Tag Archives: occupational therapy at home

Hand Strength and Coordination – A Recipe For Writing

As I was researching for this post this morning, I came across a stern warning:  Whatever you do, DON’T force a child to hold a pencil correctly as they are learning to write; they may not be developmentally ready.  I’m sure this is just one of many opinions on the subject, but something about the warning resonated with me.  If I leave Noah alone, he uses a beautiful modified tripod (two fingers on the top surface of the pencil instead of one), and his writing is functional.  If I come along and try to “help” him by forcing his fingers into a correct tripod grasp, writing becomes too frustrating and he loses control of the pressure of the crayon.  The truth is that the way children grip writing utensils is largely developmental.  Because Noah’s Down syndrome brings some pretty significant developmental delays, it is no surprise that at age 6 he would still be using a modified tripod grasp.  Most typically-developing children move on to a perfect tripod by age 4-7.   At some point it will be time to help him find a perfect tripod grasp if he hasn’t found it on his own, but today is not the day.

For those of you whose children are ready for the tripod grasp, http://www.writeoutofthebox.com/tips.php is a great site for fine motor work where I found lyrics to a song that teaches correct handling of a pencil.  If you click and wind up at their site, scroll down to the “Sleeping Fingers, Busy Fingers and Pillows” link for an explanation.  From their tips page, scroll down to “Fingers and Pillows” song for the actual lyrics.

Instead of working on a perfected tripod grasp, Noah is focusing more on foundational issues concerning the hand and fingers like in-hand manipulation.

In-hand manipulation:  the ability to move and position objects in one hand without the assistance of the other hand.  http://www.therapystreetforkids.com/fm-inhandmanip.html  Examples:

  • Place a piece of string or paper in front of the child.  Give the child 6 nickles to hold in his dominant hand.  Have him lay down one coin at a time along the line using only his dominant hand.  (He will have to use his finger and hand muscles to move the coin from the center of his palm into the spot between his thumb and index finger.)
  • Place 5 coins near the edge of a table in a horizontal line, leaving space between each coin.  Have your child use his dominant hand to push one coin at a time to the edge of the table, flip it with his thumb and push it back away from the table’s edge.  Repeat for all five coins.  Experiment using different coins to see which are easiest to flip and which are hardest (thickness and size may matter).
  • Have your child use his dominant hand to grasp a pencil using the tripod grasp.  Without using the other hand, have your child use his fingers to “walk” his fingers up and down the pencil.  The goal is to be able to do this while keeping the pencil steady.
  • Peg Boards – If you have an easel, use it to prop up the peg board; otherwise, a horizontal surface is fine.  Have your child store as many pegs as he comfortably can in his dominant hand and insert the pegs into the peg board using only the palm and fingers to manipulate each peg into a pincer grasp and then into the board.

What have I missed?  Any ideas to add to the list?

Not Writing? No Problem? Alphabet Skills for Prewriters

Is your little one ready to learn the alphabet but has no interest in writing?

No problem.

Consider this:

How many unique shapes would you need to form all the capital letters of the alphabet?

Here’s your hint:


Betcha didn’t know you can make all 26 capital letters with just 4 basic lines (you’ll have to use some twice).

For example, the letter A:  Two long lines, one short line in between.

B:  One long line, two big curves.

C:  One big curve.


And on and on.

Using these free letter puzzle printables I found on Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/pin/234961305529990688/), I was able to print out the templates and letter patterns for all 26 uppercase letters.  You’ll find the original post with printables here:  http://tiredneedsleep.blogspot.com/2009/10/build-letter-templates.html.

I made my templates with craft foam – I just love the feel of the stuff, and it cuts so nicely.  Tagboard works well too.

All three of my Littles (Noah – 6 with Down syndrome, Bella 4 and Seth 3) all went right to work on this and continue to love this activity.

If you’re familiar with Handwriting Without Tears, they use a similar process for pre-writers.  It’s developmentally sound – a tactile, kinesthetic activity that requires recognizing shapes and working to form alphabet letters.  This kind of activity engages the brain in a way where letter formation and motor planning are happening even though there is no pen and paper in sight.  In other words, this is a great way to start down the Yellow Brick Road on the way to writing.

And as we say in the Land of Oz Homeschool, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home!

Mystery Bag – Using Touch to Identify Objects

The idea for a mystery bag activity has been on my mind since Noah (6 – with Down syndrome) played a game similar to Ned’s Head in speech therapy a few months back.  You know how those ideas get planted, you sit, you watch, and you say I could do that!

The concept for this game is you stick your hand into the bag (or stocking) and identify what you are pulling out before you pull it out, or you put your hand into the bag trying to pull out a particular item.


I was planning on using a pillowcase or paper sack, but when I saw this Christmas stocking pin, http://pinterest.com/pin/234961305531199323/ from the original blog post at  http://littlewondersdays.blogspot.com/2010/12/whats-in-stocking.html,I decided I liked the stocking idea way better.

I wanted to use this to practice vocabulary with Noah, so I made up a bunch of PECs to go along with unique items that would fit into the stocking.  I came up with three pages worth, so even if you don’t have everything, you can pick and choose which ones you want to use.  You’ll find the free printable cards in PDF format here:  Mystery Bag.

Thanks to www.mrsriley.com for giving me such an easy way to make these cards.  For www.mrsriley.com members, you can find my fully editable file here:  http://mrsriley.com/app/#fileID=61953.

I just stacked the cards right-side down and let him take one from the top of the pile, insert hand into filled stocking, pull out matching object, wallah.

(By the way, I’m experimenting with auditory bombardment, which is basically reading a list of target words while your child is sitting passively.  In many circles it’s not considered productive, but I’m operating on the assumption that Noah has to hear and identify a word before he can start the motor planning process to say the word, so I want him to have as much exposure to the word as possible.  It’s an easy, fast exercise, and it can’t hurt to try something new, right?)

Anyway, back to the mystery bag.  I read through the cards and show them to Noah before he starts the game and after he finishes the game – my version of auditory bombardment.

Noah had no trouble with this the first time we played.  Granted, I only put items in the bag that were extremely different from each other.  I have to say I was impressed with how readily accessible Noah’s sense of discriminating touch was.  Makes me think sandpaper letters or something along those lines might be a way to help him with his letter recognition.

Hope you had a sweet Valentine’s Day.   Yuk yuk.  Very punny, as my kids would say.