The OT Toolbox
Handwriting practice doesn't need to be boring! This handwriting activity uses colored pencils with bright and vivid colors to make a colorful activity that seems more like a game than working on handwriting skills like letter formation and pencil pressure.

If you've been following The OT Toolbox for long, then you know that creative handwriting activities are some of our favorite (and most popular) topics on the website. We love to share fun ways to work on the areas that make up handwriting skill, like size awareness, spatial awareness, letter formation, pencil control, pencil pressure, and speed. These are just some of the subareas that go into legible and functional handwriting, but each makes a big difference when it comes to self-confidence in the child who is learning to write with ease.

When you practice handwriting skills in a fun way using out of the box tools (like colored pencils), handwriting practice can boost the child's skill and confidence so they are more likely to carryover individual skills into writing tasks.

Teaching kids handwriting at home can be a struggle for many children, but taking the time to make handwriting efforts fun and creative can really pay off. Self-confidence in handwriting shows in legibility and ease of written work, enabling students to complete classroom assignments while focusing on the task at hand and not how neat of sloppy their handwriting is.

That's why we're excited to share this handwriting activity that uses colored pencils to boost handwriting challenges like letter formation, pencil control, and pencil pressure!

Handwriting Activity Using Colored Pencils

We received two sets of Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils with a Soft Core, one of the Go! Teach products, and when we opened the tins, we were excited to see the bright and colorful array of colors. The soft core of the colorful lead allows the pencils to write smoothly and softly in a way that creates vivid colors. The soft core of the pencil lead gave me an idea: What a great tool for addressing handwriting skills in a way that slows down pencil speed to enable accuracy! 

This is a good way to introduce pencil control when it comes to line awareness. The soft core of the colored pencils also helps with creating a bright pencil stroke that really shows up when shading. This made a nice impact on a pencil pressure activity. You can check out all three of these handwriting activity ideas below in more detail.

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Handwriting Activity to Improve Letter Formation Using Colored Pencils 

Use colored pencils to work on handwriting with these three handwriting activities that address letter formation, pencil pressure, and pencil control.

The first handwriting activity that we did was a letter formation task. When kids are learning to write letters, it can be easy to form letters in reverse. This is particularly true with commonly reversed letters like 'b' and 'd', 'g' and 'q'.

Use colored pencils to work on handwriting with these three handwriting activities that address letter formation, pencil pressure, and pencil control.

When kids are learning letters, it can be helpful to break handwriting instruction up into teaching the various letter families. We've discussed cursive letter families here on the site before, but the printed letters are not much different.

There are groups of letters that contain the same pencil strokes, starting lines, and "parts" that allow letters to be divided up into letter families. For example, the letters b, h, m, n, p, and r all have a downward pencil stroke followed by a re-trace back up and a curve over to form the "bump" of the letter.

Use colored pencils to work on handwriting with these three handwriting activities that address letter formation, pencil pressure, and pencil control.

To address letter formation in our handwriting activity, we used a spiral notebook pad. First, I made sure the pages were lined up and then I used a ballpoint pen to write a letter by pressing down very hard. When the top notebook page was turned, I showed my kids how the impression of the letter was intact on the page underneath.

We then used our Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils, Soft Core to write the letter on the "ghost letter". It was fun to feel the letter on the page and then to use the faint guide as a tool for letter formation. To illustrate letter formation and letter families, I grouped specific letters together in a group on the notebook page.

You can check out this activity in the video below.

Handwriting Activity to Improve Pencil Pressure Using Colored Pencils

Use colored pencils to work on handwriting with these three handwriting activities that address letter formation, pencil pressure, and pencil control.

Our second handwriting activity used those same Ghost Letters to address pencil pressure. Pencil pressure is a big topic when it comes to legibility of written work. If a child presses too hard, the paper can tear, letters can become smudged, it's hard to erase completely, and legibility suffers. 

If a child presses too lightly on the pencil, words can be written so lightly that it's impossible to read. There are many reasons why a child may utilize too much or too little pressure on the pencil. You can read all about these underlying reasons for poor pencil pressure here.

To teach kids about pencil pressure, use the Ghost Letter technique of writing letters on a notebook page. When they turn the page of the notebook, they shouldn't be able to see the Ghost Letter on the second page. If they do, they are using too much pencil pressure and are pressing too hard on the pencil. If they don't see the Ghost Letter, they are using a lighter amount of pressure on the pencil.

Use colored pencils to work on handwriting with these three handwriting activities that address letter formation, pencil pressure, and pencil control.

We illustrated this by using our Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils to shade on the Ghost Letters that appeared on the second page of the notebook. The bright colors of the soft core colored pencils allowed for a bright color while enabling the Ghost Letter to show through.

You can also ask students to write the letters on the top page of the notebook to see if their letters show through to the following page. Typically, a child who writes with heavy pencil pressure will have letters showing through on the second page even when using a pencil (as opposed to a ballpoint pen).

Use colored pencils to work on handwriting with these three handwriting activities that address letter formation, pencil pressure, and pencil control.

*Note: This activity addresses only heavy pencil pressure. If a child is pressing too lightly on the pencil and writes with a light pencil pressure, the Ghost Letters will not show through on the second page of the notebook.

You can also address pencil pressure using colored pencils when shading. Instruct kids to shade darker or lighter and match an example color. This helps them to understand how hard to press when they recreate the same shade.

Handwriting Activity to Improve Pencil Control Using Colored Pencils

Use colored pencils to work on handwriting with these three handwriting activities that address letter formation, pencil pressure, and pencil control.

One final activity that uses colored pencils is one that can improve pencil control. Pencil control is needed to make the pencil start at the top line and stop at the baseline without overshooting line approximations. Pencil control requires use of visual motor skills. 

One way to practice line use and pencil control is by completing pencil exercises like this one:

Use colored pencils to work on handwriting with these three handwriting activities that address letter formation, pencil pressure, and pencil control.

Use a ruler to draw one inch spaces on a piece of paper. Using the colored pencils, ask students to draw random lines connecting the top and bottom lines.

Use colored pencils to work on handwriting with these three handwriting activities that address letter formation, pencil pressure, and pencil control.

Students can use a single color to form several lines spaced randomly within the writing area. They can then switch colors to add additional colored lines. Continue to draw lines, focusing on starting on the top line and stopping on the bottom line.

Use colored pencils to work on handwriting with these three handwriting activities that address letter formation, pencil pressure, and pencil control.

The soft core of the Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils allows for a slower pencil stroke. This can help with accuracy.

Use colored pencils to work on handwriting with these three handwriting activities that address letter formation, pencil pressure, and pencil control.

Add another component to this handwriting activity by drawing vertical lines so that students practice left to right pencil strokes while focusing on pencil control.

All of the activities that we did with our Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils were a big hit resulting from the bright and colorful selection of colored pencils in the set.

There's just something about opening up a fresh set of colored pencils!

Use colored pencils like Prismacolor Premier colored pencils with a soft core to address handwriting needs.

Disclosure: I received compensation and a free product from Go! Teach Handwriting for this post. All opinions are my own.

Below, you will find information on the tactile sensory system and how tactile challenges to the sensory system can result in difficulties tolerating clothing textures. The strategies below are helpful tips for getting sensory kids to wear winter clothes. 

Use these tips to help kids with sensory processing difficulties to wear winter clothes.

Tips for Getting Sensory Kids to Wear Winter Clothes

The Tactile Sensory System is one of the earliest developed senses of the body. The skin is the largest and the most prevalent organ. The skin performs unique duties for the body. Most importantly, the skin protects and alerts us to danger and discriminates sensation with regard to location and identification. The sense of touch alerts us to both discrimination and danger. These two levels of sensation work together yet are distinctively important. 

Tactile discrimination allows us to sense where on our body and what is touching us. With discrimination, we are able to discern a fly that lands on our arm. The second level of the tactile system alerts us to danger. It allows us to jump in response to the “fight or flight” response when we perceive a spider crawling on our arm. 

When either of these levels of sensation are disrupted, tactile dysfunction can result. This presents in many ways, including hypersensitivity to tags in clothing, sensitivities to heat or cold, a dislike of messy play, difficulty with fine motor tasks, a fear of being touched by someone without seeing that touch, a high tolerance of pain, or a need to touch everything and everyone.

The information received from the tactile system includes light touch, pain, temperature, and pressure. When the tactile system is immature or impaired, the brain can become overly stimulated with resulting poor organization and regulation of input. Children can then experience difficulty with behavior and concentration as a result.

When children with tactile discrimination issues need to wear winter clothing, meltdowns can result. The heavy winter coat is just not tolerable. Use the tips below to help sensory kids wear winter clothes.

Winter Clothing Sensory Strategies

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1. Layer! Use a compression garment under clothing. A simple lycra sun shirt can be a big help for some students when worn under clothing. Tight stockings or bike shorts can be worn under pants. Other ideas include:
  • An Under Armour shirt (this one has a crew neck to reduce a tight feeling around the neck.)
 2. Utilize seamless undergarments (for girls or boys), clothing or seamless socks, or clothing with flat seams. These can be added under a layer of heavier socks or used in isolation.

3. Tighten or loosen shoe laces as prefered. A tighter shoe lace can provide compression through the feet.

4. Becoming overheated can be a big cause for a sensory meltdown or refusal to wear winter coats. Consider trying a fleece or lined sweatshirt instead of a puffy winter coat.

5. Cut labels from clothing. Don't forget the gloves, hats, jackets, and coats!
6. Wear two layers of socks or try wearing socks a size smaller for additional compression through the feet and ankles. Try using a knee-high length in isolation or under a second pair of socks. This can help the child who isn't able to tolerate socks slouching down inside shoes or boots.
7. Wash new clothing in hot water several times to loosen clothing textures.
8. Rub a thick cream such as aloe gel or cocoa butter on the body before dressing. Dry skin can cause itchiness during the winter months where dry heat is prevalent.
9. Provide a blanket in the car if a winter coat isn't an option.

10. Use fabrics such as cotton, fleece, and flannel. Avoid polyester blends.
11. Wear full body zipper pajamas (made for big kids!) with or without a compression layer underneath.
12. Use a winter vest or removable sleeves to quickly adjust for temperature changes.

13. Use a poncho or a car seat poncho instead of a winter coat. 

Looking for more information on sensory processing? Grab this free sensory processing booklet:

Parents and teachers will love to pass on this free sensory processing disorder information booklet.

Use these tips to help kids with sensory processing difficulties to wear winter clothes.

Many times kids who struggle with handwriting problems or challenges need some handwriting accommodations in order to complete written work in a legible and efficient manner. The handwriting strategies listed below are handwriting accommodations that can be used in a variety of classroom settings or in the home. The compilation of instructional ideas and handwriting accommodations may be trialed and presented by therapists, teachers, or parents, or anyone who works with kids who struggle with handwriting

Handwriting accommodations ideas and strategies should be presented in a fun manner and as a tool for promoting independence.  

These handwriting accommodations can be used across the curriculum or in individual settings depending on the child's particular needs. 

Remember that every child is different. What accommodation or strategy works with one child may not work successfully with another child who presents very similarly. The trick is to try the accommodations over a period of time. Don't give up if the accommodation doesn't immediately cure any handwriting struggles. Trial and keep track of responses. Then, move on to another accommodation after a period of trial. 

Use these handwriting accommodation strategies that can help kids with handwriting problems in the classroom.

Handwriting accommodation strategies

Fill in the blank worksheets- Fill in the blank form to limit the required hand writing tasks. 

Students can use an app to scan worksheets onto a tablet and type in the responses.  

Use adapted handwriting paper such as color coded paper

Trial use of bold lined paper. This Christmas modified Handwriting Paper can be a big help this time of year.

Practice and writing using color changeable markers to address letter formation and motor planning needed for letters. 

Use manipulatives such as magnets to write answers to problems and written responses. 

Use a dry erase marker and whiteboard for written responses. 

Modify a worksheet by using multiple choice answers rather than writing out lengthy responses.

Students can write using large graph paper with boxes for individual letters. 

Trial use of spacing accommodations such as highlighted margins. More spatial awareness tricks can be found here

Try using a sensory tray or writing manipulative tray for letters for students to respond to multiple choice problems. 

Limit the amount of work required nine use a sheet of his damn paper under written work for feedback in letter formation in line awareness. 

Use a computer for spelling test and vocabulary test. 

Provide more space for the child to copy to: Provide larger spaced paper.

Teach students to use graph paper for copying one letter/number per square.

Position the child closer to the chalkboard or classroom homework station with less had turn needed for copying written work. 

When copying from a book, use a copying tool such as a folded piece of paper to line up with the work.  Can also try an index card with a cut out "window" for copying to reduce distracting information. You will find more strategies to address spatial awareness here. 

Require single word answers or use magnetic alphabet letters on a desk with a cookie sheet for single answer problems. 

Answer questions verbally or ask another student to transcribe written work.

Provide adapted spelling test and vocabulary test using multiple choice problems where students can correct the can choose the correct answer by circling a letter. 

Use a highlighter for tests and worksheets where students can highlight the correct answer. 

Use a dot apps which can adapt worksheets into tablet form. 

Explore several different pencil grips and pencil types to reduce the amount of pressure a student requires when writing. Here are a few options:

Add a red or green dot to margins to help students identify starting and stopping points for writing. 

Try using letter stamps for responses on worksheets. 

Use a handheld recorder to copy notes in older grades. 

Trial use of a gel pen to reduce friction on the paper with the traditional lead pencil.

Teach students to write into boxes formed for the size of individual letters. This is a strategy that works well for copy work.

Use these handwriting accommodation strategies that can help kids with handwriting problems in the classroom.

As Occupational Therapy practitioners, we value evidence-backed resources to use in clinical practice intervention and evaluation. But finding evidence-based resources can be a struggle for therapists. There are many reasons for difficulties in finding this information including time, effort, cost, opportunities, availability of resources, and other issues. Below you will find various ways to obtain evidence-based resources as occupational therapy practitioner.

First, we'll dissect the various levels of evidenced based practice that OTs may encounter in searching for evidence based literature.

Hierarchy of Evidence Based Practice

Understanding the level of evidence-based practice is essential when determining the validity of sources. A framework for ranking evidence provides a hierarchy to enable different research methods to be ranked according to the validity of their findings. This link explains various grades and levels of evidence, defining types of evidence that provide reliable answers and best practice, while also describing the strength and rigor of a study.

Hierarchy of evidence within Evidence Based Practice is effective in identifying quality and high-level research backed information.

The Sackett method of ranking evidence is one method for outlining levels of evidence in EBP:

1A = Systematic Review of Randomized
Controlled Trials (RCTs)
1B = RCTs with Narrow Confidence Interval
1C = All or None Case Series
2A = Systematic Review Cohort Studies
2B = Cohort Study/Low Quality RCT
2C = Outcomes Research
3A = Systematic Review of Case-Controlled
3B = Case-controlled Study
4 = Case Series, Poor Cohort Case Controlled
5 = Expert Opinion

Understanding the levels of evidence is necessary when investigating a topic area in the literature.

Ways to obtain evidence-based resources as an occupational therapist

1.) Continuing education opportunities- When obtaining professional development units needed to maintain licensure, therapists are able to connect with other therapists and are exposed to resources related to a specific question or topic. The struggle with this source of evidence-based practice is that continuing education opportunities can be pricey and limited. 

2) The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) publishes the American Journal of Occupational Therapy (AJOT) along with Special Interest Sections as a quarterly resource. AOTA  has online resources with evidence-based practice information and articles available to members. The struggle with this means of obtaining evidence based practice and literature is that topics are limited and therapist may not be able to to obtain the evidence they need related to specific clinical questions. Another issue is that the cost of membership.

3.) National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) The national certification board for Occupational Therapy professionals provides an online portal for certificants, including evidence-based literature. Pro-Quest is one source for obtaining evidence-based articles needed in practice or for when researching needs. RefWorks is another tool for obtaining evidence-based literature that allows individuals to organize research references and easily create citations and bibliographies.

4.) American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF) is an educational organization striving to  It support occupational therapy research and public understanding of the important relationship between everyday activities (occupations) and health. AOTF creates a quarterly publication, the journal OTJR: Occupation, Participation, and Health.

5.) AOTA and AOTF jointly support OT Search, a literature database of occupational therapy and related health articles. OT Search requires a paid membership.

6.) The Australian Occupational Therapy Association (OTAUS) is another source of current research. Journal articles in the Australian Occupational Therapy Journal are available in the Wiley Online Library.

7.) The Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT) publicizes the Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy (CJOT).

8.) Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT) offers the  British Journal of Occupational Therapy (BJOT) to it's members.

9.) The American Society of Hand Therapy (ASHT) offers the Journal of Hand Therapy 
Finding the time to search various journals can take effort and energy out of a therapist's busy schedule. These searches are often done on a therapist's own time.Other journal options include the British Journal of Occupational TherapyAmerican Family Physician

10) Networking with co-workers- Evidence related to a clinic or therapy setting's particular needs can be shared in team meetings. This form of professional development is performed with colleagues or within small groups at a working place. However, many therapists have said that their workplace is limited in the number of therapists or they may even be working in isolation. This is especially true in the school based environment.

11). Magazines such as Advance for Occupational Therapist PractitionersOT Practice published via AOTA, and Occupational Therapy Now (OT Now) published by RCOT can be a source of locating recent research through article archives. However taking the time to read through it and find specific answers can be a struggle for therapist.

12.) Online sources Today in OT is an online source for obtaining continuing education credits. 
College or university courses, meet-ups. Additionally, alumni are able to access research libraries in many cases.

13.)  EBSCO Information Services provides research databases, e-journals, magazine subscriptions, e-books.

14.) State Association memberships and meetings.

15.) National Institutes of Health is a library of electronic journals, e-books, and databases
PubMed has more than 27 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. 

16.) The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality  promotes evidence-based practice and reviews the evidence in order to  facilitate the translation of evidence-based research findings.

17.) The Cochrane Library is part of Cochrane, a network of researchers, professionals, patients, carers, and others, in order to produce valid and reliable health information that is free from commercial sponsorship and other conflicts of interest.

18.) Guideline is a division of the US Health and Human Services that provides a public resource for summaries of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. 

19.) Google Scholar. Therapists are able to search online for evidence-backed research using Google's tool titled google scholar. Simply type google scholar into the search bar and a library of research is available at your fingertips. However it can be difficult narrow down questions specific to clinical questions. Google Scholar offers a broad search for scholarly literature from a variety of sources including articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites. 

20.) Online Communities like The OT Toolbox Community. The OT Toolbox Community is an online source of networking and collaborating with occupational therapy practitioners from around the world. Members can share resources, add links to evidence-based practice, write blog posts, upload documents, and ask and answer questions. Explore the Evidence Based Practice Library (coming VERY soon!) and add resources that you love with therapists as you promote and enhance the profession! Join us in The OT Toolbox Community!

Where do you find occupational therapy evidence based literature? Let me know at and I will add it to this list as a resource that others can use to find the evidence they need in practice!

Sackett DL, Strauss SE, Richardson WS, et al. Evidence-Based Medicine: How to Practice and Teach EBM. Philadelphia, Pa: Churchill-Livingstone; 2000.

When teaching cursive writing, kids can recognize that cursive letters come in groups. These cursive letter families are how we can teach kids to write letters in chunks of similar pencil strokes. Teaching cursive letters in this manner can be a helpful strategy for allowing kids success when learning the pencil strokes needed for forming cursive letters.  Below, you'll find a subcategory of cursive letter groups: How to write cursive tow rope letters!

As we previously discussed, a specific order a teaching cursive letters doesn't matter as much is teaching a group of letter families together in a block. When students learn cursive letters it is beneficial to learn the pencil strokes associated with cursive letter families. We have covered all of the different cursive letter families including wave letters letters loop letters bump letters. There is a subgroup of cursive letter families that have a slightly different connecting pattern to them. These are the cursive tow rope letters.

Use these tricks and strategies to to teach cursive letters that have a tow rope connection, this includes teaching lowercase cursive letters b, o, v, w.

How to Teach Tow Rope Cursive Letter Connection

If you’ve been following The OT Toolbox over the last month, then you know that there’s been quite a lot of information related to cursive handwriting. We’ve talked about letter formation, cursive slant, cursive writing speed and rhythm, and even how pencil control is needed in cursive handwriting.

Today, we’re finishing up with a last cursive handwriting post in the series. Below you’ll find information on forming cursive letters that contain a “tow rope” connector to the letter following them.

Tow Rope letters are those lowercase cursive letters that connect to the next letter using a horizontal line at the middle line. Most cursive letters connect with a curved line from the baseline. Tow Rope letters connect horizontally and can change formation of the letters that they connect to.

Tow Rope Letters include cursive letters b, o, v, and w.

How to teach cursive Tow Rope Letters

Teaching the cursive tow rope letters is not much different than teaching other letters of the alphabet. 

Use of a cursive writing plan can help, as can kinesthetic methods and multi-sensory strategies. Using tools such as sand paper or writing trays can bring a textural aspect to learning these cursive tow rope letters.

You can read more about teaching each individual letter as they were broken down into cursive letter families:

Loop Letters (Cursive letter b)
Wave Letters (Cursive letter o)
Bump Letters (Cursive letter v)
Tree Letters (Cursive letter w)

Use these tricks and strategies to to teach cursive letters that have a tow rope connection, this includes teaching lowercase cursive letters b, o, v, w.

Trick for teaching cursive letters with a tow rope connection

Teaching kids about the visual of a tow rope that connects a tow truck to it's haul or a boat to a raft  can be helpful in teaching children to write cursive letters with proper connection between these letters and the letter they connect.

If the tow rope sags or dips down, it can affect how the letters appear and result in inaccuracies.

To show kids how to recognize and recall use of tow rope connections, draw a small truck at the end of the tow rope connecting lines.

Practice cursive letter connections for tow rope letters

Practice the combinations of cursive letters that contain tow rope letters:
-ba, be, bi, bl, bo, and by
-va, ve, vi, vo, and vy
-wa, we, wi, wo, and wy

-Letter o can be practiced with every letter of the alphabet as a vowel letter.

Use the verbal cues associated with each letters cursive family to formation of these letters. 

However pencil stroke exercises can be influential in behind and horizontal line to connect. Additionally practice with commonly connecting letters can make a big impact.

In this way students with practice tow rope letters that connect to other letters as a group. These letter blends commonly and within minutes.

How to Teach Lowercase Cursive b

Teach students to practice be connected to letters that may occur within words. This includes ba, be, bo, bl, br, by.

How to Teach Lowercase Cursive o

Students can practice the commonly connected letters used in words as the letter connects to the second letter. As a vowel, the letter o may connect to every letter of the alphabet. Because of this, students who are learning cursive can practice the formation of o to the individual pencil strokes that are part of different cursive families. That is, practice o connected to the bump of bump letters, the o connected to the wave that occurs wit wave family letters, the o connected to the spike of tree letters, the o connected to the bump of bump letters, and o as an ending letter.

How to Teach Lowercase Cursive w

Students can practice the connection of lowercase cursive w to vowel and some consonant letters:
Wa, we, wi, wh, wr, wl, wm, wn, wy.

How to Teach Lowercase Cursive v

Students can practice the connection of lowercase cursive v to vowels and commonly used consentent letter combinations. This includes: va, ve, vi, vo, vr, and vy.

Use strategies such as creative cursive to practice these letter combinations in innovative manners to prevent boredom.

Try these creative ways to practice cursive writing to help kids learn to write cursive letters and write legibly.Creative ways for kids to work on cursive writing including letter formation.

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