Books have turned into kindles, games are being played on iPads, and even spending time with friends has become virtual. Welcome to the digital age! In this dynamic digital era, is there any value or importance of more traditional habits – specifically writing?
An article on BBC News quotes Sally Payne, head paediatric occupational therapist at the Heart of England foundation NHS Trust, “Children coming into school are being given a pencil but, increasingly, they are not able to hold it because they don’t have the fundamental movement skills.” Shocking, isn’t it?
There is no denying that children’s habits are changing, but the fundamental need for activities that help developing fine motor skills should not be done away with. While it may be easier to engage children in screen time, it is more beneficial to them if they spend time engaged in muscle-building exercises.
An activity as easy (to you and me, and every other grown human) as holding a pencil uses many of our fine muscles to grip the pencil and move it. Repeatedly practicing writing also develops the muscle memory associated with gripping and finger/wrist movement.
Fine motor skills are essential for performing everyday life skills like brushing, fastening and unfastening buttons, opening boxes, moving objects etc. They are also essential for various academic skills such as cutting and pasting, drawing andcolouring etc. Without optimal development of fine motor skills, children may find it difficult to develop appropriate independence in life skills later on in life.
How to identify whether your little one needs more support with fine motor skills?
If your little one struggles with fine motor skills, they might exhibit the following traits:
- Lollipop style pencil grip after the age of 7
- Disinterest towards colouring/writing skills
- Have difficulty when using scissors
- Find it difficult to perform precise manipulation tasks like fastening buttons or tying shoelaces
- Dislike precise hand-eye coordination tasks like building blocks
- Leave the task halfway when engaged in fine motor tasks
How can you help your little one hone their fine motor skills?
# Focus on Pre-writing skills
Be aware of the fact
Pre-writings skills not only help in development of writing but also stimulate the front part of brain which focuses on analytical skills like reasoning and logic.
The best way to support your child in writing is to focus on pre-writing skills right from infancy. Newspaper tearing, pasting, finger tracing, air formations of alphabets are some examples of pre-writing skills. Find a prep school for your child which has elements of pre-writing skills as integral part of curriculum.
# Writing is Progressive
Writing is an ever-evolving process and as a parent, you should allow the child to make choices in writing. Hand dominance and correct grip of pencil take time to evolve. Over-correcting your child while writing is detrimental. For your understanding, look at the picture below:
This kind of progression is very common among children and therefore, kindly restrict yourself in correcting your child’s lollipop style (Cylindrical Grasp) of pencil holding. Focus on building confidence in learning. Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford talks in depth about how growth mindset helps in higher academic achievements including writing skills. The correct grip will come around the age of 7 years, let your child explore his/her style till then.
# Limit touch screen time
Over exposure to touch screens (tabs and mobiles) may delay the process of tripod grasp among children. Therefore, please keep a watch while giving screen time to children. Preschools that have ZERO screen exposures to children can be of great help for you.
# Finger isolation activities
Spend some time with your little ones practicing tasks that use just a few fingers at a time, eg: finger tracing on alphabets, counting on fingers, poking, chopping vegetables, peeling peas or peanuts etc. These moments are exactly opposite of touch screen moments and thus, help immensely in developing right grips for pencils.
# Manipulation activities
Indian households are known to support writing and reading skills immensely by focusing on providing an atmosphere for children which is full of gross motor activities. Activities such as kneading, mopping, pick up Spoons from floor, segregate forks from spoons, sand and water play, modelling with play dough, closing/opening jarsencourage gross motor muscle development.The gross motor (large muscles) development is the basis on which fine motor development develops. So, Spend more time on upcycling old boxes, egg cartons, plastic jars, wool, paper etc with your children.
Dear parents, let your child develop the writing skills at his/her pace. Over instructing your child is counterproductive. So, don’t forget to breathe and relax! Even though you may be engaged in a learning activity with your little ones, try to make it an exciting and fun experience for you and your little ones!
Head, Training and Development
Founding Years Private Limited