Tweezer activities for children to develop fine motor skills for handwriting

Children’s Tweezer Activities To Develop Fine Motor Skills for handwriting.

Tweezers are valuable tools for developing fine motor skills in the fingers, hands and wrists. Their use should be encouraged from a young age alongside other fine motor development activities. This will support your child’s progression towards the effective tripod pencil grip taught throughout schools in the UK. I like to combine the use of tweezers with maths skills for an easy 2 in 1.

Children's Gator Grabber Tweezers strengthen muscles in the hands, developing the pincer grasp for school readiness.
Children’s Gator Grabber Tweezers strengthen muscles in the hands, developing the pincer grasp for school readiness.

For older children or as your child progresses with the tweezers move on to picking up smaller and smaller items.  Use a variety of tongues and tweezers to add interest and to increase levels of dexterity.

WARNING! When using tweezers, many of the activities involve small pieces which present a choking hazard and should not be performed by children under 3 years of age. Older children should be fully supervised by an adult. We would advise that everything gets counted out and counted back in again to ensure no small pieces are left around that could cause choking after the activity.

Activity 1. Stuck in the swamp! Swamp rescue!

Get a little character (Lego person for example), fill a bowl with cocoa pops and stick your little characters just in sight. Use your tweezers to rescue your characters from the swamp and transfer them into a bowl.

Activity 2. Fruity stack ’em up…

Play vegetable or fruit stack ’em up. Cut cuboids of fruit and place them in a bowl. Grab a plate and take it in turns to use your tweezers to transfer a shape to the plate, piling one shape upon another until the pile falls down to end the game. You could remove the competitive element and build a wall of fruit using your tongs, each taking it in turns to add a fruit brick; see how high or long you can build your wall.

Activity 3. Ted’s got spots!

Get some red felt and cut out some small circles or you could use red beads. Place them around Ted’s tummy. ‘Oh no! Ted’s got spots!’ Ask your child if they can be Doctor and remove Ted’s spots into a bowl using their tweezers to make Ted feel better.

Activity 4. Ant escape!

Buy some of those small plastic ants (careful of choking – sorry, I have to say that.) and place them in a long line from the back door through the house. Using your tweezers capture the ants and transfer them to a jar – happy fun!

Activity 5. Sand snakes. Cut up some pipe cleaners into 5cm lengths (your snakes) and fill a tray with play sand. Stick the ‘snakes’ into the sand so that they are just peeking out. Have your child pull them out and pop them in a jar using their tweezers. You can count as you do it.

Activity 6. Pom Pom beat the clock. Place 2 bowls at opposite ends of the room, fill one with pompoms and leave the other empty. Using a sandtimer see how many pompoms they can transfer in 2 minutes. Alternatively. You could both have a bowl at either end of the room and in the centre of the room place a bowl full of pompoms and the sandtimer. Running back and forth collecting a pompom in your tweezers and filling up your bowl have a race to see who can get the most pompoms in their bowl by the time the sand timer runs out.

Activity 7. Nature tweezer trail. How many different items can you collect using your tweezers from around the garden?

Activity 8. Santa’s dropped his bells! Great for Christmas – get a handful of the coloured jingly bells from your local craft shop. Write Santa’s address on an envelope. Tell your child you discovered a lot of bells lying all around the house, Santa must have been checking to see if you were good. ‘Let’s post them back to Santa as he must really need them’. Using the tweezers have your child transfer the bells one by one into the envelope that you can hold open for your child. You can repeat this at least once a week to let them know that Santa’s watching! Exciting… You could do it with Santa’s buttons, pom poms from his hat.

Activity 9. Look for every opportunity to use tweezers. Whilst playing board games use tweezers to move the pieces instead of using the fingers. Use serving tongues at the dinner table for salads and vegetables etc. and ask your child to serve a little to each of you or you could all have a pair of tweezers at the dinner table – even more fun!

Activity 10. Remove the spikes. Make a large playdoh hedgehog without spikes, push some large buttons or large coins into it for the spikes. Use the tweezers to pull out the spikes. You could do a ladybird one with black buttons sticking out too. This adds some resistance to the activity for more advanced tweezer users.

Activity 11. All mixed up! Purchase a bag of mixed nuts or seeds and have your child use their tweezers to sort them according to type into separate bowls.

Activity 12. Feed the frog. Get a cardboard box. Draw and colour a frog with a very large mouth on one side of the box. Cut out the mouth. Have your child feed pom poms or a mixture of small sized foods to the frog using their tweezers.

Activity 13. Pompom muffin tray sorter. Cut out some coloured circles and place 1 of each colour into a separate compartment of the muffin tray. Take some coloured pompoms and using the tweezers match and transfer the pompoms to the correct colour, in the tray. You could also label an egg carton 1 through to 12, get out the dried beans or dried macaroni and tweezer across the right number of beans or macaroni pieces per compartment. Old ice cube trays work really well for transferring beads and marbles into using your tweezers too.

More fine motor skills solutions available in our shop. Just click on the photo for further information:

8 Crayon Rocks in a muslin bag
8 Crayon Rocks® in a muslin bag – the perfect natural start towards developing a strong tripod grip for efficient handwriting in later years.
Fine motor skills dyspraxia toolset for strengthening the fine motor skills. Fun scissor scoop for pre-scissor skills development. Endless play possibilities. Can be used at bath time too.
Fine motor skills dyspraxia toolset for strengthening the fine motor skills. Fun scissor scoop for pre-scissor skills development. Endless play possibilities. Can be used at bath time too.
Ideal game for children with dyspraxia and fine motor skill difficulties. The Avalanche fruit stand game. Comes with 2 jumbo tweezers that you can use for other fine motor skills activities.
Ideal game for children with dyspraxia and fine motor skill difficulties. The Avalanche fruit stand game. Comes with 2 jumbo tweezers that you can use for other fine motor skills activities.

What is a quad grip? What pencil grip should I choose to correct a quad-grip? Should I correct a quadrupod grasp?

What is a quadrupod pencil grasp?

  • This grasp is characterised by the pencil being pinched between the thumb, index and middle finger, with the pencil resting on the ring finger.

Should I correct a quad-grip?

  • If the thumb is wrapping itself across the top of the pencil in the quad-grip and the web space (the web is the thin skin found between thumb and index finger) is closed,  then this will cause stamina and speed problems with their handwriting as they get older and should be addressed.
  • Not all quad grips are ineffective but if your child’s stamina and speed is poor you may want to look at moving them towards a dynamic tripod grip.
  • Just to throw another thought in, some evidence is beginning to suggest that the focus be on handwriting speed and letter formation and not in fact, the grip. You may want to consider the Lois Addy Speed Up! handwriting programme for ages 8+ or the Write From The Start programme, for the younger years or even follow one of these programmes alongside the grip changes.

What pencil grip should I choose for an inefficient quad-grip?

  • It may take a while to feel comfortable with a pencil grip when moving from a quad grip. Consider a reward system, as often it will take some time to adjust, especially if they are a little older.

    Quadrupod pencil grip and grasp pack. For children and adults with an inefficient quadrupod pencil grip seeking to re-train to a more dynamic tripod pencil grip. Suitable for left and right handers. Includes crayon rocks, penagain twist 'n write pencil, faber castell grip pencil with eraser and 6 of the best tripod pencil grips.
    Quadrupod pencil grip and grasp pack. For children and adults with an inefficient quadrupod pencil grip seeking to re-train to a more dynamic tripod pencil grip. Suitable for left and right handers.
  • Combine the use of pencil grips with the Twist ‘n Write or Penagain pens and pencils in this instance, as it encourages a more natural and comfortable tripod grip. The Twist ‘n Write pencil is great for correcting a thumb overlap grip. Children who have a thumb overlap grip will get by in pre-school and KS1. Once the writing demand increases at KS2 these students will start to complain of hand fatigue and pain. Low tone and decreased strength are also addressed effectively using this pencil over the more traditional pencil grips. The Twist ‘n Write pencil is often the choice for occupational therapists correcting inefficient pencil grips in children.

    The Penagain Twist 'N Write Pencils are perfect for correcting an inefficient pencil grip, thumb wrap grip, quadrupod grip and for supporting low muscle tone - related handwriting difficulties.
    The Penagain Twist ‘N Write Pencils are perfect for correcting an inefficient pencil grip, thumb wrap grip, quadrupod grip and for supporting low muscle tone – related handwriting difficulties.
  • I would also recommend the tripod finger activities detailed in the help with handwriting blog.
  • Definitely plan lots of activities with the amazing Crayon Rocks® – no matter what age they are – these can only be held in a tripod grip, practise sweeping swathes of colour across the page with these to stimulate and develop the muscles needed for an effective tripod grip. Another tip is to break some chalks into smaller pieces, these will not give room to accommodate the quad-grip and so the tripod grip would be used to hold them instead. Plan plenty of variety in your activities.

    Crayon Rocks® are the best crayon you can buy to encourage the tripod grip in your child's early handwriting development
    Crayon Rocks® the best crayon you can buy to encourage the tripod grip for handwriting development
  • Shorten the pencils: I recommend the Faber Castell Grip pencils, the only downside is they don’t do a shorter version. The solution is to sharpen them down to just above the size of a golf pencil – this pencil will now offer them the grip they need but not enough room to cram that quadrupod grip onto. A shorter pencil offers the child more control too, trying to write with the weight of an adult-sized pencil is not easy for everyone. Worth a try…
  • Try the Grotto Grip when the pencil is held with the thumb wrapped tightly over the index finger or tucked under, both limit more efficient movements of the thumb and tend to fatigue the muscles in the forearm.
  • Spend some time each day with your child practising the tripod grip with these supports and ensure a little is done each day practising the tripod grip without the support tools too. Plenty of reinforcing praise. Practise shape formations: crosses, circles (clockwise and anti-clockwise), triangles, squares.
  • Sometimes children place all their fingers on the pencil because they find it challenging to separate the pinky (ulnar) side from the thumb (radial) side of the hand.  Train their muscles by getting  them to hold a pom-pom or marble or small object in their ring and pinky fingers against the palm while holding the pencil with their three free fingers – instant tripod!
  • You may find our page on how to choose the correct pencil grip helpful alongside our page on help with handwriting.

We always recommend consulting with an occupational therapist if you have any concerns about the efficiency of your child’s handwriting. They are skilled in identifying the exact causes and best steps to follow.

If you would like to visit us or simply have a question, please call 01572 737100.

Dyspraxia shop to help people with dyspraxia, DCD, Dysgraphia and dyslexia
Dyspraxia shop to help people with Dyspraxia, DCD, Dysgraphia and Dyslexia.

What is the best handwriting pencil for my child to learn to write with?

Without doubt the best pencil for a child to learn to write with is the Yoropen mini-pencil.

The best handwriting pencil for children learning to write - the Yoropen Mini Pencil
The best handwriting pencil for children learning to write – the Yoropen Mini Pencil

Why?

  • The ‘Z’ neck design allows your child to see the letters much more clearly as they write, aiding letter formation, visual memory of the letter formation and improvement to their posture whilst writing. (Many children hold their heads at an angle when writing trying to see how, what and where they are writing which twists their backs and often leads to one eye becoming stronger than another due to the angle of the eyes when the head is held at such an angle. This can have longer term implications on their whole visual system)
  • Dyslexic children in particular, will benefit greatly from the extra visual field these pencils give them as they get a better reinforcement of the letter formation as they write, boosting their visual memory.
  • It is specifically designed for children aged between 3-8.
  • The pencil is shorter than a standard pencil by almost 6cm reflecting the smaller size of children’s hands at this age. Imagine writing with a pencil 1 and a half times longer than the one you currently use? The shorter pencil can have immediate benefits to the quality of your child’s handwriting. It gives them far better control.

    The difference in size between the Yoropen mini-pencil (ages 3-8) and the larger Yoropen Pencil (ages 8+)
    The difference in size between the Yoropen mini-pencil (ages 3-8) and the larger Yoropen Pencil (ages 8+)
  • The Yoropen provides a very comfortable tripod grip, encouraging the tripod grip from a very early age.
  • The gap between the pencil tip on the Yoropen Mini-Pencil and the Yoropen Pencil for ages 8+ is also shorter keeping your child’s fingers at the perfect height above the paper. This is hugely important as often children will raise their wrists from the surface when they write leading to vastly reduced pencil control.

    How the tip to grip distance is altered on the Yoropen Mini Pencil compared to the larger Yoropen Pencil to fit smaller hands perfectly.
    How the tip to grip distance is altered on the Yoropen Mini Pencil compared to the larger Yoropen Pencil to fit small hands perfectly.
  • Each pencil has 2B lead requiring less effort to write making the early years of writing much more pleasurable
  • The extra field of vision provided by the ‘z’ neck helps your child to keep their writing on the line.
  • The finger support system requires far less pressure to grip the pen reducing writing strain and allowing more focus on handwriting, spelling and content. The comfort grip neck on the pencil holds your grip firmly in place preventing your child’s hand from sliding down towards the nib.
  • The tripod grip rotates to accommodate your child’s preferred writing position. Ideal for left and right handers.
  • Yoropen provide a natural pen and pencil progression path onto the Yoropen HB pencil and the Yoropen Superior ballpoint pen range. Ideal from ages 6-8+ through to adult.
  • It’s no wonder that the Yoropen is the number 1 choice for children with Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and any child with difficulties controlling a pencil.
  • Affordable at a little over £2 per mini-pencil, is really long-lasting requiring future purchases year after year of a refill pack costing just 99p – cheaper than a good quality pencil.
  • If you are reading this article it is because you take your child’s handwriting seriously. We also have a children’s ergonomic handwriting pack to help you find the perfect pencil to encourage the tripod grip from the earliest years.
  • Dyspraxia pencil pack ages 3-8, blue barrels
    Children’s ergonomic pencil pack for learning to write and encouraging the tripod grip. Blue and pink variances available.

Not suitable for children under 36 months due to small parts and risk of choking.

NB. If you can’t stretch to a Yoropen, I would advise you to cut down one of your children’s pencils by around 6cm and witness the effect. I have had children who refuse to pass the pencil back to me because it suits them so well after they have struggled for years with a standard pencil. If you do this and it works for you please ‘like’ the article on Facebook so that more parents and children will be able to come across it on a google search. Thanks

The Dyspraxic Learner – strategies for success. Book Review

The Dyspraxic Learner. Strategies For Success By Alison Patrick.

Gill Dixon, Vice Chair for The Dyspraxia Foundation says, ‘I loved this book from the first paragraph. It is comprehensive, well-researched and grounded in reality. Alison describes the subtleties and complexities of dyspraxia brilliantly and illustrates that it is very much more than a motor difficulty and impacts greatly in every area of life. A welcome addition to any bookshelf but a MUST-read for anyone who can affect the progress of a person’s educational career and emotional well-being.’

The Dyspraxic Learner. Strategies For Success by Alison Patrick. Features simple and effective solutions for children in secondary schools. Valuable source of information for secondary school teachers supporting children with dyspraxia.
The Dyspraxic Learner. Strategies For Success by Alison Patrick. Features simple and effective solutions for children in secondary schools. Valuable source of information for secondary school teachers supporting children with dyspraxia.

With a wealth of practical strategies for teaching and supporting students with dyspraxia aged from 11 years up to college or university level, this book addresses all aspects of learning and ways in which teaching can be tailored to the dyspraxic learner.

Exploring dyspraxia and its physical, emotional, psychological and social impacts on learning, the author shares tried-and-tested strategies for ensuring that students with dyspraxia achieve their full potential. This book covers a wide range of topics such as research and study skills, improving memory, teaching literacy, visual and auditory learning styles, dealing with sleeplessness, stress, low self-esteem and anxiety, and preparing for future employment. Teachers, lecturers, tutors and SENCOs will have a greater understanding of dyspraxia, and feel confident in helping students with dyspraxia to overcome educational challenges. This book will also be of interest to students with dyspraxia who are looking for ways to help themselves with their school or university work.

About the author: Alison Patrick is a Specific Learning Difficulties Tutor, tutoring higher education learners with dyslexia, dyspraxia, autistic spectrum disorders and physical disabilities.

Fantastic Dyspraxic review: I always judge the success of a book by the amount of post-it notes that are clinging to it at the end – I didn’t have many post-its left when I reached the conclusion!  As a parent to a child with dyspraxia I always find it helpful to know the next set of skills to be taught in advance so that I have time to prepare them – I especially like the page on useful verbs to avoid misinterpreting the questions – so good and refreshing to see such ‘on the mark’ guidance, super section on memory too. The format featured easy to read bullet pointed lists. Dyspraxia is a very wide and diverse subject area, the author touches on every aspect in a researched, organised and well constructed way allowing you to go deeper into the subject if that particular area affects you. An essential book for teachers or anyone about to make the transition to secondary school or entering into higher education. Informative resource for employers, adults with dyspraxia, health professionals and parents supporting children with dyspraxia. A valuable source for developing school guidance on supporting a dyspraxic child in secondary school and further education.

 

All about the Evo.pen – writing support for dyspraxia and arthritis

evopenEverything you need to know about the Evo.Pen…   (Available now exclusively in the UK at www.fantasticdyspraxic.co.uk)

Extremely comfortable and portable, the Evo.pen (evo-lutionary) is contoured to fit in the natural closing grip of the hand. The ergonomic shape is ideal for people with different kinds of grasping problems and relieves the hand ache and writing endurance problems caused by Dyspraxia, Arthritis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, chronic hand pain and writer’s cramp. The Evo.pen is lightweight, slips easily into a pocket and is suitable for left and right handers. The pen is retractable to prevent it from drying out and very simple to refill.
Prolific Dyspraxia author, therapist and lecturer, Lois Addy, highlighted the Evo.pen in her book titled ‘How to…increase the potential of students with DCD (Dyspraxia) in secondary school.’
evopenhanddrawing
The Evo.pen has been commended by the American Arthritis Foundation for ease of use and is recommended by hand, physical, and occupational therapists. Called the “natural remedy”, the Evo.pen imitates the natural gripping posture, resulting in pain free writing.

  • evo.pen-contoured-illustrationReduce writing discomfort
  • Compact and convenient
  • Refillable
  • Occupational and Physical Therapists recommend it
The first writing instrument to receive an “ease of use” commendation from the Arthritis Foundation.

“An evaluation of this product by a panel of health-care professionals, consumers and foundation staff found this wide-grip pen fits snugly in the palm of the hand and is contoured to the shape of the fingers, which makes it easier to use.”

evo-pen-refill-packReplacement cartridge packs are available from www.fantasticdyspraxic.co.uk

evo-pen-cartridge-instructions

The acclaimed Mary Benbow, writes, “Of all the writing devices currently on the market, I believe the Evo.pen is the most unique, affordable and most intelligently designed for adaptive use. The Evo.pen approaches the task of writing with a fresh concept. Tools are extensions of the human hand. When the hand is compromised, some way must be found to compensate for the deficit. The imaginative Evo.pen device manages this more efficiently than any other product I have found…”

mary-benbow-reccommendation-evo-pen

 

 

 

 

 

 

evo-pen-twin-packValue evo.pen twin packs are also available at www.fantasticdyspraxic.co.uk

Suitable for ages 6+ through to Adult

 

Help with handwriting – 10 ways to help

Writing well  requires well developed fine motor skills. There are a range of small muscles in the hands, arms and shoulders that need to be exercised to support effective handwriting. Thankfully these skills usually get better with practise.

Try some of the activities below to help your child develop the accuracy, balance and eye-hand coordination needed to perform good handwriting.  Many of these activities were just too difficult for my son  when he was young, if you are experiencing the same things it might be worth getting further advice from a health visitor or occupational therapist.

10 activities to improve handwriting:

1. Playdoh is useful for strengthening the small muscles required for handwriting. Roll small balls of playdoh between the thumb and first two fingers only – these are the handwriting tripod fingers and will provide excellent strengthening and coordination. They make a ‘kids soft air drying Fimo’ now so they can keep their creations. You could make a string of beads to wear or counting beads on a string so there is more purpose in the activity. We also made little pots, using the three tripod fingers: Roll Playdoh into a ball and squash it a bit, then pinch the edges upwards to form the walls of your pot. Playdoh play was an early red flag I had as a parent. My son just couldn’t manipulate it, just didn’t have the strength. If this is the case with your child you can buy softer doughs now, increasing the dough resistance as your child’s muscles strengthen. Pull, stretch and squeeze the dough to strengthen finger muscles.

2.  Use window crayons as it really strengthens the shoulder muscles and hand muscles. It’s great fun too. Wiping them clean is also a winning exercise! Washing mum’s car is a win-win exercise too – “wipe on, wipe off,”the famous phrase from Karate Kid!

3. Screwing up paper. Practise tearing paper into quarters and then, with one hand only, screw the quarter into a ball in the palm of your hand using all the fingers to squash it into a ball. You may need to make it easier with tissue paper or tissues before using thicker paper. You can add faces or googly eyes to the balls you make so it doesn’t get too serious.

Another idea is to make tissue paper ball pictures using the playdoh tripod finger rolling technique. Start with a small shape like a star, moon or heart that can be filled in easily with 15 or so tissue paper balls.

3. Play with Meccano, Lego, threading, small cars, minature animals etc. You don’t have to buy everything; nuts and bolts, screw top lids on toothpaste tubes, small bottles; all great for tripod finger grip strengthening. Make macaroni dried pasta necklaces to encourage finger manipulation skills and hand-eye coordination practise.

4. Sponge transporter – get two bowls and fill one with water. Ask your child to dip their sponge into the bowl of water and then squeeze the water-filled sponge out into the empty bowl. Repeat this until all the water has gone from the original bowl. Count how many times and see if it gets better over time. This should really strengthen the hands and forearm.

5. Sort collections of tiny things: Encourage your child to sort button colours or loose change into 1p’s, 2p’s, 5p’s etc.

6. Play games with small pieces, card games, tweezer games  like Operation, or make your own tweezer games. Under adult supervision obviously, with the small parts.

7. Do jigsaws – another red flag for me. Many dyspraxics cannot motor plan well with jigsaws. Start off really simple and slowly progress to more pieces, keeping it successful.

8. Baking, rolling out biscuits, mixing, kneading the dough are all great handwriting muscle builders.

9. Daily crafting: A great activity for the tripod grip is dot painting with cotton buds. Use crayons, scissors, paints, finger paints, stickering, tearing paper. Use scratch off foil books with the wooden pointed scratch-off sticks (Klutz do some good ones), encouraging the child to pivot their wrist on the bone at the base of their hand.

10. Rainbow drawing (more like arcs than rainbows but you will get the idea) – hold arm and wrist straight pivoting the arm at the elbow, move back and forward, changing the colours every now and again to maintain interest. Don’t press down too much, ask them for a feint rainbow in the distance. Get them to turn their paper with their other arm to create a Catherine Wheel type effect on the paper (great for bonfire night!). This will take them some time to master… Now do similar rainbow arcs where only the wrist pivots back and forth, resting on the bone at the base of the hand, lots of them if you can.  Then once this is okay draw a row of circles, one clockwise, one anti-clockwise and repeat the pattern along. Then, with a different colour, go over the circles in the same way, tracing them as exactly as you can. Keep repeating in different colours or the same colour if the child is happy to. This gets the child use to the push and pull of writing. Remember to keep the pressure light.

11. Doing simple mazes encourages the side to side, up and down , push and pull movements required for handwriting.

Also, take advantage of snowy or muddy days! Making snowballs, or, if there is no snow – mud cakes or mud balls that can be thrown to hit a target in the garden – great fun!

Every child will acquire the skills needed for handwriting at different times. The more your child uses their fingers the sooner they are likely to achieve this.

Encourage the tripod grip from an early age, using a triangular barrelled pencil or crayon grip will help your child to establish this. There are some great chunky triangular grips for pencils and crayons to help in the early stages. Try to move away from the chunky crayons once they have mastered the grip onto the Faber Castell thinner triangular barrelled pencil crayons and colouring pens. Staying with the chunky grip for too long restricts some of the movement in the hand and fingers. It’s like an adult trying to write with a tube of smarties, far less movement is possible. Do stick with triangular barrelled pens and pencils though as this makes pencil grip so much more comfortable.

Faber Castell pack of 12 jumbo colour GRIP crayons
Jumbo triangular grip handwriting crayons

In the early stages using a silicone pencil ‘grip’ can also give the young child a feel for how to hold the pencil (don’t allow them to get too used to it that they become dependent upon it though). You are just trying to encourage a natural tripod grip at this stage. Offer the grip every other day so they know they can cope with alternatives.

Want to make your own grip? You could try another trick of mine which is to roll a blue-tack strip around the grip of the pencil. The child then pincers the index finger and thumb in an ‘ok’ type sign around the blue tack grip of the pen and then brings the middle finger in under the pen for support. Blue tack is quite tacky so the fingers will stick and the fingers will mould their own grip points. Plasticine might do the same thing although it doesn’t stick as well to the pen. Some people will use fimo air drying clay to mould their own grip around the pencil, you’d need to glue it onto the shaft to make it stay. It’s not terribly soft once it’s dry but at least it will add some variety to your pencil grip collection!

Posture is very important to achieving good handwriting. Feet flat on the ground (use telephone directories if need be to achieve this), knees at 90 degrees and body sitting upright. Strong tummy muscles influence the body’s posture. The  body should be turned very slightly  to the left for righties and to the right for lefties. The paper should also be positioned carefully – righties should have their paper turned so that the bottom left hand corner points to their tummy button, and lefties should have their paper turned so that the bottom right corner of the paper points to their tummy button. The non writing hand should be used actively in paper orientation, something that often gets ignored. It’s not just a paper weight!

The old Victorian writing desks were perfect for our children, now we have writing slopes which provide the 20 degree writing angle. Slopes support the correct body posture, reduce visual stress and provide a more ergonomic handwriting position.

If handwriting is still concerning you as your child gets older, you should have a quick chat with the teacher or consult an occupational therapist. There are some great handwriting programmes you can try with their support: ‘Write from the Start’ for younger children  and ‘Speed Up!’ For older children. There’s an older programme that OT’s like too, called ‘Handwriting Without Tears’; there are some good ideas in this programme – I especially like the one where you write the letter on the chalkboard, wipe it off with a small square sponge, following the writing path of the letter and then dry it off with a tiny cloth along the writing path of the letter – it really reinforces the way the letter is written in a novel way.

More on this topic soon…

How to choose the correct pencil grip

How to choose the correct pencil grip.

We have over 12 different pencil grips in our shop and without seeing you and how you grip a pencil it is extremely difficult to recommend the right one. The pencil you choose to write with can also make a difference to the way the grip performs. You might try a shorter pencil too as that can sometimes make a difference.

how-to-choose-the-right-pencil-grip-first-time

how-to-choose-the-correct-pencil-gripI would suggest purchasing the selection pack of mixed grips that we stock (we’ve priced it to make it the cheapest way to sample all the grips). This will enable you to find the ones that suit you best so that you can buy them in the larger value bags with confidence.

The only two grips not included in the pack are the Grotto grip and the 2-in-1 eraser grip, we were trying to keep the sampler pack costs down hence their exclusion. If the triangular grip in the sampler pack  suits you then the 2-in-1 eraser grip will also suit you. If the cross-guard ultra grip from the pack suits you then the grotto grip will also, it has a very slightly different angle to it so might be worth a try. The grotto grip has wider wings to stop your fingers from sliding down and across the pencil and is very good for dyspraxics with a weak grip.

Pencil grip selection pack
Our pencil grip selection pack

Thumb wrapping?

Try the Grotto Grip , Cross-Guard Ultra Grip or C.L.A.W. grip when the pencil is held with the thumb wrapped tightly over the index finger or tucked under, the thumb wrapping limits efficient movements of the thumb and tends to fatigue the muscles in the forearm. Each of these grips will prevent the thumb and index fingers from wrapping over the top. I would also purchase a Twist ‘n Write pencil as it is fantastic at correcting thumb wrap. We have just introduced a NEW grip pack just for thumb wrappers and grip sliders.

Pencil grip pack stops thumb wrapping and grip slipping and includes the Grotto Pencil Grip, The Cross-Guard Ultra Pencil Grip and the CLAW pencil grip.
Pencil grip pack stops thumb wrapping and grip slipping and includes the Grotto Pencil Grip, The Cross-Guard Ultra Pencil Grip and the CLAW pencil grip.

Fingers sliding down the pencil resulting in a death-grip?

Again, I really like the Grotto Grip , Cross-Guard Ultra Grip and CLAW grip for correcting these difficulties.

White finger tips from holding too tightly?

Sometimes this can be easily corrected simply by using the foam Ridged comfort pencil grip (purple in the grip pack picture), the Standard triangular pencil grip (air force blue in the grip pack picture) or the Comfort pencil grip (dark blue in the grip pack picture). They will offer light grip support that may make all the difference whilst your child’s grip strength continues to develop.

Closed web space?

This is the gap between the thumb and index finger where the web is. If this is closed tightly whilst gripping a pencil it will lead to muscle fatigue. I like the large Ultra Pencil Grip for this (the yellow grip photographed in our grip selection pack). If your child has a closed web space and wraps their thumb over the top of the pencil then I would go with the Grotto Grip and Cross-Guard Ultra Grip. I would also buy a Twist ‘n Write pencil as it is fantastic at correcting thumb wrap problems and will open up the web space at the same time.

Can’t hold onto a pencil very well at all?

Try the CLAW pencil grip as this really secures the fingers around the pencil. Again, the Twist ‘n Write pencil will allow the child to write with a push whilst their finger and hand strength develops. Definitely seek medical advice if you haven’t done so already.

The Penagain Twist 'N Write Pencils are perfect for correcting an inefficient pencil grip, thumb wrap grip, quadrupod grip and for supporting low muscle tone - related handwriting difficulties.
The Penagain Twist ‘N Write Pencils are perfect for correcting an inefficient pencil grip, thumb wrap grip, quadrupod grip and for supporting low muscle tone – related handwriting difficulties.

If you are purchasing a pencil grip you should also purchase some Crayon Rocks® – why?

Crayon Rocks® are proven to strengthen the tripod grip muscles. They can only be held in a tripod grip and are a huge personal favourite of mine. Used a few minutes every day in wide sweeping strokes, you’ll be amazed how quickly your childs’ grip improves. The end goal for grips and supports is for your child to be able to pick up any pen or pencil to write with. You have to strengthen the muscles in the hands to achieve this, pencil grips will definitely do this, Crayon Rocks® will get you there even faster alongside regular use of your pencil grip.

Crayon Rocks® are the best crayon you can buy to encourage the tripod grip in your child's early handwriting development
Crayon Rocks® really are the best crayon you can buy to encourage the tripod grip in your child’s early handwriting development

Pencil Grips are not a solution for everyone. They encourage and support the correct tripod grip and often make writing more comfortable. Other stand-alone pens and pencils also do this including the Twist ‘n write pencil, the Penagain and the Evo.pen – all are incredibly comfortable and effective. Many dyspraxics can struggle with a tripod grip and require a writing tool to achieve legible handwriting, the best of these include the Yoropen pens and pencils, the RinG-Pen and RinG-Pen Ultra. Some may have such poor proprioception that they require the use of a weighted pen or pencil for sensory feedback. If none of the supports seem to help then we would strongly advise you to consult an Occupational Therapist who will assess the writing difficulty professionally.

We understand handwriting can cause huge anxieties, if you are really not sure you can come along and try everything we have by arrangement, just email us: fantasticdys@aol.com or call 01572 737100 and we are sure we will find a time that works.

Top tip: If the grip is to be used by a child, make a scratch line where the grip should be, just in case the grip becomes a ‘fiddle fidget’ and moves, the child can then see clearly where it should go back to. You could use stickers for this as well.

The correct writing position: 

The pencil should be held about 2.5 to 3 cm from the writing tip, so that there is control over the movement. Slightly lower for tiny hands.

Left handed pencil grip pack. Pack of 6 of the most popular pencil grips for left handers.
Left handed pencil grip pack. Pack of 6 of the most popular pencil grips for left handers.

Do you or your child grip the pencil with 4 fingers or more, rather than the traditional 3 used in a dynamic tripod pencil grip?

Please take a peek at our blog on the quad grip, what is it, and should I correct it?

Quadrupod pencil grip and grasp pack. For children and adults with an inefficient quadrupod pencil grip seeking to re-train to a more dynamic tripod pencil grip. Suitable for left and right handers. Includes crayon rocks, penagain twist 'n write pencil, faber castell grip pencil with eraser and 6 of the best tripod pencil grips.
Quadrupod pencil grip and grasp pack. For children and adults with an inefficient quadrupod pencil grip seeking to re-train to a more dynamic tripod pencil grip. Suitable for left and right handers. Includes crayon rocks, penagain twist ‘n write pencil, faber castell grip pencil with eraser and 6 of the best tripod pencil grips.

 

 

 

 

 

Are you a dyspraxic finding colouring in difficult?

Today is Red Nose Day and I’ve drawn this picture for a competition at school. It’s a cyborg, but all red noses have to have a funny name dyspraxic-colouring-in-problems-and-solutionsso I called him ‘snotborg’. I coloured this in using my new Maped Color’Peps brush pens and I really recommend them, they colour in so much faster! Shame they don’t have a silver one – had to use a silver pencil, took quite a while that did. Wish me luck for the competition! Oli

My tip… If, like me, you hate going over the lines, you can get erasable colouring pencils so no one knows apart from you.

Maper-Color-Peps-Brush-Felt-PensFaber Castell Box of 10 Colour GRIP erasable pencils.

Motor planning in the kitchen – cookie time!

Making biscuits gave me a sharp reminder as to how Dyspraxia affects Ollie’s daily life. Ollie weighed out all the ingredients, we had to cut the butter into smaller chunks before turning the mixer on. Hello Dyspraxia – I broke down the movements of the wrist to help Oliver effectively drag the knife through the butter and caster sugar, after three instructions Ollie then began talking himself through it and began to master it. An extra hand was required for steadying, to empty the contents of the bowl into the mixer bowl. Then came separating the egg yolks – hard enough for adults… I bought eggs that had 50% extra free, I don’t want Ollie not to manage something so I declared that he could crack 8 out of the 10 eggs if necessary, leaving two for me to separate if need be. What I love about Oliver is that he really has a go and is so keen. Nearly, nearly, nearly, not quite but praising good effort. Ollie’s reward – electric mixer! He then had to bring the ingredients together into one dough ball – great exercise and quite hard for  him. I’ve just bought a dycem-type non slip mat which we put under the mixing bowl, Oliver declared without prompting, that it was really helpful when he was mixing everything together in the bowl. He then rolled out the dough, all the time we discussed the pressure required to roll out the dough and body positioning, he has really improved lately with sensing the amount of pressure to apply, I was impressed. After cutting out the biscuits and getting a sensory hit from having his hands in the soft flour Oliver proclaimed he was exhausted and sat and waited for the cookies to come out of the oven. He did look tired.

Food Challenges? Started the Kay Toomey S.O.S. ‘Food Scientist’ programme this week…

As Oliver has made good progress in so many areas of Dyspraxia and Sensory Processing Disorder we decided it was time to look at the challenges we were facing with food. We have a school holiday this week presenting me with enough quality time to get going on it.

For those parents out there who have children who simply won’t eat a wide range of foods no matter what you do I am in there with you too. It’s stressful, everyone else knows best, you’re a bad parent for not making them eat it. I’ve heard it and been bruised by it all.

Oliver didn’t transition well from purees to solids and that’s when the challenges began. As a toddler, we put Oliver into breakfast and lunches in the pre-schools in the hope that the peer group pressure would encourage him to eat more to no avail. We couldn’t go to restaurants or cafes without him screaming. This is going to sound bad, but we even starved Oliver for 3 days running as someone suggested this would get him to eat – he ate nothing…

We managed to get some time with Kay Toomey when we went to America and that’s where it all made sense – it was hugely sensory fears, he’d missed some oral development stages and it was not going to change overnight. If you’ve tried it all, speaking to an OT who has completed the S.O.S feeding programme might be your perfect solution but it takes time and a LOT of effort on your part. We drew up a priority list 4 years ago for Oliver and we are just getting to this now, had he cut out any more foods in that time we would have looked at it sooner.

I really do wish Kay Toomey would bring out a book to alleviate stress by better informing parents in our shoes. On discussing this with our OT (Occupational Therapist) they said that Kay would probably not bring a book out as the programme needed to be supported by a qualified OT, it’s a serious business and done incorrectly, could put kids off food for life. I can see that.

As a toddler Kay called it ‘Food School’, older children get the ‘Food Scientist programme’, much cooler. I did ask if I needed to have a bunsen burner and microscope in my food toolkit… um… maybe not!

So, we have our learning plates at the ready, food cutters, whizzers, melon ballers, squeezers, anti slip mats, face cloths, bubbles and here we go…. I’ll let you know how we get on…

Update…two weeks in (we missed the first 2 weeks  with Oli catching the flu)… 2 new foods achieved so far! The biggest thing for me is that Oliver will now take his eye-q Omega 3 capsules. I am hoping that these will have a big impact on his memory over time. I was recommended them by Oli’s consultant but have not been able to get him to take them up until now. I have read a lot of research on Omega 3 and its benefits on memory and so I am excited to see what the effects might be.

Update 2…four weeks in. 2 more new foods now being eaten (4 in total, which allows me to vary packed lunches a little now) and a discovery that yellow foods cause overwhelming problems.

Dyspraxia Shop UK for DCD, Dyspraxia, Developmental Coordination Disorder. Dyspraxia Products: pens & pencils (Penagain, Twist 'n write, Yoropen, evo.pen, rinG-Pen), writing slopes, exercise equipment, gymnic movin' sit cushions etc. Blog, Ideas, Reviews. For all Dyspraxics, Schools, SENCO's, Adults, Teenagers, Parents & Carers of children with Dyspraxia and Dyspraxia Health Professionals.