Leaves of Grass (and Playdough!)

In order to be ready to write, children need to have developed hand skills. This means they need to have the strength and dexterity to handle, and control, small objects with their hands. But, they will also need to develop the muscles in their forearm and upper body to provide the strength and stability that will allow them to use their hands to manipulate and control writing instruments.

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Eye-hand coordination is another pre-writing skill, as is the ability to process sensory information. The brain coordinates tactile and movement sensations as a child is writing, which allows him to make changes as needed to maintain muscle control. One of the best ways to prepare your child for the exciting world of writing is to provide lots of opportunity to work with Play-Doh and clay which helps develop finger and hand strength and control.

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When they are playing with these materials, children are squeezing and kneading, poking and pinching, rolling and pressing – all excellent strength building movements. For this activity, we talked about the letter L. We initially learned a song about this letter, which included silly words that reinforced the sound that L makes. We then discussed a variety of words that began with this letter. Lastly, we stuck plastic “leaves” into green Playdoh. As they shaped their Playdoh into the letter O, they were strengthening the small muscles required for writing. The muscles in the palm of our hands control the movements of the thumb and fingers. When a child has developed strong fine motor skills, he is able to control the thumb and fingers individually, rather than just grasping items with his entire fist as an infant does.

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