Finger Exercises for Handwriting. Practical Activities for Kids.

When we are working with children to help them with their fine motor skills and handwriting, we often need to structure activities to get the exact movements we are looking for.  We have to be specific in order to develop the muscles and movement patterns we are targeting.  If we are going to get our children to engage and use the movements we need, we have to make them fun.  This is where the-three-friends® came from.  They are a fun way to engage our children when doing finger exercises for handwriting.  We will meet the-three-friends and explore some practical activities for kids.

finger exercises for handwriting, benefits of hands on activities in the classroom, practical activities for kids

Finger exercises for handwriting: the-three-friends®.

The-three-friends® – the thumb index and middle fingers – also have two other friends.  They are the tuck-down-two®, or the fourth and fifth fingers.  Years back in my occupational therapy practice, the tuck-down-two were called the rascals.  That was until one child’s father misheard, and through we were calling them the assholes!  So the tuck-down-two they became.  Along with the-three-friends, (and, it goes without saying, all the other supporting structures) they contribute towards the development of speed and legibility of handwriting.

I always say that handwriting should have been called finger writing.  This is because it is the finger movement that is critical to developing handwriting fluency and speed.  We don’t want handwriting movement to be initiated primarily from the hand, wrist or arm.  And we most definitely want the arm resting on the table.  And this is why finger exercises for handwriting are critical.

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The-three-friends: how to grip the pen for good handwriting

For the fingers to move the pencil efficiently, they need to achieve a balance between the-three-friends.  The tuck-down-two provide stability  They are the base from which the-three-friends can move.  So while the tuck-down-two are loosely bent into the palm of the hand quietly providing stability in the background, the-three-friends are getting finger exercises for handwriting.  The unique balance of pressure exerted by each of these fingers, ensures they move as a unit, co-operating all the time as their bend-stretch movements form lines and circles in specific sequences, to form letters.

The pencil is held with pads of thumb and index fingers, and rests on the middle finger.  The balance of pressure between the three is evenly balanced so they move as a cohesive unit.  Let one of them make some kind of adjustment, and you have upset this unique balance which facilitates the discrete, isolated refined finger movements.  Together, they provide the gold standard in pencil grips – the dynamic tripod pencil grip.  But, as we have noted before, efficiency of pencil grip is not defined by how the grip looks, but by whether or not finger movement is achieved.  So, if the-three-friends and tuck-down-two get slightly out of sync, but the discrete refined finger movements remain intact, then we have an efficient pencil grip.

Finger exercises for handwriting: practical activities for kids

Now we have identified the fingers of the two sides of the hand, we need to give them a workout!.  This involves providing opportunities to use them in fun, purposeful fine motor skills activities that require their use to succeed.

Pin Heads

The pin heads are a great practical activity for kids to getting the-three-friends to come together and perform a holding action.  They need to grasp, and they need to place the pin.

Spinning Ice Bears

This is a real stunner when looking for practical activities for kids for getting the-three-friends to work and move together.  Spin the frozen bears like spinning tops and get the-three-friends working and moving together.

Heather from Growing Hands on Kids has some lovely Practical Activities for Kids.

Bow Ties

finger exercises for handwriting, benefits of hands on activities in the classroom, practical activities for kids

I have been doing bow ties with my children for longer than I can remember!  Bows are stunning finger exercises for handwriting and a real workout for the-three-friends.

  1. Place the two pieces of crepe paper on top of each other.
  2. Hold it with the-three-friends of both hands with the finger tips touching.
  3. Use the preferred hand to twist towards you.
  4. Twist a few times.
  5. Glue onto the flowers and leaves on your picture.

In closing about finger exercises for handwriting

The-three-friends and the tuck-down-two are my best friends when it comes to finger exercises for handwriting.  Give the-three-friends a workout and they will prepare the muscles to manipulate the pencil.  This goes a long way to ensuring that we develop the speed and quality of handwriting our children need.

©Bunty McDougall
Occupational Therapist

finger exercises for handwriting, benefits of hands on activities in the classroom, practical activities for kids

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