In the previous post on improving handwriting skills I explained why it is important for a child to build a solid base for sitting and movement. You cannot expect someone to produce a text if she doesn’t know the alphabet. A strong core is like the letters one has to learn before setting off to write an essay. It is the critical basis.
But, there is also another vital prerequisite for handwriting and that is a good coordination between eyes and hands, where the latter trust the former in guiding them along the paper to form shapes and put those in the right place.
This ability forms the footing for all manual movements, such as drawing, writing, using scissors, solving puzzles, playing with building blocks, catching balls, putting the socks on, tying shoe laces, sawing or knitting.
Visual motor integration
Eye-to-hand coordination is the pinnacle of both visual and motor skills. It is not enough to be well-versed in fine motor tasks, to have a strong and stable shoulder girdle or a 20/20 vision, or be a school-book example of perfect eye teaming, focusing and tracking. All these abilities are a necessary yet not sufficient condition. A good eye-to-hand coordination may hugely depend on visual as well as motor skills, but both need to work as a team, to be integrated: there has to be a flawless communication between the visual and the motor systems.
And, while this coordination is to a large extent developed in early childhood, it is possible to improve on it with some simple exercises.
Ways to work on eye hand coordination
Play ball. A ball is a perfect tool for nurturing eye hand coordination. You can roll it, bounce it, toss it, pass it, throw it up or down and catch it.
One of the neatest tricks I’ve seen is to put a ball in a veggie net and hang it from a rope to get a suspended ball which you can then push, catch or bat at will, without having to run to fetch it.
Bounce the ball against the wall, play catch on your own (throw it up in the air) or with someone else (here’s where parents come in handy), hit it with a racket, roll it to knock out plastic bottles (make your own bowling alley), play relay with a group of friends.
A useful rule of thumb: the bigger the kid, the smaller the ball should be.
Draw. Teach your child the basics, how to draw a vertical line, a horizontal one, and the most challenging of all, a diagonal. Use prompts, such as square box for easier orientation, stenciles or sticks (toothpicks or craft sticks) for a child to trace or copy.
Drawing or painting on large surfaces, such as a white board or an easel, helps children better understand and control the movements involved in forming lines and shapes.
Draw different shapes, then cut them out and create collages.
Encourage the children to complete the other part of a picture which you drew only half-way.
Board games. Checkers, Tic-Tac-Toe and Connect Four are excellent exercises for visual planning and organization which improve fine motor skills while nurturing eye hand coordination.
Fine motor activities. A myriad of fine motor tasks works to boost visual motor integration, such as stringing beads, macaroni or cut straws; lacing or sawing cards; solving jigsaw puzzles (you can make your own by collecting several household items, tracing them on a piece of paper and letting your kid match the item with its outline).
Or you can offer your child to help you dye eggs for the upcoming Easter.
Easter special: homemade egg dyes
Making sure the egg doesn’t break when you put it in a dye or while you get it out requires an excellent eye hand coordination, which is why I decided to include it in this post and make it an Easter special.
There are basically two ways to make natural egg dyes: either use food stuffs with a really strong pigment or try the natural food colouring (we got ours from an organic produce shop, they came in five different colours, as you can see from the photo).
If you are using the latter, add a spoonful of vinegar to roughly a cup of dye and leave the previously boiled eggs, entirely submerged, for several hours to work out a nice hue.
On the other hand, if you prefer playing with your food, I guarantee you will get much more vibrant colours, as I tried both methods and can speak from experience.
For ever since I can remember, we have been using onion peels to dye eggs, but this year I decided to have a bit of fun with cabbage leaves.
Now, onion peels give a wonderful dark red hue to the eggs, whereas red cabbage dyes them a sublime indigo blue.
Use half a cabbage or about a dozen onions, boil the peels and chopped leaves (separately, of course) for 15 to 20 minutes with vinegar (1 tablespoon for each cup of water), sieve the liquid and set aside to cool down to room temperature.
As with the food colouring, immerse the previously boiled eggs in dye, completely submerging them and leave for several hours to reach the desired hue.
Don’t forget to have fun and engage your kids as much as possible to work on that eye hand coordination over the holidays.
Happy Easter to everyone who celebrates!