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Developing fine motor skills!

Posted in: Blog | October 5, 2020

As mentioned in previous blogs, we can’t expect our children to handle and use scissors and pencils correctly and safely, if we have not helped them develop the necessary strength in their fingers and hands.

We have seen how brilliant play dough is as a muscle builder. Pulling, pushing, stretching and kneading gives fingers, hands and arms a great workout. (As does making bread, if you fancy trying that with your child!)

There are lots of activities you can do at home to help your child, and you don’t need specialist equipment! Threading pipe cleaners or straws through a colander to make a giant hedgehog is great fun, and AIDS hand/eye coordination, as well as improving a pincer grip, so necessary for pencil and scissor control. Mark making in ‘fairy dust’ (glitter, I’m afraid, but you knew I’d suggest something messy!) is a real favourite with all children. Using pincers, or pincer grip, (thumb and forefinger) to pick up small objects and sort into containers, I’d really fun, and has the added bonus of turning into a maths session if the child counts as they drop! Cotton buds make great paint brushes, and help the children with pencil control. Tearing paper and sticking onto card to make a collage, is a fantastic activity. Who doesn’t get satisfaction from ripping paper?!

At Tiny Toes, we aim to help teach children to learn how to hold a pencil in a tried grip. However, as with all aspects of child development, not all children progress at the same rate. This does not mean they are ‘falling behind’, rather, they are working at their own pace, and this is highly desirable in child development.

All children begin by using a ‘fisted grasp’. This involves using shoulder muscles to make the pencil move. The ‘Palmer grasp’ usually follows this (although many children move back and forth across the various grips for quite a while. This is normal.) In this grasp, the pencil lies across the palm of the hand, with elbow extended. This grasp uses arm as well as shoulder muscles. Next, we usually see the ‘ five fingered grasp’, which relies on wrist movements to control the pencil’s movements. Finally, we reach the ‘tripod grip’, where children (and adults!) use two fingers and a thumb to hold the pencil. This initially relies on wrist movements to control the pencil, but eventually moves onto finger control, and makes us able writers.

Without the development of fine and gross motor skills and the building of strength in the muscles involved, children cannot use scissors and pencils effectively.

What about left- handed children? We at Tiny Toes, will sit left- handed children on the left side of their partner, so they do not bump elbows. We use left- handed scissors, and help the children hold their pencils at a higher point, whilst tilting their paper slightly. People sometimes expect ‘scruffy’ writing from left-handlers. No need. My daughter is left handed, and her writing puts me to shame, and I taught her!