Using Play to Promote Core Strength and Handwriting Skills

These tips are provided for the Melissa & Doug blog by Cindy Utzinger, pediatric Occupational Therapist.

When your children are playing, I’ll bet you don’t often stop to think about how important play time is for developing their handwriting skills.

Handwriting . . . it’s one of those things that seems so simple yet, so many children struggle with it these days.

I want to share with you a big component of handwriting that you may have never thought about, and tell you how you can help your child develop their skills during play time. You may be asking yourself, however, why handwriting is even important any more, since we live in a day and age so heavily predominated by computers. Well, besides what children gain through being able to express themselves through written language, it is so important because of the brain development that goes along with handwriting.

Studies show that writing (not typing on a computer) is linked to learning.

This happens because the areas of the brain that “light up” when we write are the same areas that are associated with memory. Anyone who is losing their memory like me, can attest to how important is it to remember things when trying to learn!!

m and d crawling cropped LR

Now that I, hopefully, have you convinced that writing is still important, let’s talk about a forgotten component of handwriting. When we think about strengthening our children’s’ handwriting skills, we often think of fine motor activities. However, there is another important aspect of handwriting that we can’t overlook and that is core strength.

Why is core strength so important?

This is because fine motor skills and having stability of the wrist, hand, and finger muscles to hold and control a pencil, come from stability of the larger muscles of the trunk. A child has to be able to sit up tall in their seat, hold their head up, and stabilize their shoulders and shoulder blades all as a precursor to being able to write.

Whether you have an infant just starting to move around or children who are already school age, you can strengthen the skills needed for handwriting (and academics as a whole) through play. The best part is that it is fun and easy! m and d tunnel CROPPED 2 LR

Let me share some ideas:

  • Being on all fours- Any activity where a child is on the floor on their hands and knees is strengthening their core. I love to have children get on all fours to work on puzzles or play games.
  • Crawling- Crawling is great for developing the core muscles and so much more. You can make crawling games more fun with a tunnel. Put one toy or piece of a game or puzzle on one end of the tunnel and have your child crawl down to one end to get a piece and then crawl back down to the other end to put it where it goes. You can make learning spelling words fun by putting letters at one end of the tunnel. Another great way to incorporate this in to play time is simply by letting your children push cars or trains around while crawling on the floor to do so.
  • Pushing and pulling activities- Whether it’s pushing a grocery cart, toys, a laundry basket, helping to push baby brother or sister in a stroller, doing blanket pulls (on a smooth and level surface), pulling Trunki or other toys, a good old fashioned game of tug of war, or simply pushing or pulling a door to open it, these movements are great for working on those core muscles!

Have fun this summer, and feel good that your kids are gaining valuable skills while playing and having fun!!

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* * * Cindy Utzinger is a pediatric Occupational Therapist, handwriting tutor, and founder of Building Write Foundations LLC.  She lives in North Carolina with her husband and two young children (a son and a daughter).  In her free time she can be found running through the streets of her neighborhood to get some exercise or enjoying time on the lake with family and friends.  Through her website (www.cindyutzinger.com) she provides parents, teachers, and caregivers with information regarding the importance of building each and every child’s sensory foundation and provides ways to help build their sensory foundation and their foundation for learning.  Through her website she also blogs and tackles issues dealing with handwriting problems, ADD/ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, and diagnoses on the autism spectrum.

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Using Play to Promote Core Strength and Handwriting Skills *great article

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