Summer is a opportunity for children of all ages to spend more time on outdoor play and less time “hitting the books!” Although learning does not end with the school term, desk work becomes less appealing as the pools and playgrounds open for the season. The neatest thing about handwriting practice, however, is that it does not need to be completed at a desk, or even sitting down! Let’s explore some summertime fun activities that help children maintain and increase their handwriting mastery skills.
BUT, before we begin our journey, let’s take a look at one important fact: Handwriting mastery is not accomplished simply by practicing letters over and over to produce a legible word. That is the final destination. The road to legibility, however, is paved with many other skills. To master handwriting skills children need to develop efficient:
- visual-motor skills – that provide them with “accurate and precise eye movements that range from near to far” (1)
- visual-perceptual skills – that help them to “process visual information” (2),
- gross-motor skills – that give them strong muscles to maintain their posture, and
- fine-motor skills – that help them to produce precision movements with their hands.
The following activities will help your child work on those foundational skills. So, let’s get going!
Take It Outside!
1. Strong upper body strength improves posture for handwritten work. Playground equipment fits the bill for strengthening neck, shoulder, arm, and back muscles. Rolling, climbing, jumping, and crawling are simple movements to include in treasure hunts, hide-and-seek games, and backyard races.
2. Vision skills play a key role in the production of letters, words, and numbers. A game of catch, with big and small balls or frisbees, provides opportunities for focusing on objects that are close and far away. These same movements are important for copying from the board!
3. Visual-perceptual skills are those that help us
– to determine objects that are the same or different (e.g., “a” or “e”),
– to recognize the space between objects (e.g., letter and word spacing), and
– to find objects that are hidden around us (e.g., locate our place on the page or board when copying).
Exploratory play with sandbox sensory bins, nature matching games, or even a round of miniature golf are fun ways to work on these skills.
4. Fine-motor skills are easy to include in your child’s outdoor play. Artwork created from leaves, sticks, and flowers can be a patio project. Hang paper on the fence for painting “legal graffiti!” And the sidewalk or driveway are perfect pallets for drawing with chalk!
5. Handwriting practice can be included in all of these activities by including a journal in their “toy box.” Each day, provide a special time for remembering their special moments…and for practicing handwriting skills! Journal writing can be performed as a “lazy end of the day” activity on the lawn, on the living room rug, or in bed before lights out!
Take It In The Car!
1. Visual-perceptual skills can be included on your road trip with a handy clipboard, crayon or pencil, and a piece of paper! Your child can draw what he sees out the window or can check off how many times he sees a red car. Treasure hunt or hidden picture worksheets can be included for more focused work to help maintain peace and quiet!
2. Magnetic puzzles and board games can be purchased or created in compact sizes for children to enjoy during the trip. These activities provide visual and fine motor skill work as they ask children to remember information, locate spaces, and move pieces.
3. Songs that include interactive movements, such as “Itsy, Bitsy, Spider,” provide opportunities to work on visual-motor skills and upper body strengthening. Getting out of the car frequently is a great way to stretch the large muscles of the body with a short walk (take the dog!) or a few “touch-the-toes” exercises.
4. Hobbies can come along for the ride, as well. Older children would enjoy packing their sketch pads, baseball cards, or current Lego project. The younger ones can bring their coloring books and crayons, sensory bags, and dolls to dress. These activities work on all of the foundational handwriting skills!
5. And don’t forget to pack their Journals! Every trip deserves to be recorded for memories! When journal time is treated as an important item to take on a trip, it will be treated special for a long time to come!
Handwriting does not have to take a back seat to summer vacation fun. Maintaining handwriting mastery, and even advancing handwriting skills, is as easy as Apple Pie in the warm and beautiful months ahead.
(1) “Kinesthetic Learning Is for Everyone!” Kinesthetic Learning Is for Everyone! Universal Publishing, 11 Nov. 2013. Web. 19 July 2014.
(2) Collmer, Katherine J. “Visual Perceptual Skills: Keys to Learning.” Handwriting Is Fun Blog. N.p., 27 May 2014. Web. 19 July 2014.