Tuesday, March 29, 2011

More Activities for Hand Separation

Today I'll be discussing more activities that promote hand separation. Spinning a top is one suggestion. Tong activities are also great to work on developing manipulation skills on the thumb, index, and middle finger side of the hand while working on stability on the pinkie and ring finger side. To prevent a child from trying to use the pinkie and index to help with manipulating the tongs, you can always have her hold a cotton ball or other small item with these fingers while using the tongs. This ensures that the pinky side of the hand is being used for stability!

There are a variety of tongs that you can purchase, or you may already have some of these in your home! You can work on many different concepts with tong activities, such as having the child sort items of the same color, size, or shape. You can also purchase small beads with letters on them and have the child use the tongs to make words out of the letters. A child can stack blocks using tongs and even string beads! Get creative when it comes to using tongs by incorporating them into craft activities or using them to move game pieces! There's no limit to what you can do, and all the while the child is improving hand separation, which can ultimately have a positive impact on fine motor skills, including handwriting!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fidget Kit Giveaway

And the winner of the Fidget Kit Giveaway is Carol, from Maryland. Congrats! Be sure to send me an email with your mailing address so that I can send it your way! 
Fidget kits are great to have when sustained attention is required in the classroom or during homework time. To win this one, just sign up as a follower on the right, AND send an email to tummytimetips@ gmail.com letting me know that you're a follower. If you’re already following the blog, send me an email letting me know why you would like to win the kit...send all emails to tummytimetips@gmail.com.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Hand Separation

Starting today, I’ll be sharing activities that will improve fine motor skills. Remember the importance of working on foundational skills before you start working on fine motor activities. For example, you’ll want to make sure that your child has good postural control, and is skilled with large and medium motor tasks before moving on to fine motor skills. Control and stability are important prerequisite skills for fine motor activities such as writing and cutting!

Hand Separation: The hand can be divided into 2 separate sides. The pinky and ring finger side is for stability. The thumb, index and middle finger perform manipulation skills.  It is important to be able to separate the two sides of the hand when it comes to fine motor skills. As you can see in the photo above, I am stabilizing two coins using my pinky and ring fingers, yet I am still able to hold and manipulate a quarter using my thumb, index and middle finger. In the video below, I am performing translation skills. When I pick up the buttons and bring them into my palm, this is called finger-to-palm translation. As I bring one button out to my fingertips at a time, while stabilizing the others in my palm, this is called palm-to-finger translation with stabilization. This is a great exercise for working on hand separation! A similar activity is to have your child put coins into a piggy bank.
Resource: Exner, C.E. (1997). Clinical interpretation of “In-hand manipulation in children: translation movements, American Journal of Occupational Therapy, (9), 729-32.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Medium Motor Activities

When teaching a child to write, you should begin with the large motor activities suggested on the March 19th post. You then move on to medium motor activities. Here are some suggestions for medium motor activities:
  • Writing in shaving cream that is on a paper plate or cookie sheet.  
  • Have the child form the letters using Elmer’s glue on a piece of card stock then sprinkle the glue with colored sugar or colored sand. Once dry, these make nice tactile cards for tracing the letters with a fingertip. Have the child trace the letters with her eyes closed so that she can “feel” the formation.  
  • Trace and write large letters on a sheet protector using a dry erase maker  
  • Form letters out of play dough or putty  
  • Form letters out of wikki stix  
  • Fill a large ziplock freezer bag with cheap hair gel and glitter. Smooth it out and have the child trace and write on this using a fingertip.   
All of these activities will help children develop automatic motor memories for each letter formation.

Modified from information by Jan McCleskey, MA, OTR, The Handwriting Clinic, Plano,Texas

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Painting for Hailey

One of my favorite blogs is “Painting for Hailey”. It is written by Janet, grandmother to a beautiful little girl named Hailey who is diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Janet started the blog as a way to keep her family informed about Hailey’s progress, and she is on a “mission to help others with disabilities to find resources that they need to help their loved ones, as well as let others know that they are not alone and together we can educate others about how to talk and play with people who are a bit different”. Janet is also an AMAZING artist, and for a limited time she is having a special, offering a 16 x 20 original oil painting (she can paint from a 4 x 6 photo of your choice) for $100.00 plus shipping and handling. All of the money raised goes directly to Hailey's many therapies that are not covered by insurance. Look at Janet's work, and you'll know that this is an awesome deal! Please click here to go to Janet’s blog, check out more of her beautiful artwork, and to contact her directly if you are interested in a painting! 


Handwriting: Starting with Basic Strokes and Shapes

I shared in my previous post that there are certain strokes and shapes that a child should be able to form before beginning the process of learning to write the letters of the alphabet. You can think of these as the "building blocks" to learning letter formations. The important thing to remember is that it's not necessary to have your child sit down with a piece of paper and a pencil when it's time to work on writing skills. In fact, that is probably the last thing that you should do! It's best to begin teaching these strokes using large and medium motor skills and slowly transition to the fine motor approach of using paper and a writing utensil. If you're wondering what I mean by large and medium motor skills...I'm going to tell you! 

Large motor skills are big motor movements such as running and jumping (also referred to as gross motor skills). Children can learn shapes and forms using large motor skills, and they usually love it because it doesn't involve having to sit still. Here are a few activities that you can try.

  • Take a piece of rope or string (or sidewalk chalk if you're outside) and form the stroke, shape or letter that you want to work on. It's best to begin with horizontal and vertical lines and then move forward on the chart. Have your little one walk or jump along the line. It's good to have them verbalize and describe the stroke while they're moving,  such as "straight line down, straight line across, or a circle is round." This is a great way to work on concepts such as "up, down, across, etc.", and it means more because the child is actually experiencing the concept rather than being told about it. Remember, if your little one isn't walking, you can still do this activity by carrying them or pushing them in a wheelchair or stroller. Children can also use a scooter board to propel themselves along the form.

  • Draw a stroke on a large piece of paper and tape it on the wall. Have your child stand back and trace the stroke using a hand, fingertip or toy magic wand.

  • You can also dim the lights, have the child move further back, and "trace" the form using a flashlight. Kids love this!
  • Draw a stroke in the sand or dirt using a large stick - make sure it's big!
These are just a couple of suggestions. You can use your imagination and get creative! Just remember, the more ways that you introduce the stroke, the better chance that the child will develop a "motor memory" for it... and don't forget to include the verbal component! In my next post I'll provide some suggestions for working on strokes using medium motor skills.

Modified from information by Jan McCleskey, MA, OTR, The Handwriting Clinic, Plano,Texas

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Handwriting Readiness

Most children love to draw and write! In fact, many little ones start testing these skills very early. Unfortunately, sometimes it's on our floors and walls rather that on paper! Here are some early skills that children acquire along with the approximate ages that many children start to master them:
  • Random Scribble - 1 to 2 Years
  • 2 to 3 years - Imitates circular, vertical, and horizontal strokes
  • 3 to 4 years - Imitates a circle and a cross
  • 4 to 5 years - Copies a square and a cross from an example
  • 5 to 6 years - Has established a dominant hand and copies a triangle from an example
Writing Readiness - In order to master the skill of handwriting, a child should be able to identify the letters of the alphabet. A dominant hand should be established and a tripod or quadropod pencil grasp is preferred. The child should follow basic verbal instructions and it is also important to understand terms such as "above", "below", "over", "under", and "between". Most importantly, a child should be able to copy the following strokes before they begin to learn how to write letters.

Reference:  Folio, M. R., & Fewell, R.R. (2000). Peabody Developmental Motor Scales, 2nd Edition. Austin: Pro-Ed

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Handwriting Skills

         Writing is a multifaceted activity in which a child has to pay attention to many separate tasks at one time. Initially, a child has to think of a topic about which he is going to write, or formulate an idea for the text. He has to remember how to form each letter, and make sure to write the letters in the designated space and in the correct sequence on the page. Finally, there are the rules of spelling, grammar, and punctuation that must be attended to; all of this while staying focused amidst the many distractions that might occur. Considering all of these components, it’s no wonder that many children find handwriting to be a challenging task.
As I said in an earlier post, the foundation for good fine motor skills is postural control, so this is usually the first area that I assess when a student is referred to me for poor handwriting skills. If core weakness is present, the child will most likely have difficulty sitting at a desk with a proper “handwriting posture”. I address this issue by having the child work on the exercises described my post on Tuesday, March 1st. These activities are fun and easy and can be carried out in a therapy session as well as at home.
Once I know that postural stability is being addressed, I typically look at some of these basic hand skills:
  • Can the child rotate a pencil with one hand to use the eraser?  
  • Can he bring coins from the palm out to the fingertips, as if putting money in a soda machine? 
  • Can he perform that same task, with several other coins held in the palm, while bringing each coin out one at a time?  
  • Can he pick up a handful of change from a table, one coin at a time, bringing each coin into the palm and storing it while picking up the rest? 
  • Is he able to rapidly and sequentially touch the tip of each finger to the thumb?

If the child has problems with any of these skills, it might be an indication that there is weakness in the muscles of the hands and fingers. The activities listed on my March 3rd post are great for strengthening the muscles of the hands and they are also good for fine motor coordination. 

If you found this post helpful, please click here on and go to my facebook page and click "like". Thanks! 
Reference: Marsh, D., Hanft, B, Cohn, D. (1993). Getting a grip on handwriting. American Occupational Therapy Association, Rockville, MD.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

More Fine Motor Activities

Writing on a vertical surface such as a wall is a wonderful way to develop fine motor skills. It puts the wrist into an extended position and facilitates coordination in the thumb, index, and middle fingers, while building strength and stability on the ring/index finger side of the hand. It also helps to develop the arches in the hand and helps with shoulder and elbow stability. Here are some fun ideas:
  • write or draw with chalk on a chalkboard.
  • place stickers on a vertical surface.
  • trace or stencil on a piece of paper taped to the wall.
  • color on a piece of paper taped to the wall or on an easel.
  • paint on an easel or on a large piece of paper taped to the wall.
  • play with magnets on a vertical magnetic board.
  • make shapes or designs on windows or the refrigerator using "wikki stix".
  • draw on a magnadoodle propped up against a wall.
  • you can also tape a piece of paper to the underside of a low table and have you child draw and color a picture while lying on her back. This is very therapeutic and kids love this!

 Would you like a chance to win this magnetic sketcher to work on fine motor skills? Just sign up as a follower on the right and send me an email to tummytimetips@gmail.com letting me know that you signed up. If you’re already following the blog, send me an email letting me know why you’d like to win the sketcher...send all emails to tummytimetips@gmail.com and Good Luck! :)


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fine Motor Skill Development

Inferior Pincer Grasp
Fine motor skills are the way that we use our fingers and hands to manipulate small objects. They are very important when we go to school and it's time to work with pencils, crayons, and scissors. However, fine motor skills begin to develop long before school age. At around 3 months old, babies begin to use their hands to grasp objects and their arms to swipe. Between 9 and 12 months of age, most infants can pick up a small object between the thumb and index finger pads, which is called an inferior pincer grasp. When an infant uses the tips of the thumb and index finger to grasp a tiny object, this is called a superior pincer grasp.

At two years of age, a little one can color with whole arm movement and holds a crayon in a fisted position with the thumb facing upward. By age 4, most children can imitate a cross and trace a diamond and a triangle, and by age 5 they can hold a pencil with 3 fingers, which is called a tripod grasp. This is the optimal grasp to have when writing, although there are others that are acceptable. Hand dominance is typically established by this age as well. 
Tripod Grasp

Monday, March 7, 2011

Fine Motor Workbook Winner

I held the drawing for the fine motor workbook today and the winner is Kelly from Singapore. Congratulations to Kelly and keep reading for a chance to win the next give away!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Great Resource

I was just reading a really neat new blog, ABC OT @ http://abcot.blogspot.com/. The author, Lauren, shared a great resource that I had never heard about. It's called OT Plan, and it's a search engine for occupational therapy activities. You may want to check it out! http://www.otplan.com/

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Fine Motor Activities

Here are some activities that are great for working on fine motor skills:

Squeeze clothespins and place them on a ruler or paint stirrer that the student holds with the opposite hand. Be sure to only use the thumb, index and middle fingers. If necessary, hold a small peg or cotton ball in the ring and index finger for stabilization
-Play tug- of-war with small objects (plastic coffee stirrers, paper clips, etc.)

-Use tongs or tweezers to pick up small objects and place them into a container

-Use the thumb and index finger to pop “bubble wrap” used for packaging)

-Bring coins or buttons from the palms out to the fingertips to place in a bank while stabilizing others in the palm of the hand. Don’t use the table or other hand to assist

-Squeeze the trigger of a spray bottle with the index and middle fingers while holding the bottle with the thumb and other fingers

-Roll putty or play dough between the tips of the thumb, index and middle finger to make small balls. Make them as smooth and as round as possible. Be sure to keep the ring and pinkie fingers flexed and don’t use them to help. You may need to hold a peg or bead with the ring and pinkie finger to prevent you from using them.



Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fine Motor Skills

Does your child have difficulty with fine motor skills such as writing and cutting? If so, then you'll probably find my next series of posts helpful. I'm going to be providing some resources, tools, and tips that will help with the development of fine motor skill and/or visual motor skills.

You may be wondering what the difference is between these two terms. Fine motor skills are the coordination of small motor movements in the hands and fingers that allow us to manipulate small objects with precise control. Fine motor movements usually occur in coordination with vision. This ability to coordinate motor movements with visual information is called visual motor skills.  

In order to be adept with visual motor skills, your child needs good vision and a strong foundation. That foundation begins with the stability of the trunk, shoulder, and neck muscles, also known as postural control. Development occurs from the trunk outward. For example,  a baby learns to roll over and sit up before they gain skilled control of their arms and hands. So if a child is having problems with visual motor skills, it's likely that they have some weakness or incoordination in the trunk, shoulders, and/or neck. That's why it's so important for infants to be exposed to plenty of tummy time from the first days of life. Tummy time and crawling play a big role in the strengthening of the important muscles that lay a strong foundation for future fine motor skills.

You can spot trunk weakness by noticing if your child frequently slumps with a rounded posture when sitting. You can also have your child lie on his stomach and ask him to stretch his arms and legs out and "fly like superman". If he has trouble assuming or maintaining this position, it's likely that there is some weakness in the trunk, shoulders and neck (also called the core muscles). Another good test of upper body strength is to "wheelbarrow walk" your child. See if he can propel himself without his arms collapsing while you hold him at the ankles or knees. An inability to do so also indicates muscle weakness.

If there is an issue with core weakness and incoordination, there are activities and exercises that your child can carry out that will strengthen these muscles. For the best result, at least 3 of these activities should be completed at least 3 times per week.

                                          Core Exercises
  • Play tug-of-war by holding each others hands, or use a towel, rope or therapy band.
  • Rowboat Game-You and your child sit on the floor facing each other and put your feet together. One of you lean back onto the floor without letting go of the other's hands, and the other pulls the partner back up, and continued.
  • Play "Frog" by squatting, hopping, and squatting again.
  • Crab Walk- Sit on the floor and place your hands on the floor behind you and lift your bottom off of the floor by pushing up. Propel yourself around the room like a crab.
  • Wheelbarrow Walks- Holding child at the knees or the ankles.
  • Squat to Stand- Stand up from a squatting position with arms outstretched, keeping heels on the floor and repeat. 
  • Airplane - lie on your stomach and lift your head, arms and legs. Hold the position for as long as you can.
  • Rocker- lie on your back, bend your knees and wrap your arms around your legs. Rock yourself back and forth.
  • Traditional Sit-Ups- provide support at the ankles.
  • Ball toss- have your child lie on the stomach on the floor, or over an ottoman. Have them pick up a ball and toss it into an empty box or garbage can. You can eventually use a slightly weighted ball or light wrist weights. 

Dear Readers, If you have found my blog to be helpful, please click here and "like" my facebook page...I'm trying to get my book published and this would be a great help! Thanks :)

AND the winner of the 16-inch therapy ball is "Hetha" or Heather, former middle school teacher turned full-time mom. Please contact me ASAP so I can ship this out to you. Congratulations!