+ Tips for Traveling With Kids

from a post by Leo Babauta, who travels with a family of six kids, sometimes to Europe…

Planning Tips

Have a regular savings fund just for travel. Don’t buy a lot of things so the savings is automatic and healthy. Use lots of rewards miles if you have them.

Democratic planning: plan the trip as a family. Babauta’s family did this by voting on destination cities using an online poll, then taking the winners to do a second poll. Everyone votes on how many days to devote to each city; average out the results.  Itinerary done.

Have them take responsibilities: older kids might each take one of the cities and find an AirBnb apartment for that city. The family decides what neighborhood to stay in using a combo of family criteria. The kids can do a search for good apartments, looking for criteria like a washer, decent photos and reviews, enough space and bathrooms for your family, etc.

Pack light:  travel with one light backpack each and no roller bags or other luggage (younger ones carry their own small backpack). This makes it easy to navigate cities, airports, trains and buses, and you won’t get tired from lugging. Take as little as possible; wash clothes at each destination.

Give Them Responsibility

Teach kids self-sufficiency by asking them to help out as you travel. Even the younger ones can have things to do.

Take turns being leaders: ask each kid to take a day where they are responsible for planning, navigating, finding restaurants, and more. This gives them travel skills.

Let them take care of their own stuff: let them figure it out. It’s their stuff, and if they forget things, or lose them, they’ll work things out.

Happy Traveling

What if you’ve been walking for hours around a city, and kids are tired and hungry? The Babautas try these approaches:

Give them a spirit of adventure: Things will go wrong, you’ll get lost, miss trains, and so forth … that can be frustrating, or it can be a part of the adventure! Talk to them about how you’re going on an adventure, and things going wrong and getting lost is all a part of that. Put them in the right frame of mind.

Be flexible: don’t get stuck into a rigid schedule because we all know that plans can go wrong. Have an idea of what you want to do each day (decided the day before, perhaps), but go with the flow and lose the stress.

Don’t rush: There’s no need to get everything done in a day. And it’s not (necessarily) the end of the world if a train or flight is missed.

Realize they get frustrated too: just like we do. So when they behave imperfectly (daily, as we all do), just breathe, and feel compassion for their struggles.

Drop expectations: … and just be there with them. Experience the joy of travel with them.

Be grateful: ask yourself (and them), “How lucky are we to be here right now?”

source: Leo Babauta at http://zenhabits.net/kids-travel/

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Tips for Setting Summer Goals

by Dr. Pamela Hill

For many, just a few days remain in the current school year.  Some educators are making final lesson plans for the school year, others are developing summer school lesson plans, and parents are making plans to fill the months of summer with activities.

For many, just a few days remain in the current school year. Some educators are making final lesson plans for the school year, others are developing summer school lesson plans, and parents are making plans to fill the months of summer with activities.

Just as students with Individual Educational Plans should be involved in meeting their school year goals, they should also be involved in setting their summer goals.

Many research articles have been published that explain the importance of educational activities for the purpose of avoiding the “summer slide.” Most research and informative articles are written from the viewpoint of educators, administrators and parents. Few are written from the viewpoint of the student.

Along with engaging in activities to avoid the summer slide, many students who receive special education during the school year are most contented with structure and knowing what to expect in a day. For this reason, it is best to attempt to keep a schedule similar to a school day during the summer, whether at summer school or at home.

However, filling the day with educational activities chosen by a student will be empowering and motivating, giving the student many accomplishments to look forward to. The student who has a choice in his summer educational activities will connect back into school learning in the fall more effortlessly.

Students know what they enjoy learning and also may have some ideas about something new they would like to try during the summer while the pressure of school responsibilities do not take precedence. For this reason, a teacher or parent should ask the student what summer goals she would like to set. Goals give the student a common language and procedure to what she is used to doing during the school year.

Goals for the summer can be explained using a diagram of a pyramid, similar to a food pyramid, to show the importance of how to plan for summer learning (see below). Reading, math and writing are the most important areas to engage in, followed by hobbies, outside play, sports and museums, and lastly electronic time.

There are no percentages included in the pyramid, because each student is different, and each family will need to decide what is appropriate for their child. When explaining each category, it is important for students to think about how to engage in each category with purpose that includes fun.

There are many readily available resources in the form of websites, magazines and books to help incorporate fun into summer learning. Asking students to brainstorm ways to make each category fun and then developing goals for each category will help students have a healthy educational balance in the summer.

Teachers and parents who want to engage in summer goal planning can begin by asking students to make a list of what they would like to do during the summer, using the pyramid for reference. If the students cannot think of their own list, be prepared with a list of activities from which to choose.

Many everyday leisure activities contain an educational component. After brainstorming, have each child choose two or three from each category to use to write summer goals. Using a graphic organizer, have each student write a SMART goal:

  • Specific: Who, what, when, where and how you will meet the goal?
  • Measurable: Include a numeric or descriptive measurement (e.g., I will read four books).
  • Achievable: Be sure the goal that is set can be met.
  • Relevant: Make sure the goal is important for summer learning.
  • Time-bound: Set a realistic deadline — needs to be complete by the end of summer.

Encourage students to share their goals with family and friends. They could even plan to complete the goal with family members or friends. When returning to school in the fall, be sure to have a celebration to discuss how the goals were met.

Teachers can send encouraging postcards or emails to inspire students to keep up with their goals. Parents can reward children who are working toward their goals periodically to encourage them to persevere.

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy learning in new ways. Setting and meeting goals teaches the importance of individual learning, determination and developing life-long skills.

About the Author

Pamela Hill

Dr. Pamela Hill has been a special educator for more than 30 years. She is a public school resource teacher at an elementary school in a Chicago suburb. She also is a special education adjunct professor at two local universities. Pamela believes in the importance of teaching students to self-advocate, become involved in their own IEP development and understand their own learning differences, as early as in the elementary school grades. She presents at national and local educational conferences.

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Ten Phrases to Defuse at IEP Meetings

This is information from Amanda Morin

“I may be misunderstanding.”

IEP meetings can get heated when there is disagreement about how to interpret laws or test results.  You can defuse that by taking a step back and giving the school a chance to explain its position.  If you’re certain you’re correct, don’t worry — you’ll get a chance to say so.

Sample response: “I may be misunderstanding.  Can you show me a detailed interpretation of that law?  Here’s the information I have on hand that speaks to this issue.”

“I can show you.”

If someone tries to shut conversation by telling you she’s not sure where your information is coming from, that’s easy enough to defuse.  Simply show her.

Sample response: “I can show you where I’ve highlighted that information in the report and progress notes.  Can we make each member a copy?”

“How can we work together to make this happen?”

It can be frustrating (to say the least) to hear someone at your child’s school tell you it  < doesn’t provide a certain service > or < doesn’t have the staff to implement it > .  But the law is on your side, so make the conversation about collaboration.

Sample response: “How can we work together to make this happen? The law says services must meet my child’s unique needs, and this is the recommended service.”

“May I see a copy of the written policy?”

Someone from the school might say, “This is how we’ve always done something.” But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a policy.  Defuse any arguments about it by asking to see in writing that this IS how they handle the situation.

Sample response: “I understand this is how you do things.  May I see a copy of the written policy that outlines this procedure?”

“Let’s ask him to join us.”

Federal law says that the < IEP team > needs to include someone who is able to make decisions about staff and funding.  But in practice you may hear “I’m not in a position to make that decision.”  Instead of getting upset, get practical.

Sample response: “Is it Mr Smith who has that authority?” Let’s call him and ask him to join us.”

“I understand.”

It may surprise you how this simple phrase can defuse tense situations.  Keep in mind it doesn’t mean the sam thing as “I agree.”  It just means you’re hearing what’s been said.

Sample response: “I understand you only have 15 minutes left for this meeting.  While we’re here, why don’t we set up another time to continue this conversation.”

“I’ve noticed…”

Parents are equal members of the IEP team.  If you feel like your concerns aren’t being heard, take a breath and then calmly speak up.  Be specific about what you know about and see in your child.

Sample response: “I’ve noticed that at the end of the day, Olivia isn’t able to focus on her homework without getting frustrated.  I’d like to talk about how to make that easier for her.”

“How does that look in the classroom?”

Conversation about ‘accommodations,’ ‘behavior plans’ or ‘instructional strategies’ can easily turn to talk about theories or ideas. You can redirect by asking about how things will actually work.

Sample response: “I like the idea of checking in every 15 minutes to see if Olivia is on task.  How will that happen in the classroom?  Will the teacher be able to manage that?”

“What alternatives do you suggest?”

When you hear, “We don’t agree with that recommendation,” you may feel the need to push to defend your position.  Instead, keep the dialogue going.

Sample response: “OK, you don’t think that will work for Olivia.  What alternatives do you suggest to address that identified need?”

Let’s talk about what’s working.”

Sometimes it can feel like an IEP meeting is a long conversation about what’s going wrong.  It doesn’t have to be.  In fact, focusing on what’s going well can help you discover ways to address other issues.

Sample response: “Let’s talk about what’s working.  Maybe some of those strengths and strategies can help us find ways to address the trouble spots.”


Author Amanda Morin is a writer specializing in parenting and education.  She draws on her experience as a teacher, early intervention specialist and mom of children with learning issues.


Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Cognitive Benefits of Handwriting

by Diana Hanbury King

I didn’t even have to think about the steps. You know, muscles have a memory and they took over.”
Paul Taylor

“Only three fingers write, but the whole body works.”
Medieval Scribe

The motor memory, the brain/hand connection, is the most powerful of our memories. It enables us to learn to swim, ski, ride horseback, play tennis, and dance. It is the way musicians learn their pieces, actors memorize their parts, and even how we drive our cars.

Before seatbelts were invented, we parents developed a powerful reflex: Put on the brakes and fling out the right hand to hold the child in the seat—useless, of course. But for many years, even after my children were in college, that hand would fly out and belt my passenger in the chest. Motor memory is persistent.

While the computer rules these days, there are crucial cognitive benefits that are lost when handwriting goes (Berninger, 2012; Zubrzycki, 2012). Forming letters by hand engages more networks (Berninger, 2012) within the brain than keyboarding. Children who learn letter formation learn to recognize letters more quickly (Berninger, 2013). Children generate ideas more easily when writing by hand (Berninger, 2012). Finally, it makes for better recall.

A study of 300 students at Princeton and at UCLA established that those who took notes by hand had significantly better recall and comprehension of the material than those who took notes with keyboards (Mueller & Oppenheimer, 2014).

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) curriculum has dropped cursive writing altogether and suggests that printing (i.e., manuscript letter formation) be taught only in kindergarten and first grade; thereafter, the stress is to be placed on developing keyboarding skills. Well, that’s bad enough. But worse is that teachers are not taught how to teach letter formation (Berninger, 2013; Graham, 2009-2010) even for printing (manuscript), and they are provided with no materials.

I have often asked an audience of teachers, “How many lower-case printed letters begin on the line?” I wait out the silence and watch them mentally scrolling through the alphabet. Finally, one of them says, ”None of them?”

The perception that children will pick up letter formation by osmosis is erroneous. Incorrect letter formations learned at home, in preschool, or in kindergarten are incredibly difficult to remediate.

Maria Montessori believed that writing of single letters could begin with three or four-year-olds. She noted that children try to write before they begin to read.

In Latvia, I watched some very young children practicing “tall grass” and “short grass,” always from the top down, and circles moving in a counter-clockwise direction. All this was in preparation for learning to form letters the following year.

At first, forget about lines. Mildred Plunkett wrote, “Alignment is necessary, but it is the final achievement. At the beginning of corrective work, limitation by lines would only increase tension because it would necessitate an added control.”

At first the young student should work in trays of rice, lentils, shaving cream, finger paint, or sand—don’t use sandpaper on those delicate fingertips. Tracing should be done with two fingers to provide the strongest feedback. Then move on to slates, or best of all, standing up at a whiteboard, chalkboard, or easel using colored markers or chalk.

While standing, the student should practice the four-step multisensory procedure known as “Trace. Copy. Cover. Closed.”

The teacher makes the model at least 8 inches tall, naming the letter aloud as it is formed. The student traces it several times, while naming it aloud.
The student copies it several times, while naming it.
The model is erased, and the student forms the letter from memory, while naming it.
Finally, the student forms and names the letter with eyes closed or averted. This is an essential step and one that children enjoy, often asking excitedly, “Can I do it now with my eyes closed?” or exclaiming, “Look! I did it without looking!”
One of the disadvantages of print (manuscript) letter formations is that some letters are easily reversed or inverted (e.g., b and d; p and q; and sometimes t and f). For these easily confused letters, it is important to teach students to use a mnemonic. If b and d are both started from the top, they are more likely to be reversed, so begin b at the top (“b is tall and has a ball.”) and begin d like a c (“d is the cd letter. Make the c, then go up and down to finish it.”). For p and q, we sometimes use a mnemonic that delights young children, “When you pee, you pee down.”

So “p goes down, bounces up and around.” Then “q starts like a, goes down and ends with a hook.”

Capitals, except for the capital letter I and the first letter of the child’s name, should be postponed until lower-case letter formations are firmly established. The practice of displaying lower-case and capital letters together above the board as Aa,Bb,Cc etc. may confuse young children. The upper-case and lower-case alphabets should be displayed separately; in kindergarten, the upper-case letters should be hidden until Spring.

Kindergarten children who have established a formation for each lower-case letter are more likely to succeed not only in first grade but also throughout elementary school.

Time spent in making this happen is time well invested.


Berninger, V.W. (March 2013). Educating Students in the Computer Age to Be Multilingual by Hand. Commentaries (National Association of State Boards of Education), 19 (1).

Berninger, V.W. (May-June 2012). Strengthening the Mind’s Eye: The Case for Continued Handwriting Instruction in the 21st Century. Principal, 28-31.

Graham.S. (Winter 2009-2010). Want to Improve Children’s Writing? Don’t Neglect Their Handwriting. American Educator, 20-27, 40.

Mueller, P.A. & Oppenheimer, D.M. (2014). The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking. Psychological Science, 25(6), 1159-1168.

Zubrzycki, J. (January 23, 2012). Summit to Make a Case for Teaching Handwriting. Education Week, 31 (Issue 18), 1,13.


Diana Hanbury King, Lit.hum.Dr.h.c., F/AOGPE, was the founder of Camp Dunnabeck in 1965 and co-founder of The Kildonan School in 1969. She was a Founding Fellow of the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators(AOGPE). Her vision created cutting edge education for students with dyslexia, and she developed a program for training teachers at Kildonan that has become a model program. Dr. King has also published teaching materials, particularly in the area of written language skills, that have been used by thousands of educators throughout the world. The International Dyslexia Association awarded her the Samuel T. Orton Award in 1990 in recognition of her gifted teaching that “has enhanced beyond measure the quality of life for a myriad of dyslexic students and their families.” In 2013, she was awarded the Margaret Byrd Rawson Lifetime Achievement Award by IDA in recognition of her compassion, leadership, commitment to excellence, advocacy for people with dyslexia, and work nationally recognized as furthering the mission of IDA.

Copyright © 2015 International Dyslexia Association (IDA). We encourage sharing of Examiner articles. If portions are cited, please make appropriate reference. Articles may not be reprinted for the purpose of resale. Permission to republish this article is available from info@interdys.org.


Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Help Students Think — About Thinking

David Gooblar at Pedagogy Unbound has made some suggestions to help students think about their thinking.

Thinking about our thinking is called “metacognition.” When we begin to be aware that we are thinking, we can analyze, monitor and regulate the way we do it.  We think, as we struggle with a problem, “Hmmm, oh that’s what I’m doing here!”

That is metacognition.

Note: Gooblar’s piece is directed to instructors at the college level.  But these strategies can be adapted for even the youngest students, at the earliest stages of self-monitoring.


There are ways to help students recognize their ability to analyze, monitor, and improve their work.  For example, Gooblar shares a strategy called “exam wrappers.”  When students receive back their first graded exam, it comes with a “wrapper:” a brief questionnaire to help them review their performance.  They go over their exams, answering questions on the wrapper: how did you prepare for this; where did you make errors; what could you do differently next time.  These questions are all metacognitive in nature.


At the beginning of a school year (or a semester — or a unit) give students a questionnaire about study or learning habits. How do you study for tests; do you take notes; do you take noes by hand or on a laptop; how much do you already know about the subject matter?

At certain points during the term, review students’ answers to see if anything has changed as the course has progressed. In this way, students are encouraged to reflect on their progress and to be reminded both that they are responsible for it and that they can alter this trajectory.


The knowledge ratings approach asks students to rate their knowledge of today’s topic on a scale of of 0 to 3; 0 means absolutely no knowledge of it and 3 means very knowledgeable.  Tell them: our goal is to get everyone up to a three by the end of the class.

Take a time-out halfway through the class period and ask students to reassess their ratings. Have they improved? Then ask them to write down any questions they still have,  what is keeping them from that level 3 understanding.  They might voice their questions right then, if there’s time, so you have a chance to focus in on them during the last half of class.

At the end of class, do a final review: where do they now place themselves on that scale? The hope is they will be at 3 before tackling new homework.


These strategies force students to think about their own learning  practices.  Our goal is to make their own behavior visible to themselves.

We often assume students know enough about themselves that our suggestions and comments will be enough to set them on a path toward improvement.

But self-reflection is not a skill possessed by all students.  In the realm of self-assessment, as in all other areas, many students need direct instruction and scaffolding.

Source: David Gooblar’s blog piece; he is an adjunct, a writer, and the website proprietor at PedagogyUnbound.com  


Orton-Gillingham instruction in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Tool: Interactive Map of the World’s Languages

Arika Okrent says:

You know about French, Spanish, and Russian, but what about Tohono Oodham, Karaim, and Iu Mien? There are thousands of languages in the world, and the Language Science Center at the University of Maryland has created a tool that makes it fun and easy to explore them.

Langscape is an interactive map of the locations of 6400 of the world’s languages. The map lets you easily view detailed information about each language and listen to sound recordings of them. It’s kind of hard to explain what makes it so cool, so I made a video to give you a taste of the kind of things you can discover with it. (It’s my first screenshot video, so bear with me on the fuzzy production values. I’ll try to do better next time!)


Linguist, author of In the Land of Invented Languages, Arika Okrent lives in Chicago, doing her part to fight off the cot-caught merger and keep “gym shoes” alive.

Orton Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Modern Toys Don’t Develop a Child’s Handwriting Skills

 source: Meaghan at Blue Mango Blog (see link below)

Unstructured outdoor play  improves handwriting skills. Meaghan from Blue Mango Blog offers  other simple changes you can make in your child’s daily routine and indoor environment to promote the development of fine motor skills.

In years past, toys and daily life provided lots opportunities for children’s fine motor growth.   But today experts find a large number of children are lacking the adequate core, upper body,  finger strength and dexterity to successfully pick up a pencil and write with ease.

Has home life really changed that much in the last 25 years to affect children’s fine motor development? How?

Think about paper dolls and jacks. We’ve replaced toys that involved a lot of loose parts and manipulating with your hands with ones that require just a push of a button to make a sound or light up.

Meaghan, blogging at Blue Mango LLC,  spoke to some experts in pediatric occupational therapy.  Consistently the message was that modern electronic toys  deprive children of practice using the necessary skills for fine motor and handwriting.

Toys are, of course, meant to entertain, but the purpose of play in early childhood is to learn about manipulating objects,  performing experiments and examining the world. Many toys today may keep a child busy, but they are doing nothing to actually enhance their development.

Rachel Coley, OT and founder of CanDo Kiddo,  was asked  if anything has changed in the last 25 years in regards to kids’ activities that develop fine motor skills. She said

Through the materials and toys we choose for our kids and the way they spend their time…we over-emphasize the skills of pushing buttons with their thumbs and pointing, dragging and clicking with their index fingers.

Because there aren’t any more hours in the day than there use to be, these activities come at the expense of our kids learning to cut, glue, pinch, put together, pull apart, squeeze, twist, hammer and screw, lace, string and other important fine motor skills.

Take a moment to remember and think about the toys you — and your parents and grandparents –played with as a child.

Modern Convenience = Lazy Fingers

Mom’s life got easier: Click Connect car seats & strollers,  Bumbo chairs.  But it was at the expense of  babies’ gross motor skills development. Modern convenience also strips  children of everyday fine motor skills practice.  Childhood is now really convenient and easy with velcro and slip on shoes, food that can be slurped from pouches and zippered lunch boxes.  It is also true that in the course of a parent’s busy day, he or she will often do things for a child that they should be learning to do on their own…

What are fine motor skills? Why are they so important?

Writing expectations for early elementary students have increased significantly. Some kindergartners have writing workshop for as long as an hour every day. At the same time more academic demands are being placed on children,  activities and tools that naturally promote the development of fine motor skills are being replaced by those that are less demanding of them.

Once adults  understand what fine motor skills are, they are able to seek out and promote experiences for children that will help develop these important muscles and skills.

And the great news is that you don’t need to learn and prep a lot of fancy activities. Once you understand the basics of fine motor skills, you can prioritize the materials in your house or classroom to facilitate this development in your kids.

Understanding the pincer grasp: the pincer grasp is the ability to pick up small objects using the thumb and forefinger. This is developed by age one (and continues to mature);  babies move from a raking grasp with all fingers to picking up individual cheerios with just the two fingers.

Pincer grasp is very important in handwriting. It enables children to hold a pencil correctly and develop a mature tripod grip around a pencil.  Why is something that ought to be simple so important?

Children with nonfunctional pencil grips can’t  keep up with the demand expected of them in school. They begin to avoid writing tasks.  Not only academic accomplishment, but also self-confidence, is diminished.

The importance of hand and arm muscles:  writing uses many different muscles in the hand and wrist. In addition to developing a good pincer grasp, children need to make sure their hand and arm muscles are also strong.

Meaghan spoke with Christie Kiley, and OT who blogs at Mama OT.  Kiley explained how complex and important these hand muscles are.

There are all sorts of small muscles in our hands that make up three main arches around our hands. These arches work together to help our hands accurately form around objects as we hold and manipulate them, such as when we hold a ball, build with blocks, or brush our teeth or hair. These palmar arches are also responsible for helping kids develop in-hand manipulation skills and dissociation of the two sides of the hand.

Christie advocates for weight bearing activities on kids’ hands — such as crawling through tunnels, doing crab walks down the hallway, yoga (downward dog) and gymnastics (handstands) — in order to properly develop these arches.

Strategies to improve handwriting skills.   Rachel Coley:

The biggest things that parents can do to promote their kids’ fine motor skills is to evaluate the toys and materials in their homes and evaluate their family schedule.

Many parents are surprised to find that Occupational Therapists don’t have much specialized equipment for treating their children’s fine motor delays or handwriting difficulties.

What we have are toys and time  [for] being fully present with a child.

Five tips for improving handwriting skills in your own home or classroom, with ideas for materials and toys to stock.

1. Give time for independence in daily routines

Build independence by scheduling time for children to “do it yourself.” Meal times, grooming and getting dressed are great opportunities to let kids take charge and strengthen those little hands and fingers! They can be

  • peeling fruit (oranges, bananas)
  • pouring drinks
  • using knives to cut food
  • using knives to spread butter (or jam, cream cheese, PB) on bread
  • opening & closing lunch containers, snack bags and water bottles

Encourage self-feeding as soon as possible. Toddlers should be using forks and spoons on their own and drinking from real cups.

Toddlers definitely still need some help getting dressed, but older children can learn to be be doing this independently; only a little support and adult encouragement needed. You can add finishing touches, but have children participate in their own grooming.

Kids can:

  • put on & take off socks and shoes
  • do zippers, snaps and buttons
  • learn to tie their shoes
  • brush their hair
  • squeeze their toothpaste
  • begin to learn to floss

2. Help out around the house

Having young children at home – especially if they aren’t in school yet – makes it difficult to get anything done around the house. But you can provide kids with lots of great fine motor experiences by having them help you out.

They can tear lettuce for salads, smash avocados for guacamole, grate cheese, scrub potatoes, mix  batters.  They can knead & roll dough. Doing laundry, kids can help pull clothes out of the hamper, washer and dryer. Even young children can fold socks while older children can help with shirts and pants.

3. Buy the right toys

Meaghan at Blue Mango uses these simple guidelines when purchasing toys to promote fine motor skills:

  • Avoid anything with batteries if it lights up, moves on its own or makes noise count it out
  • Stick with natural materials it’s much harder to go wrong with toys made out of wood
  • Look for toys with “loose parts” check Etsy or DIY – sometimes the best toys are not really “toys”
    Look to Reggio Emilia and Montessori schools for inspiration

Need some more ideas? Here are some examples of great toys to buy:

  • Mancala
  • Traditional wooden blocks
  • Legos – opt for loose blocks and not themed sets
  • Guidecraft construction blocks
  • Tool sets
  • Pegboards – buy one from Etsy, Amazon or DIY
  • Geoboards – buy from Etsy, Amazon or DIY
  • Build & paint car kits
  • Rainbow Loom
  • Perler beads

4. Make use of everyday objects

Consider having these available for play:

Christie Kiley often tells parents of children receiving OT services they can provide the same type of therapeutic practice in their own homes:

Some examples include pinching toothpicks and dropping them into an empty spice container, squeezing chip clips onto the edge of a box, playing with a squirt bottle, and pushing pipe cleaners into the holes of a colander.

5. Have great arts & crafts materials on hand

Promote fine motor skills by encouraging kids to make art or create inventions by cutting & pasting, threading & beading, working with small objects and building with clay or cardboard.  Have your own family “Creation Station,” as some classrooms do. Here are materials to have on hand at home or in the classroom.

Build: cardboard, recycled cardboard boxes, recycled plastic containers & bottles,glue, masking tape.

Sculpt: clay,  play dough (make your own!), Wikki Stix

Meaghan adds kid-friendly knives and scissors for working with play dough, and sometimes hides plastic “jewels” in the clay for kids to find. Use any of these materials to help build letters or sight words in the classroom.

Sew & Make Jewelry: plastic needles (real ones for older kids!); thread, yarn, string; wire; pipe cleaners; beads;  noodles

According to Meaghan, boys love this too! In her class kids made “pattern bracelets” with beads and pipe cleaners at a math center. They made necklaces with fruit loops (arrange by color in groups of 10s) for the 100th day of school.

Sewing can be just putting yarn through punched holes in construction paper to actually sewing real things. Don’t just make beaded necklaces:  teach kids how to braid friendship bracelets.

Cut, Paste & Fasten:   scissors; hole puncher; glue, glue sticks or paste (all use different muscles); scotch tape, colored masking tape; paper with assorted thickness (tissue, construction, card stock); fabric squares; brads (brass fasteners); stamps & ink.

Improve handwriting skills by adding small objects to art area to work on pincer grasp:

  • buttons
  • pom poms
  • jewels
  • stickers
  • toothpicks

Use your whole body, she advises: any activity done in a standing or prone position will also help with overall core and upper body strength. Use sidewalk chalk outside, have clipboard available for work on the floor and use easels for drawing and painting.

Meaghan asks “What will you implement today?”

Thanks to the source blog by Meaghan at Blue Mango LLC . I  edited for clarification since text imported without photos got confusing. Read her intact post at http://www.bluemangollc.com/the-unconventional-guide-to-improving-handwriting-skills-part-iii/

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com


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