Preparing Little Hands to Write

Preparing Little Hands to Write

By: Jodi Howe

I sometimes include coloring activities in my weekly OT groups. By the time I get the supplies handed out to the students there are inevitably a few crayons and sheets of paper that have been tossed to the ground.  When this happens, it becomes a learning opportunity for me as it provides more information and knowledge about the child and a starting place for problem solving how best to assist the child with learning how to color.

Many children I work with are not interested in handwriting or coloring and this can happen for a wide variety of reasons. For example, it is extremely difficult to color if your body is using its energy and focus to maintain balance and stability to sit upright. Coloring requires a child to have postural control to sit in a chair, use one hand to stabilize the paper and one hand to write, coordinate small movements in the wrist and hand while stabilizing the shoulder, visually attend to what he is doing, as well as listen to the directions. Phew! That’s a lot of work for a child whose muscles and brain are still developing.

If you are working with a child who is uninterested in writing or coloring my advice is this: Stop worrying about coloring and start by engaging them in what they are interested in!  Over time you can begin to shape their interest into a writing activity as well as build the fine motor skills they need for writing. For example, if your child is interested in trains, play with trains! Introduce pre-writing shapes by having your child build train tracks in a square or circle, or have them draw horizontal and vertical lines to make train tracks. Have the train move through shaving cream or paint making shapes as it moves. The child may think he is playing, but he is learning the motor plan for basic shapes that will make writing much easier.

Other ideas for creating opportunities to learn writing concepts outside of crayons and paper:

  • Write shapes in shaving cream, sand, or rice
  • Place play-doh or wiki stix on a coloring page
  • Play with magna doodles and construct shapes and letters out of magnets
  • Color in the bath with bathtub crayons
  • Play with scratch art and reveal colors the more you scratch
  • Paint with Q tips or toothpicks


Emily painting with a Q tip and glitter glue

While continuing to explore creative ways to engage your kids in coloring activities, it is also important to encourage those small muscles of the hand to develop. Here’s a link to a blog from a fellow OT with some great ideas for developing fine motor activities with household items.

25 Fine Motor Activities Using Household Items

The bottom line is that children learn through play so find what they like to play with and get creative!

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