Playing with dough, threading pictures and shapes, pegging on a pegboard, screwing nuts and bolts together in a construction toy, pinching clothes pegs open and closed, popping bubble wrap and drawing, are some of the activities that stimulate manipulations skills in the fingers and hands, as well as strengthening the eye muscles in preparation for handwriting.
The way a child holds a peg or a threading lace is exactly the way they will grip a pen or pencil later on. The pencil grip matures and changes over time until a child is between around seven years of age. You will start seeing a child holding a pencil crayon in a more co-ordinated way and using less whole arm movement and more wrist flexibility when they are drawing and colouring in.
An efficient pencil grip is one with an open web space where the index finger and thumb are in opposition to each other. Some varieties are acceptable as long as there is an open webspace with finger flexibility, without excessive pressure or tension. Any of these grips below are workable due to the open webspace.
Believe it or not, many dysfunctional pencil grips are attributed by therapists and teachers today to the fact that many children are using the monkey grip (ie. Not using the thumb) because they have not been exposed to enough gross motor activities such pulling on a Tarzan rope and hanging from bars on a jungle gym, which stimulates the palmar grip.
Gym for the hands
Make sure your child acquires hand strength and dexterity in the early years so that holding a pen later on is easy. To recap, the following activities are good for developing the pre-writing skills of fine motor control, eye-hand control and proprioception (information from muscles and joints sent to the brain to help the child decide how hard to press when writing):
- Colouring in and drawing
- Pushing, clicking and screwing construction toys together
- Popping bubble wrap
- Jungle gyms
- Monkey rings
- Climbing walls
- Trees to climb