How do you help your child when they experience difficulties with writing? Surprisingly enough, basic handwriting exercises have very little to do with sitting at the desk with a pencil and a paper, and much more with strengthening the hands, shoulders and back, as well as improving eyes’ ability to guide the hands in movement.
There are roughly five fundamental skills involved in handwriting:
- trunk control, which provides support for any type of hand activity;
- shoulder stability, acting also as a base for fine motor tasks;
- fine motor skills, needed for a proper and firm pencil grip;
- visual motor skills, guiding the hand along the paper and
- visual perception skills, ability to recognize shapes and letters.
Today I will start a series of posts with playful ideas that will aid in development of these skills while ensuring loads of fun and boosting enthusiasm for homework writing assignments.
The easily made easel
When I saw this post on Art Bar blog about how to make your own cardboard easel, my first thought was that it was an amazing way to engage kids in art. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized all sorts of other, physical benefits that came with it.
Using an easel helps build core strength (trunk control) and exercise shoulder muscles. It also provides a large space for kids to draw, paint or stamp, which improves visual motor skills as the child can better understand movements involved in brush strokes and creating shapes. Finally, it offers a lovely, creative practice for proper pencil/marker/painbrush grip. Plus it is much more fun to practice writing standing before an easel than leaning over a desk.
Bearing in mind that easels should have a solid foundation, the actual steps will depend on the kind of cardboard piece you’ve got at your disposal.
Mine was a long box with one side a bit damaged by the rain, and since I needed two easels (for two kids), I decided to cut it right down the middle, instead of making use of a whole side for each easel. But, if yours is long, too, you can just cut out and fold one side and use the flaps to create the basis.
As you can see from the photo, I removed the side flaps, spread the cardboard flat and cut along the vertical axis, twice.
That made four squares with flaps on two that helped me glue them together at the top.
To create the basis, as suggested in Art Bar’s post, I used a long piece of duck tape, folded in the middle and stuck to each side at the bottom of the square.
Then I added some velcro pieces and hot-glued them to the bottom of the cardboard square and the end of the duck tape.
Finally, I put them up and placed them on the table. Done!
And then, we gave the easels a try. Wow!
It took me around 20 minutes to make them and once they were ready the fun continued for several days.
Do give them a try this weekend, your kids will love them, I promise!