Coloring and Body Awareness

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

Coloring….it’s something most kids do at one time or another (but some certainly enjoy more than others).

Child Drawing

Obviously, we love the beautiful creations that our children turn out, but did you know that there is so much more to coloring than just having papers to hang on the fridge? Coloring is actually a very important step in developing handwriting skills.

The reason for this is that when kids color, they use the strokes needed for writing. They use horizontal, vertical, diagonal, and circular strokes. When they color in something that is square or rectangular in shape, they use horizontal and vertical strokes.  Something that is triangular in shape requires diagonal strokes and circular objects require circular strokes. These are the same strokes they will need to use when forming their letters.

Not only do kids develop the strokes needed, but they also start to develop the motor control and visual motor skills needed for legible handwriting. Coloring inside the lines is great practice for being able to write and put letters on the lines (something teachers love to see!!).

I know not all kids like to color and it seems like it can often be harder to get boys to sit down and color than girls. My trick is to bring coloring books and crayons with me when we go places that require sitting still and waiting (instead of electronics!). Car trips, appointments, restaurants, etc., these are great ways in which I have found that I can secretly have my children work on some very important developmental skills.

And it doesn’t always have to be coloring books.  There are other fun ways to develop those same skills such as:

Another important skill that is often overlooked is the ability to draw a person.  Why is this so important?

When a child is able to draw a person, it not only makes those pictures we have hanging on the side of our refrigerators more interesting, but it demonstrates that they have body awareness.  Again, this is a very important part of developing writing skills, motor skills, cognitive skills, and so much more.

Simple Drawing

When I work with children, I make sure that they have moved past the drawing of the “M&M man” (the guy who is nothing but a circle with arms and legs coming out of it) by the time they are school age.  I make sure that they can draw a person with at least seven body parts (and if they can’t, we have to work on it).

Picts on Fridge

It is important to point out to our kids that they have a face where their eyes, nose, mouth, and ears are, that they have a body where their heart and tummy are, and that their arms and legs come from their body and not out of their face (like the “M&M man”).   A great way to do this is to make up stories or songs about it but also to engage them in play where body awareness is encouraged.

Again, there are so many fun ways to do this:

As a pediatric Occupational Therapist, I see so many kids who are struggling with handwriting these days.  If you encourage your children to develop these pre-writing skills as toddlers and during the preschool years, they will be ahead of the game!!!

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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 ( 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.

You can follow Cindy on Facebook, Twitter and her blog!

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