Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Get a GRIP! [part 2]

"What can I do to FIX that?!"   That's the question I get a lot at this time of year as kids head back to school and teachers meet their new students who hold a pencil with all sorts of "funky" grasps.  As you read in my earlier post "Get a Grip! part 1", the goal is to have students hold a pencil or crayon with an efficient grasp that minimizes hand fatigue.  Most commonly, this will be a 3-finger grasp with adequate wrist extension (roughly 30 degrees extension at the wrist instead of having the wrist flexed forward and curled down).  If you took a look at pencil grasps this week, you probably know that LOTS of kids do indeed have "funky" grasps.  So how CAN you fix this?  I've got a SUPER EASY solution for you! Start by breaking all of those new crayons you just bought for back to school.  I know this can put some people over the edge....who doesn't LOVE a brand new box of crayons?!   While brand new crayons ARE a joy of back to school, using small pieces of crayons will be a quick fix for kiddos who have less than efficient grasps. 

You'll see that some of the pieces are pretty small but small is fantastic for correcting grasps!  Give it a try~~when you use a small piece of crayon, it FORCES you to use an efficient 3-finger grasp. 

The same idea can be accomplished with very small pieces of chalk on the chalkboard or with sidewalk chalk.  I used to joke that my kids would be so surprised when they got to school and saw that new crayons are so "big"!  

I found these cute little stacking crayons in the dollar bin at Target.  It's a stack of bunny heads and you can stack them or take them apart and color with each individually.  They are small but the kids love coloring with the bunnies. You can find similar stacking pencils for kids to use for writing too.  The dollar store is usually  a great place to look!
I hope you'll give this a try : )  Using small crayons and pencils helps ALL children with fine motor development but especially those with poor grasp patterns.  I recommend this to early childhood teachers who are "on the front line" for a child's fine motor development.  Poor patterns form early so providing kids with techniques and tools early will lead to a happy writer down the road!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Get a GRIP! [part 1]

It's already a busy start to the school year!  Students are trying to get back into a good school day routine with some help from parents and teachers.  As you review skills from the previous year, please pay attention to your students' pencil grasp and help them correct it if needed.  Learning to use an efficient 3-finger grasp will help to decrease hand fatigue and improve overall legibility of written work.  A 3-finger, or "tripod" grasp looks like this:

Examples of inefficient grasps would include a fisted grasp.... 

or a thumb wrap grasp.

These 2 examples are inefficient because they will quickly lead to hand fatigue and also decrease control needed for letter formation, coordination, and legibility.  HABITS FORM QUICKLY!!  Believe me, there are LOTS of kids who already have strong grasp pattern habits formed before they ever enter kindergarten. Breaking those habits is really, really difficult and sometimes seems impossible.   It's important to train children to use an effective grasp when they are old enough to hold a pencil so that they can be successful writers as they get older.

 For the next couple of days, I'm asking you to take note of your kiddos' pencil grip and notice if it is an efficient 3-finger grip or some other inefficient grip.  Check back for part 2 of "Get a Grip!" so that you can learn some simple methods to teach a proper grip and/or remediate to correct a grip that needs some improvement.  I think you'll find that there are some simple ways to help your kids!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

You're RIGHT! Or is it LEFT?

Does your child struggle with left and right?  Are they getting ready to go to school but still need to establish hand dominance for writing and other fine motor tasks?  Take a look at my posting on First Grade Connections to find some helpful tips!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Finger Puppets!

I found these fun little finger puppets today and I think my students will love them!  They are 3 cute little bunnies that fit right on your fingertip.  I thought they would be fun for fingerplay songs and impromptu puppet shows that encourage creativity.  There might be a favorite book about bunnies where these will come in handy too.  Finger puppets help to develop finger coordination that is important for writing and cutting.  There is some bilateral hand use required too as the child works to get each puppet on a finger.  Anything that gets those little fingers working is a GOOD THING!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Monday, August 15, 2011

First Grade Connections

I'm excited to be a contributor for a new blog network called First Grade Connections!   This is a place where 1st grade teachers can network and share all sorts of ideas for school.  While I'm not a 1st grade teacher, I DO teach lots of 1st graders!  As a school OT, I get the privilege of working with kids of all ages and the majority of my students are PreK-2nd grade.  I'm hoping to offer ideas to all of those amazing 1st grade teachers so that they can help their students with fine motor skills in the classroom.  Check it out at First Grade Connections !

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Monday, August 8, 2011

Scribbles to Shapes

As children start to take interest in doodling with a pencil or crayon (typically around age 2), there is a developmental progression that eventually leads to early writing skills.  Keep in mind that this progression refers to 'copying' which means the child looks at a picture of the line/shape and imitates it (as opposed to watching someone draw the line/shape and then trying to do the same). The developmental order for most young children is:
  • Horizontal line
  • Vertical line
  • Circle
  • Plus sign (cross)
  • Square
  • Diagonal line
  • Triangle
  • Diamond
All of the lines and shapes are important for learning to write letters and numbers and the developmental progression helps to explain why some children can write their names earlier than others.  For example, while "LEO" will copy horizontal lines, vertical lines, and a circle, "SAM" will need to be able to copy more complicated diagonal lines to be able to copy his name.  Both names have the same number of letters, however, "SAM" will need more time to develop pre-writing skills to be able to copy the curvy "S" and the diagonals for "A" and "M".  I guess this could be one more thing for expectant parents to consider when choosing a name for their baby =)

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Kiddie Kabobs

Looking for a fun fine motor activity that will also get your kids wanting to eat healthy?  Kiddie Kabobs have long been a favorite at my house! All you need are some wooden shish-kabob skewer sticks, a cheap buy at any grocery, and some fresh fruit.  The skewer sticks do have a point at one end so you'll want to be sure there is adult supervision but the kids will want to try this themselves.  Provide a variety of fruit that is simple to skewer such as grapes, strawberries, banana slices, melon, blueberries, and raspberries.  Mini marshmallows and cheese cubes work great too!  The kids can load up the skewer sticks with their favorites and then feast away.  It's a sure bet they'll want to go back for seconds!  Picking up the fruit to place on the skewer stick encourages a three finger grasp and requires some coordination.  You can add some challenges by counting how many pieces are on each skewer or making patterns with the fruit (such as strawberry, grape, grape, strawberry, or a color pattern).  Yum! Yum!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L