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Fine Motor Skills/Handwriting

Fine Motor Skills & Handwriting: Tools for the Classroom

Fine motor skills involve all of the small muscles of the body: more specifically those that control precise movements of the hands, wrists, feet, toes, lips, and tongue. The small muscles of the hands and fingers are the most important for developing handwriting skills.

Keep reading and learn more about how fine motor skills impact handwriting and what classroom tools are available to help struggling writers develop their fine motor skills.

How Do Fine Motor Skills Impact Handwriting?

There are two main motor skills involved in learning to write. The first is pencil grip and the second is letter formation.

Pencil Grip

Typically children progress developmentally from a whole hand grasp as infants to a digital pronate grip as toddlers with mature or dynamic tripod grasp developing by about age 6. Research has shown that there are acceptable variations of a mature pencil grasp that do not impact writing speed or legibility.

However, students who do struggle with the speed and legibility issues may need to further develop their fine motor skills — specifically for the muscles in their hands. Tools and activities can be combined to help students develop fine motor skills at school and at home.

Letter Formation

The second fine motor skill involved in handwriting is letter formation. Ideally, letters should be formed from top to bottom and from left to right. Learning proper letter strokes is important for those who struggle with writing because improper letter formation makes writing more tedious and less efficient.

Forming letters in the correct way allows for quicker writing and for more fluid movement across the page. Slower, incorrect letter formation can be frustrating and keep students from performing at their best.

Helping students to develop legible penmanship requires regular practice of the consistent movements. This not only allows students the time to recognize the strokes and formation of letters as they write, but also as they read. Modeling proper letter formation and pointing out similarities between different letters and their suggested formation can be beneficial for students who struggle with learning to write.

Here are some fine motor development activities to help strengthen muscles needed for learning to write:

  • Using a spray bottle to water plants
  • Practice grabbing and holding small items with tweezers or tongs
  • Using a paper punch
  • String pasta or cereal onto yarn
  • Cut and make a mosaic from thick paper
  • Create eye-dropper art on coffee filters with food coloring and water
  • Playing Jacks
  • Paint or draw on vertical surfaces like an easel