GUEST POST: Tips for Improving Fine Motor Skills from our Occupational Therapist, Erin Anderson!

About Erin Anderson:

I began my career as an Occupational therapist working in the schools. I started two occupational therapy departments in schools for children with learning disabilities and this allowed me to be introduced to so many wonderful people and experiences. I wanted to have a greater connection with families and assist them at home and school across a broader age range so I began my own OT practice.  Over the last 20 years, I have had the privilege to work with children in their homes, schools and my clinic treating the whole child. I have spoken on the state and national level in the field of Occupational therapy. I enjoy collaborating with others on how to help a child be independent and the best participant in their environment that they can be. Thus achieving their “occupation”.

About the Practice:

Erin Anderson and Associates is a small boutique practice in Roscoe Village that brings a personal approach to enriching a child’s physical and motor development. What sets our practice apart from others? We have the unique advantage of sharing a space with speech pathologists and social workers which creates unique opportunities to collaborate and learn from each other, helping us provide the best service possible for our children and families. Think of us as a one-stop shop for all of your pediatric therapy needs with a team of close-knit professionals who you can tell love what they do.

What We Do Best:

Our therapists use their expertise to help children prepare for and perform important learning and development activities.  We do this largely by engaging children to participate in activities that are playful and meaningful to them. Through play, children develop functional outcomes in socialization, school, play and activities of daily living.

What Else Do We Provide:

In addition to all of the above, we run fun  “Friends Groups” that are co-led with other disciplines! In Friends Group, we create a safe and welcoming environment for kids to learn and practice the social competencies necessary for successful social interactions! We also hold groups on regulation, handwriting, and keyboarding. 

Tips for Improving Fine Motor Skill Development

One of the many areas we as occupational therapists are asked about it is fine motor development. One way to increase a child’s hand skill development is through weight bearing. This is applying pressure to the hands. This can be done in a fun and motivating way through activities such as bear walking, crab walking, and wheelbarrow walking. 

To improve a child’s pencil grasp you can have them hold something small such as an eraser or a skittle while they write with their pinky and ring finger and they place their other fingers on the pencil. 

Having a student write vertically is a great way to encourage a better grasp on the pencil. This can be done writing on an easel, a wall, using a slant board or a 4”binder. The slant helps to bring their wrist into extension which then allows for a better grasp. 

Writing with a piece of chalk and a chalkboard gives a lot of feedback when writing. Plus it is fun! Children should also use broken crayons and short pencils to assist with pencil grasp when writing.

Coloring is a great skill to develop endurance and to help them with applying pressure on a writing implement. When coloring encourage them to use crayons or colored pencils so they can learn how hard or soft to push thus working on their writing endurance. Markers bleed when coloring so they don’t practice this skill. 

If students press hard on the pencil try using a mechanical pencil which can help them learn the amount of pressure to place on it and these come in a variety of widths. If they don’t press hard enough, using a pencil with a thicker lead or an erasable pen can help or you try a twist n write pencil. 

It can be hard for kids to practice more writing after a long day so one idea is to keep a Tupperware box full of easy manipulatives to get in a little more fine motor practice. It is a great thing for them to do in the evening before the dinner hour.. A box filled with stringing beads, pop beads, pop rockets, origami, tongs and stretchy animals is a a great way for them to practice developing these skills. Chalk and a spray bottle as well as writing in a variety of textures are a great way to enhance their fine motor skills even while they practice spelling words or math facts. 

Some say that children don’t need to write in this day and age however, the hand skills that go into writing also impact their tasks of every day living including buttoning, getting change out of their pocket, unlocking their door and manipulating lunch container. Hand skill development continues to be a learned skill that needs practice. 

Kaitlin Feriante