An open thumb web space ensures a functional grasp on the pencil. When the thumb is squashed against the pencil and the index finger, it is difficult to control the pencil with small motor movement changes. These activities are designed to promote an open thumb web space. Why not try using them before a handwriting task to warm up the hands?
What is Open Thumb Web Space?
You might be wondering what is open thumb web space? The thumb web space is that space between your thumb and pointer finger that makes an “O” when you make the “OK” sign. In order to grasp small items with your thumb and index finger, you need to oppose the tip of your thumb to the tip of your pointer finger. Not only do the tips of the fingers need to touch, but the thumb must rotate at the joint closest to your hand. This opposition is needed to manipulate and grasp small items like shoe laces, buttons, and zippers.
Tearing small pieces of paper
Shaking dice within the hand
Rolling small pieces of play dough into balls
To encourage opposition of the thumb to the pointer finger and rotation of the thumb CMC joint, a child needs strength in the muscles of the thumb. The bulk of the thenar eminence allows for rotation, control, and endurance in activities with sustained thumb rotation.
Using an eye dropper to transfer water
A few toys that help encourage an open web space:
Tweezer Games: Tweezer activities promote an open web space and stabilization of the thumb. This Avalanche Fruit Stand from Learning Resources is a colorful way to encourage an open web space. The vertical surface is perfect for encouraging an extended wrist (see below).
Bead Sets: Stringing beads is a good way to encourage an open web space. The child must hold the bead and string between their thumb and index fingers. Collapsing of the thumb web space will happen when the child demonstrates weakness in the muscles of the thumb. Beading is a repetitive activity and promotes strength. This Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Stringing Beads with over 200 beads from Melissa & Doug has over 200 beads in different colors and shapes, and even letters! You could even form sentences for the child to copy and practice their improved pencil grasp!
Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots: Often times, a child will wrap their thumb around the index finger when they are writing with a pencil.. This indicates instability in the thumb and the muscles that allow for smooth pencil motions. Pushing down on the buttons of the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em ROBOTS Game from Mattel really strengthens the muscles of the thumb and allows for more stability leading to an open web space and ultimately more fluid motions of the pencil in letter formation. Plus, this game is just plain old FUN for kids of all ages!