Getting Set for School Part 1: Printing Skills

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

One of our OTs, Meghan, who specializes in paediatric occupational therapy shared some tips on getting your child ready for kindergarten. She has such a wealth of knowledge and practical, useful tips that we decided to have a two part series. This month’s post is about printing skills. Tune in next month for tips on dealing with anxiety, nervousness, and starting kindergarten.

By Meghan Prouse

One of the big stages of childhood is the day your child transitions to school. It’s a big step!

As exciting as starting kindergarten can be, there are also lots of unknowns, both for parents and their children. Kids may worry about making friends or having a nice teacher. Parents may wonder about their child’s readiness to start school – do they have the skills needed to keep up and stay confident?

While still a few weeks away, there are skills that you can start to practice now with your child. 

Learning to Print

Printing is a complex activity and a variety of skills need to be developed before success.

Don’t worry if you child can’t print their name before entering school. It’s more important to develop a good base of skills. If their base skills aren’t fully developed, your child may develop poor habits, which will influence printing.

Over the next few weeks of summer, you can work on a few basic skills with your child:

Core, shoulder, and arm strength and stability. Children need to have a good base of support to be able to move their hands with control.

What you can do:

  • Play! Yes, that’s right. Play outside and on play structures to help develop core, shoulder, and arm strength and stability.
  • If there isn’t a play structure available, have some fun with animal walks.
  • Think about working on vertical surfaces, like painting on a easel.

Concepts of left/right, top/middle/bottom. These concepts are necessary for learning to print, not only where to start on a page, but also where to place your pencil to start a letter on a line.

What you can do: 

  • Play games where you can incorporate the use of left and right sides of your body, such as Simon Says or Twister.
  • Start to incorporate these terms when talking to your child (the cookie in on your left… yum!)

Hand preference with a “helper” hand and a “Do-er” hand. Children need to have a hand preference to develop quick and efficient writing.

What you can do: 

  • Place utensils in the middle of the work space in front of your child and have them choose their “do-er” hand. Discuss how one hand does the activity and the other is the helper that stabilizes the items.
  • Have your child participate in activities where you have a helper hand and a do-er hand, like stirring in the kitchen, cutting with scissors, placing coins into a piggy bank.

Dexterity skills. Movement for paper and pencil activities first starts with using the whole arm when we are very young. As we develop our movements, we become more precise until we can use the small movements of our fingers for quick and efficient writing.

What you can do: 

  • Get your child to work on picking items up with index and thumb and hiding them in the palm of your hand, pick up items with tongs, play with playdough, lego, and other toys that require manipulation.

Pencil grasp: Pencil grasp needs to be taught. Don’t rely on a pencil grip! You will still need to teach pencil grasp, even with the use of a pencil grip.

What you can do:

  • Work on holding the pencil with the thumb, index, and middle finger. Help your child place their fingers and use the pinch, flip, tuck method.
  • Teach the names of each finger so that when you give instruction, your child will be better able to follow. 

Drawing Pre-Printing shapes: There are a variety of lines and shapes that are incorporated into letters and symbols. If a child has not yet developed the ability to draw a pre-printed shape, it can be  frustrating for you and for your child to print letters properly.

What you can do: 

  • Get your child to trace vertical lines, horizontal lines, diagonal lines, circles, squares, x’s, t’s/crosses, triangles, and diamonds. You can use colours, finger paint, shaving cream, or even pudding on a cookie sheet to make it more fun.

Changing directions with the pencil with ease: To be able to form letters properly, a child needs to be able to change the direction of their pencil with ease and without lifting it off the page.

What you can do:

  • Challenge your child to draw a maze or crazy pattern made up of up, down, sideways, wavy, or angled lines without lifting the pencil.
  • Colouring also works on developing control and the ability to change directions with the pencil.

These skills will help with your child’s fine motor and printing development and will make it easier for them to learn to print.

If you notice that your child is still having difficulty printing and you’re not sure what to do next, get in touch and I would be happy to work with you and your child. If you’d like to make a referral, please click here.