Fine motor skills, or the use of the small muscles in the hands, are necessary for handwriting. Sadly, these skills are not optimally developed in our children in today’s techno age. The question is: what exactly are these skills and, more importantly, what can we do to improve them?
Fine motor skills are those that use the small muscles in the hands to achieve functional tasks from grasping, releasing, turning, pulling, threading, posting, and cutting to handwriting. We know that early pre-handwriting skills are linked to superior performance in maths and reading in Grade 2. We also know that these early handwriting skills require the fine motor foundations to be mastered. There has been a significant decline in fine motor skills in pre-schoolers with the advent of early exposure to technology which finds our children swiping and pointing with less opportunity for good old fashioned manipulative play.
Parents are often confronted by a concerned teacher who expresses distress about a lack of development of fine motor skills, and highlights concerns about pencil grip. Children frequently avoid drawing or have untidy handwriting. The teacher may even indicate that your child may need to see an occupational therapist if there is no improvement over the coming months. As parents, we want to spring into action and help, however, there seems to be a gap in the resources we can find to assist our children. The Happy Handwriter has developed a number of carefully selected and developed graded resources to address exactly these concerns. In addition to starting with Learn to Cut, and the Fine Motor Fun kit to address the muscles and movement patterns required for handwriting, you may add a number of carefully graded manipulative activities all of which target and develop exactly the muscles and movement patterns required for developing pencil control.
Cutting is one of the most critical pre-handwriting skills we have to develop gaps in fine motor development. The cutting motion develops critical fine motor muscles and movement patterns and I believe that our children should cut from here to the moon and back! Learn to Cut is a carefully designed graded introduction to cutting. The activities build in the cutting movement, the correct scissor grasp, along with the cutting motion. All this takes place in a graded and systematic manner which leads to the mastery of this vital skill. Targeting cutting activities is a must for any parent, teacher or therapist wishing to develop fine motor skills in their children.
When a child has missed out on the normal fine motor developmental milestones, they need specifically targeted activities to build in these muscle groups and patterns. Presenting a child with delayed fine motor skills with non-specific and generalised fine motor activities is insufficient to breach this gap. Activities that target specific muscle groups, and that allow for multiple repetition that will develop these skills, are critical to addressing these delays. The specific and targeted activities such as those in the Fine Motor Fun kit work because, as its name suggests, it is full of fun activities that will engage our children. These activities have been chosen for their inherent ability to target the muscle groups and movement patterns for pencil grip, pencil control and handwriting. Tried and tested with countless numbers of children over 25 years, these activities fulfill the requirements of being both the children’s and the therapist’s favourites. Favourites with the children because they are fun to play over and over again (and repetition is critical in muscle development), and my favourites because they target exactly the muscles and movements that are required to develop the forearm and wrist position, pencil grip, and the movement patterns required for speed and quality of handwriting.
It has become obvious that fine motor skills are severely underdeveloped in this day and age. However, all is not lost. The Happy Handwriter has developed many different resources designed to improve fine motor skills in young children, including the two above, all of which will be able to assist your children with the development of these crucial skills.
I have been using Happy Handwriter’s products in my therapy sessions for four years, with consistently great results. It targets all the different components needed for handwriting and fine motor skills, which makes it a comprehensive programme to use, and the results are reflected in children’s schoolbooks as well as on standardised tests.
Most importantly, the children love the activities and games! Even children who have developed a dislike for writing by the time they start OT, participate enthusiastically in games like flick ball, the octoglider, gator grabbers, pancake flips, fruit trees, clay syringes, handy scoopers, texture boards and wikki stix. Many of the activities are also suitable for older children. It is the first thing I recommend to parents who want to stimulate fine motor skills at home, and it is also the first thing I tell new therapists to buy – no paediatric practice is complete without it!
Lise Reyneke, Occupational Therapist, Malmesbury