- November 7, 2016
We always hear from families with children who have difficulty with writing. Many parents also state that it is hard to get their sons to improve their handwriting, colouring and cutting because they find it boring and will not sit and engage in these activities for long periods of time. Whilst, Vietnamese schools still work on handwriting, this is an area of development that is not directly taught in international schools to the extent that it was twenty or thirty years ago when we had penmanship classes. There is also the question of whether children need to have good handwriting as we move more work to computers and efficient keyboarding becomes a more valued skill.
A wider perspective needs to be taken with the understanding that handwriting and colouring are indicators of a child’s fine motor skill development. Fine motor skills are those that involve the use of the small muscles (hence the word ‘fine’ motor) which control the hand, fingers and thumb. The ability to use these muscles in precise and controlled movements is important in a wide range of tasks outside of writing, including feeding, dressing, and a range of everyday activities. Think of other activities such as picking up a small item from the table, using chopsticks, turning the page of a book, getting money from your wallet, buttoning and zippering, even manoeuvring a mouse on the screen, all of which require refined fine motor skills.
So how can we help our children, especially those who are reluctant to sit and colour, develop their fine motor skills? There are many every day activities that you can use to help children of all ages. Remember that it is often better to practise these skills more frequently and for shorter periods of time – 10 minutes each day will give longer lasting results than an hour once a week.
- Chopsticks, kitchen tongs or tweezers – start with children’s chopsticks that are joined at the top or place an elastic band around the top to help your child initially. As they become more proficient remove the join. Chopsticks can be used to eat but you can also use them and tweezers for fun games such as picking up cotton balls, peas, marbles or small blocks, toys or figurines.
- Make and play with dough – ask your child to help make bread, pastry, cookies or playdough. The kneading action helps develop hand strength. They can then help to decorate the cookies or play with the dough once it is made. Roll the dough into snakes or worms and using it to make their name or placing them over a picture design.
- Sticker books – peeling off and placing stickers in position to make a design or tell a story is a great way to engage boys.
- Nuts and bolts – knobs, screws, nuts, bolts, and other building materials help develop fine motor skills and hand eye coordination.
Other items around the home that are great for children to play with include:
- Paper clips
- Clothespins or pegs
- Rubber bands
- Hole punch
- Syringes and eye droppers
Use these to weave, sew, lace, thread, trace, build, sort, balance and have fun!