Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Writing Fingers

Have you ever heard of the phrase exercise your writing fingers?  If you haven't it's another way of talking about fine motor skills as well as a fun phrase children can understand.  My four year old, Aidan, has become very frustrated with writing recently.  Before, he happily copied down letters he saw around him or asked for help signing his name on a card to grandma if he couldn't remember a letter.  Now, he gets upset and gives up because his letters don't look EXACTLY like the ones he sees around him; whether they are on a box, in a magazine, or in my own handwriting.  I do my best to make using letters in his play fun, engaging, and "risk free" (that it's okay to make mistakes and perfection is not the goal) because we've just begun on this long journey of symbols and he's frustrated already.  Letters and writing are confusing.  Think about how p, d, and b, must look to a child!

My encouraging words have not been making him feel better, "I see you wrote the letter D...I can see all the letters in your name!"  I even pulled out a couple of old papers my mother had saved from when I was about his age to show him that my writing used to look the same and I explain that I've been practicing my writing for a very, very long time.  I know his concept of "a very long time" can not grasp the years and years I was in school, which was highlighted when he replied "I already have lots of practice!"

Where did this anxiety come from?  My husband's simple reply was "He's frustrated because he wants to know how to make his writing look like ours.  What else are you doing to show him how?"  This is when I realized we had not been playing with enough alternative fine motor fun to exercise his writing fingers lately.  Finding other fun ways to write and play strengthens those little muscles, which  in turn helps a child grasp a writing utensil better and have more control.

Now if you are a fan of Pinterest, as am I, you can find oodles of ideas to accomplish this.  I want to share my favorites, some of which are "oldies but goodies", some I've learned in training, and others I've found on the Internet in various places.  These are mostly geared toward older preschoolers:
  • Ghostwriting: simply write letters or words your child is interested in with a large marker (fat highlighters work best), then have your child trace over what you wrote with a skinny marker, crayon or pencil.  Scented markers make it more sensory and interesting as well.  (By the way, Aidan really took to the ghostwriting, I was surprised, he asked for twelve different words!)
  • Taking an old small appliance apart such as a toaster.  Supervise, use proper safety gear,  and remove any dangerous parts prior to child use!  Then children can use screwdrivers and  wrenches to work on taking apart something they are curious to see inside of.
  • Using tweezers to sort small objects on a tray or light box (great homemade version over at teach preschool).  My favorite object: alphabet pasta on a tray lined with black paper.  Send a child on a "T" hunt! (If you live in the south Publix carries this pasta.)
  • Clothespins - to a child they are irresistible.  They can use colored ones to attach to the edge of a tray to make patterns or match upper and lower case letters to a piece of paper.
  • Stringing beads
  • Painting with skinny brushes, q-tips, feathers, or other small objects
  • Drawing, writing or painting activities on a vertical vs. a horizontal surface.  I liked counting around the house over at no time for flash cards and identified with one point she made in her post...
    "I wish I had a magic wand for my son to make him believe in his ability to write, to know that he doesn’t have to be perfect and to understand that just because reading is easy doesn’t mean that writing should be or that there is anything wrong because it’s hard."
  • Using eye droppers to mix containers of colored water 
  • Geoboards: I like homemade versions that use pegboards, nuts, and bolts from the hardware store.  A variety of materials such as ribbon, rubber bands, string, and pipe cleaners will have a child using that pincher grasp and making shapes in no time!
  • Using the paper hole punch, add a couple that punch different shapes to keep it interesting!
Many of the activities listed above also promote additional benefits as well, pre-literacy and math skills, science exploration, and cognitive thinking.


Happy exercising!


  1. I really want to do the highlighter writing!

  2. JDaniel is having trouble learning to write his name. I need to try highlight writing with him.

    1. Highlighters are great because they allow for more "wiggle" room.


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