The first thing to consider when looking at handwriting or fine motor skill is the proximal stability. More simply put, to have good control in your hand you have to have good support from the starting point. That would be the trunk and shoulder.
Some great summertime activities that will help to develop trunk muscles and shoulder strength are things that require a co-contraction. Like swinging from monkey bars, doing push-ups and playing baseball. All of these activities stimulate the muscles along the sides of the body which will give the student good balance to sit upright in a chair during fine motor tasks. Things like swinging a bat or throwing a ball and reaching and grabbing for alternating monkey bars require the shoulder to push and pull in synchronicity for task completion. This is working the whole shoulder girdle. Once there is good proximal control or shoulder strength, it will become easier to perform activities in the hand.
Now we can take a look at what might be going on in the hand to limit abilities. Usually, it is a general weakness from limited use or a fatigue. The fatigue is usually because of weak shoulder and trunk muscles that cause the hand to work harder for control. Now that we have started working on the trunk and shoulder to provide more support to the hand we can work directly on the hand to gain strength and dexterity. I’m going to go over a few games you can play to help get the hand ready for some beautiful handwriting.
This first game will help to differentiate the strength side from the function-side of the hand. It is called a tip-to-palm transfer (and the return is the palm-to-tip transfer). Use a handful of small objects like beads or pieces from a travel size game (I like travel-size games because the playing pieces are smaller).
Place them in a pile on the table. Have your kiddo pick up one item at a time using their thumb and forefinger of their dominant hand. (Make sure they use their fingertip and don’t try to use the side of the finger). They then need to place that item in their palm without help from the other hand. (I usually give them something to hold with the other hand or have them sit on it). Now, that they have picked up one item and they are holding it in their hand, they have to continue to pick up one piece at a time and fill their hand until they have a fist full or they are repeatedly dropping their items. Once they have a fist full, do the same thing in reverse. See if they can pull one of those beads out of the bunch by rolling it with their fingers and bring it to the tip of the forefinger and thumb without help from the other hand. Continue one at a time until the hand is empty again. Count the pieces collected and try to beat the record each time you play.
By playing these games you can feel like you are addressing any issues in fine motor skills and your little one will just be playing while they work. If it’s not fun, it just becomes a battle and then no one wins.
If you are interested in more ideas, one of the best seminars I have been to for handwriting was Handwriting Without Tears. I highly recommend this for teachers who are teaching beginning skills in letter formation and handwriting skills. I also think it is good for parents who are having a difficult time helping their kids in this area.