In Kindergarten 3+ and Reception all children are given next steps linked to their writing development.
There are a wide variety of next steps depending on their stage of gross and fine motor development.
All children start their day by working on their individual next steps to become confident and skilled writers. We use a range of activities to support children including gross motor movement in the hall, dough gym, fine motor and dexterity activities (nuts and bolts, tweezers, threading), scissor skills, name writing and letter formation.
Once children have the necessary physical skills to successfully use a pencil we will support them to hear and write the sounds in simple words, then put those words into simple sentences. As the year progresses and children become more confident they will begin to write lists, labels, stories, and make a range of books linked to their interests and current learning.
Developing gross motor skills
Children learn to control their bodies from the centre outwards and from the top downwards. Arm and finger control follows the same pattern. At first a child will be able to manipulate the arm from the shoulder joint. Gradually they understand how to control the hands and finally they learn how to make the fine finger movements needed to write.
To develop gross motor skills, we plan a rich diet of physical activities, including:
● Balance beams
● Crawling through tunnels
● Carrying large blocks and crates
● Swinging on climbing frames
● Yoga and dance sessions
Bilateral integration – crossing the mid line
In order to be able to write, children need to be able to coordinate both sides of their bodies together, with one hand holding the paper, while the other manipulates the pen. Children also need to learn how to ‘cross the mid line’ – to be able to control their movements across the centre point of the body. It is this that will let them write without changing the pen over to their other hand midway through a line.
You could try this activity to support the development of bilateral integration:
● Play ‘Simon Says’ with a twist: Ask you child to simultaneously to perform one action with one hand (pat your head) and a different action with the other (rub your tummy).
Building fine motor control
As well as building up their gross motor skills, children need to develop the fine motor control required to hold and manipulate a writing tool. They need to develop strength in their wrists and hands, and also a high level of finger control. Some of the key actions required are: grip strength (make a fist to feel this action); pinch strength (hold an invisible pencil tight to feel this action); and eye to hand coordination.
Many of the games and activities you do in your home will help children develop these movements:
● At dinner time, build hand and finger strength by cutting up foods, grating, squeezing and using cloths to wipe up
● Tracing around mazes is great for eye-to-hand coordination
● Squashing and squishing activities will build up lots of strength in the hands – playdough, pastry, gloop and so on
● Toys that involve pop-together-and-pull-apart movements are great for building finger strength.
If you consider the actions you use when writing, you’ll see how important it is that you have a high level of dexterity. This skill is needed for lots of other activities too, including self-care tasks such as doing up buttons and pulling on clothes.
Help your children develop their dexterity by:
● Doing up and undoing buttons and zips
● Threading beads
● Using tweezers and chopsticks
● Building towers
● Turning keys in locks
● Playing with peg boards
● Colouring in between the lines on a picture
● Cutting or tearing paper around an outline.
Holding a writing tool
At first, children usually grasp the pencil or pen using a fist grip, which then develops into a finger grasp. The aim is for them to learn how to use a ‘dynamic tripod grasp’, where the pen or pencil is held between the thumb and the index and middle fingers. The child makes a tripod shape with the thumb and fingers, with the pencil resting on the soft bit between the thumb and forefinger.
Help children learn how to control their individual fingers by:
singing lots of rhymes where the fingers hide or disappear, such as ‘10 Little Fishes’. Keep an eye on your child, and encourage them to hold their writing tool correctly – bad habits are easy to get into but very hard to break.
If you have any questions, please talk to your child's teacher.