Thursday, April 12, 2012

School Readiness Skills

So, it's that time of year again- Kindergarten registration time, that is.  And, it's at this time, when parents register their children for Kindergarten, that some notice that their children may not have all of the skills needed to succeed in Kindergarten. We OT's tend to get referrals for kids that the parents want a "quick fix" for so that the kids are ready for school in the fall.  Because of this, we think our first area to address should be getting your children ready for school.  We will address what we see as the most common school skills  that children are lacking when going into Kindergarten and we will offer some activities and suggestions for you to try at home. Kindergarten has changed since we parents went.  Back when we entered kindergarten, there were not as many prerequisites needed to be successful as we started our school careers.   Our days consisted of some academics, a nap and a snack before heading home.  Kindergarten was the year that prepared the children to start school in the first grade.  Not so today.  Most kids today have been in some sort of preschool for years prior to going to kindergarten, so have a basis of school skills such as writing their names,  with some being able to write their first and last names.  Some children are able to recognize all the letters of the alphabet, both upper and lower case.  Some are even able to form all of the letters, both upper and lower case.  Children are able to sit for longer periods of time to concentrate on school tasks.   But, don't panic if you think your child does not have all of the skills that other future kindergarteners have.  There is still time to help them get ready. First, in order to succeed with hand writing, your child will need a good grasp on his/her writing implements.  Kids start by holding their crayons in a fisted grasp and gradually progress to a mature, tripod grasp. A good grasp is important not only to be able to form legible words, but in order to write at a speed that will allow your child to keep up with the class during assignments.  We won't go into the technical terms for all the grasps, but will start by offering suggestions to progress your child to a more functional grasp. TODAY'S OT STRATEGY: Break your crayons into tiny pieces, about two inches long, and have your child use only those pieces to color.  Your child will not be able to "fist" small crayon pieces and will start to hold the pieces in a more mature manner.  Do this for a couple of weeks so your child becomes accustomed to holding a crayon in a different manner.


  1. As a fourth grade teacher, I still see children having trouble with the proper grip. Thanks for the tip- we'll put those small crayon pieces in our supply basket to good use.

  2. We've been using the "small" crayon strategy for the past 5 months and still can't get the pencil grip right. He wraps his fingers/thumb around the pencil from the top (claw-like grip). Any suggestions?

  3. Sorry about the deletion, just noted some grammatical errors! How old is your child? If he's pre-K, it's OK with me to use two fingers opposing the thumb for stabilization. Sometimes they need the extra support of 2 fingers on top instead of the traditional tripod grasp while they're learning. See the Pencil Grasp Tricks post, I'm working on organizing our posts by topic right now! Do a lot of pinching of small things, while playing with play dough, putting together tiny nuts and bolts, stringing small beads to develop that dexterity. Another grip I like is this one:

    Funny that it's named 'The Claw', but it really does hold their fingers in the right place. There are two sizes, 3-4 year olds need the little one, 5 and up likely needs the bigger one. Hope that helps! Keep us in the loop!

  4. I really like the "handiwriter" which is a band that goes around the wrist, with a loop holding the top of the pencil towards the wrist. The child gets a small item to hold between his palm and his pinky and ring finger, which is attached by a string. The ones I use have dolphins on them. The children are told not to let the dolphins fall. This device won't allow the child to "claw" the pencil. These can also be found on amazon, but google "handiwriter" and you will find them.
    You could start by trying to have the child hold a marble, or other similar-sized item, between his palm and pinky and ring finger.

  5. He's pre-k (3.5 yrs). Maybe "claw-like" grip isn't the proper term...he's using all 4 fingers and his thumb to create a dome over the top end of the pencil/crayon (the top end touches the center of his palm)'s a really awkward grip that gives him no pencil control. If he's not holding it like this, he attempts to fist the writing utensil. I'm using broken off crayons (about 1.5 - 2 inches in length) and golf pencils so it amazes me that he can even attempt these techniques.

    I'll give the tools you suggest a try and see if that helps. I've been trying to get him to hold a bean (red kidney or lima) in the palm of his hand, but it only manages to stay a little while before he lets it fall out. We play with thera-putty and do a lot of fine motor activities on a daily basis to strengthen his fingers/hands. I'll keep you posted :)

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