. B. (1990). The development and significance of crawling in infancy. In J. E. Clark, & J. H. Humphrey (Eds.), Advances in motor development research. New York: AMS Press. Benson, JB, & Uzgiris, I C (1985). Effect of self-initiated locomotion on infant search activity. Developmental Psychology, 21(6), 923-931. Campos, J. J., Bertenthal, B. I., & Kermoian, R. (1992). Early experience and emotional development: The emergence of wariness of heights. Psychological Science, 3, 61-64
When your baby is positioned on the stomach to play while supervised, this is considered tummy time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies get supervised tummy time on a daily basis to promote development and prevent flat spots from forming on baby's head.
Here are a few tips on how to introduce tummy time and increase an infant’s tolerance while having fun!
Entertain Baby. If you little one dislike being on her stomach, try entertaining her! Do your best to get baby's mind off of the position. Make eye contact, talk, and sing to baby. Also, play music, read books, or place a mirror in front of her, and the seconds will stretch into minutes!
Face to Face time with Siblings. Have big brother or big sister lie down on the floor close to baby during tummy time. Encourage them to stay at baby's eye level and talk to him or read to him. Siblings love to be helpful!
Have a Schedule. Having a schedule helps you remember tummy time, and baby will likely start to anticipate the routine. Incorporate tummy time into the daily routines, such as towel drying after bath time, after a diaper change, or when applying lotion. Just remember to never leave your baby’s side during tummy time!