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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in fine motor development
Posted by on in Early Childhood

young boy writing with pencil

I once had a reading specialist tell me that the only way for children to learn to read is for them to read. I never have figured out how one learns to do something she can’t yet do by doing it! But I sometimes feel as though I’m in the minority here, as this attitude seems to be a fairly prevalent one – and not just in the area of reading.

recently I had the opportunity to talk with pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom and early childhood specialist Amanda Morgan on my radio show, Studentcentricity. As I told these two dedicated professionals at the beginning of the discussion, while doing some instructional coaching last fall, I watched as a kindergarten teacher handed out pencils to the children, along with some lined paper, and instructed them to practice their writing. And what I witnessed made me sad. Not only were these children not prepared to write; also, their little hands were having a terrible time controlling those long, skinny, yellow things. But despite those two overwhelmingly obvious facts, it was clear that the teacher believed that the only way these students could learn to write was by writing.

For those who understand child development, however, it’s clear that this is a serious misconception. All forms of development, including the fine motor development required to manipulate a pencil, involve a process. And unless a child has progressed through the stages necessary to ensure the appropriate hand strength and fine motor control, trying to write is an exercise in futility and frustration.

Motor skills develop from the inside to the outside of the body, and from the large to the small muscles. That means that until a child has control over such body parts as the trunk and arms, control of the hands and fingers just ain’t happening. And it is due to this progression, put in place by none other than Mother Nature, that it’s been said – believe it or not -- that the best way to prepare children to write is to let them swing on monkey bars. Or, as Angela recommended during our conversation, to let them hang from tree limbs, because the limbs stimulate more parts of the hands than do the monkey bars. She also recommended crawling, particularly in the outdoors, where the arches of the hands will contact far different surfaces than they would indoors. And, of course, hanging from tree limbs and crawling have the added benefit of strengthening the body’s large muscles, which must take place before the hands and fingers are ready to write!

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

Development progresses proximodistally, from the body core outward. Toddlers are newly gaining control over their arms, hands, and fingers. They have moved from palmar to pincer grasp and now have the ability to use their fingers with more precision.

We can provide activities to prepare little hands to someday play a musical instrument, fly across a computer keyboard, or perform delicate surgery! Exercising those small muscles are easily a part of everyday routines and play- the way it should be. As we interact with and observe toddlers, we can make the most of what they’re already doing and interested in.

tearing paper

Tear paper. Now you have two sets of fingers grasping and pulling! Provide a variety of papers, some thin and some thick. Magazine pages are easier to rip and a good choice for beginners. Tearing paper is a sensory activity that very young children enjoy. They will notice the different sounds the paper makes as they tear it fast or slow and usually stay engaged quite a while.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

Writenow2Today I'm making a brief comment about Cursive Writing, or lack of, in schools. Along with homework, this topic appears to be in a growing debate. With time scarce and deep, rigorous knowlege standards at the forefront of education, and rightly so, cursive writing has taken a big hit. Teachers and parents are truly caught in the middle. Opponents and proponents each make an eloquent case for their belief. And that's just fine. Let the debate begin.

In the meantime, I want to weigh in on the subject. I wonder how you feel about this. If you are a teacher, do you have time allocated in your curriculum to practice handwriting? If so, how much time do you spend? Are students only typing or are they encouraged to write in cursive?

What's the big deal with Cursive Writing? Nearly every day I read an article lamenting the loss of Cursive Writing. Perhaps you've seen various Facebook posts showing student papers coming home marked "Stop writing in Cursive." Why? I find this difficult to comprehend. Not all assignments can be done by keyboarding. What do you think about this?

I agree it's important for children to learn typing and keyboarding skills. This is obviously, a digital age in America. But typing and keyboarding are certainly different than the motor skills involved in handwriting. Fine motor skills combine with movement. Beautiful cursive is an art form, in my opinion. Cursive writing beautifies the written word and is a lost art. Fine motor skills are needed by young children and writing contributes to fine motor growth. 

Common Core did not focus on cursive writing, except an honorable mention in kindergarten and first grade. That made no sense to me, if accurate. When I teach the alphabet and basic writing, I start in block manuscript, of course, teaching by pointing out sticks, tunnels, circles and curves in letters. Moreover, I always advocate teaching upper and lower case letters at the same time, so a student can see that an A is an a, whether in upper or lower case. I move to cursive when the child has mastered basic manuscript. Cursive writing generally is taught by second or third grade, depending on school curriculum and state standards. It is certainly not measured on a standardized test.

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