The Write Stuff!

adminbilateral coordination, crayola, fine motor, grasping, handwriting, ooly, preschool, school age, stylus, tripod grasp, twee, vertical surface, writing instruments Leave a Comment

There are several reasons children are referred to occupational therapy but one of the most common, especially for school age children, is because of difficulties with handwriting.  Expectations for handwriting jump pretty quickly between grades.  In most preschools, handwriting is a choice and done through more hands-on kinds of activities (which I totally support!) but in most kindergarten classes, children are expected to be able to write and then by first and second grade, they are expected to write for longer periods of time with accuracy.  Many of the kids who come my way are able to write but lack endurance or have an inefficient grip on their writing instruments that may lead to messy handwriting.

Below, I share a handful of my favorite writing instruments for children of all ages.  These are ones that I use in my practice and recommend to parents and other professionals all the time. 

Squiggle Wiggle Writer Pen-I was really excited when I saw that this pen was making a comeback.  I had used it almost daily when I first began working as an occupational therapist and loved how something could not only be motivating, but be therapeutic at the same time.  The Squiggle Wiggle Writer is vibrating pen that produces squiggly pictures.  It comes with 3 interchangeable pens which slide in and out of the tip of the pen (which is great for working on bilateral coordination).  The vibration is great for providing children with sensory input while drawing or writing which helps with focus and attention.  Kids are also given an opportunity to work on improving their creativity and imagination skills.  Since there are only three colors to choose from, I have the kids fill in details of their pictures using crayons, markers or colored pencils.
*the one downfall is that due to its weight, kids are not always able to use a tripod grasp when they hold it.  Most kids are observed to use a fisted grip to gain control of the pen which I don’t always have them change.

Zebra Zensations Mechanical Colored Pencils-hands down, these are my favorite colored pencils I have used.  First of all, I am a huge fan of using mechanical pencils with children because it helps them work on grading the pressure they use when using them.  If you press too hard, the tip will break which gets frustrating after a few tries.  This set includes 24 colors but you can get a smaller set of 12 pencils here.  Another great things about these colored pencils is their triangular shape.  The triangle shape helps to encourage a tripod-like grasp when holding them.

Twist n’ Write Pencil-I always have a collection of 1/2 pencils to use with the kids I work with.  The shorter a pencil is, the more likely they are to use a proper grasp.  However, there are many kids who require something else to encourage a better grip on pencils.  This typically happens due to decreased grasp strength and delayed manipulation skills.  I was introduced to the Twist n’ Write pencil when I was seeking alternative writing instruments for my own daughter.  This pencil was designed for a child’s hand.  The Y design not only encourages a child to utilize a tripod grasp for graphomotor tasks, it also forces them to use less pressure allowing them to write for longer periods of time without tiring.

Yummy Yummy Scented Glitter Gel Pens-I’m a complete sucker for gel pens.  Throw in scented and glitter gel pens and I am done for!  This set from OOLY is one of my daughter’s favorite possessions and we must always have a backup set for her coloring, letter writing and list making projects.  I tend to only use gel pens with my older kids who I am trying to challenge more with more advanced coloring activities.  Gel pens are great because they are smoother and typically much brighter on paper.

Crayola My First Crayons-there are a lot of people who get anxious about giving toddlers any kind of crayons, markers, etc.. They are worried they may put them in their mouths or may draw on a surface they shouldn’t.  I encourage parents to let their kids draw as early as possible, especially if they are showing an interest in it.  Crayola has launched a handful of new products meant just for little hands.  These egg-shaped crayons are the perfect size and shape for your little artist.  There are many benefits of children drawing at an early age including developing fine motor and grasping skills, encourages creativity and imagination, improves hand-eye coordination and bilateral coordination.  It’s also a great way to introduce colors to children.  If you have an easel, I highly recommend having even the youngest of artists to use that because working on a vertical surface is great for kids of all ages.

 Mumbo Jumbo Chunky Markers-another one of my favorite products from OOLY.  As I mentioned above, it is important for even the youngest of children to explore and experiment with drawing as early as possible.  It’s also important that we provide them with the right tools that will help them be successful.  These washable markers are great for little hands.  The box of 16 markers are short and have a thicker barrel making it easier for little hands to hold.  The colors are really bright.  Sometimes using markers are better for children, especially if they have decreased grasp strength since it requires less pressure to make markings on the paper.  This set of markers come in a sturdy box with a handle which my kids love to carry around.

Cosmonaut Stylus-for a variety of reasons, kids spend more time on tablets these days.  As with all things, as long as you don’t overdo it, working on the iPad can provide a lot of benefits.  One of the things I recommend to all parents is that if they are going to let their kids use an iPad or other kind of tablet, be sure to have them use a stylus as much as possible to help develop fine motor and grasping skills.  I think this is especially important if your child is doing any kind of handwriting or drawing apps.  There are a lot of different stylus’ to choose from but the Cosmonaut is my favorite.  It is a little pricier than some of the other ones made for children but it is far more durable.  I have had mine for several years and it still looks brand new.  The barrel of the stylus is thicker which encourages a tripod-like grasp when holding it.

Twee Sidewalk Chalk-as the weather gets warmer, kids tend to spend more time outside.  One of my favorite outdoor activity is drawing with chalk. While any sidewalk chalk will do, I am a particular fan of the fun ones by Twee.  These handmade sets are created in small batches by a Philadelphia based preschool teacher and are meant only for outdoor use.  I was drawn to them when I saw the adorable sets, especially the unicorn horn set that the Easter Bunny will be delivering to my unicorn obsessed daughter.  Some of my other favorite sets from Twee are the alphabet and letters and the sushi.  There are so many benefits of drawing with chalk outdoors including: develops fine motor skills, works on increasing upper extremity strength, motivates kids to practice letters and numbers and it encourages creativity.

Rainy Dayz Gel Crayons-one thing that motivates kids to write is when they can do it on a forbidden surface like a window or mirror!  Working on a vertical surface is wonderful as it works on a variety of developmental skills, especially promotes improved fine motor and gross motor development.  In addition, working on a vertical surface helps increase core and upper extremity strength while encouraging proper wrist position, head and neck position, promotes bilateral coordination and crossing midline skills.  There are a lot of different products out there, but my favorite are the these gel crayons by OOLY.  The colors are bright and they don’t require too much pressure for colors them to show up on the mirror and window.  I like gel crayons because they do help children learn about using an appropriate amount of pressure.  Many of my kids who have decreased grasp strength are observed to use a lot of pressure when coloring.  If they use too much pressure when using these gel crayons, they will lose the tip of the crayon.  For older kids, you can play games like Hangman and Tic-Tac-Toe

Handwriting Without Tears Flip Crayons-one of the first things I tell parents, caregivers or educators when they have a child with an immature grip is to break crayons into little pieces.  To be completely honest, I don’t think any preschool classroom should have full sized crayons for the kids to use.  The smaller the crayon is, the more likely it is that they will use a tripod-like grasp.  The HWOT Flip Crayons are great because they are about 2 inches long and have 2 colors making them a perfect size.

Some things to keep in mind when picking out writing tools for children:
-the smaller the writing instrument is, the more likely it is to encourage a tripod-like grasp
-for kids with decreased grasp strength, drawing and coloring with markers or gel crayons may be easier and decrease frustration when presented with more challenging activities
-work on a vertical surface whenever possible.  It’s not only great for working on increasing upper extremity and core strength, it encourages wrist extension which is important for proper grasp on writing instruments

If you have any questions or are looking for something specific for your child, don’t hesitate reaching out.  I am only a click away and love hearing from you all. 

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