Activities to Improve Handwriting. Dinosaur Themed!

When we are helping children with handwriting foundations, sometimes all we want are some easily accessible grab-and-go activities we can implement at a moments notice.  While we do love to know the theory behind everything, we also need fun activities to improve handwriting that are going to enable us to apply that theory and see measurable changes in our children’s skills.  These activities target the specific muscles and movement patterns we need to improve pencil control and handwriting quality.

I got a bit carried away with these dinosaurs!  There are loads of dino themed activities to improve handwriting that are targeting the foundational muscles and movement patterns, so keep on scrolling until you get to the bottom or you may miss out!

Dino excavation using droppers and jumbo tweezers

Droppers are lovely for young children to experiment with.  But sometimes we need a more challenging activity using the droppers that will still keep our children’s attention.  I don’t think you are ever too old for this dino excavation!

I don’t know what we did before we had the Learning Resources Jumbo Tweezers.  Of course there were other tweezers but they just weren’t in the same league.  I love that they have the indentations showing where the-three-friends should hold.  The tension of these tweezers challenges our techno kids to get those muscles moving!

As your child grasps with these tweezers, the muscles that develop what we call the arches of the hand are activated, making them perfect for fine motor skills development.  The hand arches help the palm of the hand to assume a “dome” shape which is an essential foundation for achieving refined pencil control for handwriting.

Cutting is one of our go-to activities to improve handwriting

We need to see cutting not only as a functional skill, but also for the muscle development it offers.  For sure we do need to be able to cut things out.  But to see cutting as that alone would be a wasted opportunity.  Cutting is one of the most versatile activities we have to develop the muscle foundations for pencil grip and ultimately pencil control.  This dino cutting activity offers a little more challenge because the assembly is tapping into higher level spatial planning abilities.

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Before cutting out your dinosaur:

  1. Make sure your child has the correct pair of scissors.  Left-handed scissors for lefties and right-handed scissors for the rights.
  2. Print the cutting sheet onto 160g card.  The firmness offered by the card makes it easier for your child to cut as it flops around less.
  3. Slice the pieces apart before cutting them out.  We want our children to achieve a flow of cutting to promote the fine motor skills development.  If they are having to manage the large sheet with all the pieces on it, they are less likely to achieve this flow.
  4. These are more complex shapes that really do require good bilateral work between the two hands. The preferred cutting hand needs to keep on cutting, but the assist hand really has to be actively assisting.
  5. The shapes will require subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, adjustments of the wrist. This is what our children need when they are writing in order to move their hands to the different places on the sheet.
  6. Your child needs to copy the example to lay out and assemble their dinosaur.

Please post your dinos on our Facebook page – I would love to see them!

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Modelling clay rolling

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  1. Laminate your print out so you can use it over and over.
  2. I first get the children to learn to isolate the-three-friends® and the tuck-down-two®.
  3. If they are struggling to isolate the tuck-down-two, there is always the option to get them to hold a small pompom or disc under the 4th and 5th fingers. But there is a big BUT attached to this. It can work and it does have its place. But it can be too many moving parts for the child to manage. Sometimes it can be better to spend some time with a spray bottle first and have them hold around the neck of the bottle.
  4. By focusing on the-three-friends and getting them working together, I usually find that in time, they are able to tuck in the-tuck-down two and stop them flying around.

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Paper rolling activities to improve handwriting

This is a stunning fun handwriting activity for children to work on the dexterity and manipulative abilities of the-three-friends.

  1. Cut the paper strips.
  2. Place the strip on the table and roll it up around a pencil.
  3. Be sure to use tiny sequential movements of the fingers to roll, rather than rolling it up with the palm on the table.
  4. Stick the paper rolls on the dinosaur.
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Dynamic refined finger movements for pencil control

It is the isolated refined finger movements that give us speed and quality of handwriting.  Where our children have used some kind of adapted pencil grip, we often find that the refined finger movements have not emerged.  We need to build in the movement patterns.  It is not enough that we correct the grip pattern – it is highly unlikely they are going to spontaneously begin using movements of the fingers that move independently of the hand.  Our activities to improve handwriting need to be highly specific in nature.

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When they are younger, it is developmentally appropriate for our children to use wrist movements or even whole arm movements for mark making and early handwriting.  However, when to comes to achieving speed and quality of handwriting, our children are going to need to write tests and examinations, they need tiny controlled movements.  And our children need not only to develop the movements, but to develop endurance.  This activity is going to challenge their endurance as they have to get to the end of each line, using only finger movements.  Be prepared for some complaining!

  1. Correctly position the page using the Crocodile Mouth®.
  2. Ensure your child has their hand resting on the page.  If they can’t achieve this position they are not ready for the demands of this activity.
  3. It is not helpful if the child colours the lines by moving their whole hand up and down.  That is not going to do anything to facilitate the emergence of those finger movements.
  4. Using bend-stretch movements of the fingers, you child will colour one line at a time.
  5. I always tell them to bump the top line, then bump the bottom line.
  6. Use circular movements to colour the shapes next to the dinosaur.

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If you are wanting a good overview of fine motor skills development, Kid Sense has a great chronological table from birth through to 8 years.

So that’s it for our dinosaur activities to improve handwriting!  I hope you have fun and see your children’s skills developing.

©Bunty McDougall
Occupational Therapist

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