Visual Tracking Tips and Tools for Treatment

Here we are covering all things visual tracking, including what visual tracking means, how to improve visual tracking skills, and visual tracking toys to support development of this visual processing skill.

Visual Tracking toys and tools to improve visual fixation, visual tracking, visual saccades, in handwriting, reading, and so many functional daily tasks and skills in kids.

What is Visual Tracking

Visual tracking is typically defined as the ability to efficiently move the eyes from left to right (or right to left, up and down, and circular motions) OR focusing on an object as it moves across a person’s visual field.

This skill is important for almost all daily activities, including reading, writing, cutting with scissors, drawing, and playing.  According to typical development of visual processing, the ability to visually track objects emerges in children around the age of five.  

Reading a paragraph without losing their place, copying a list of homework from the chalkboard, misalignment of vertical and horizontal numbers in math problems, confusion in interpreting written direction, mixing up left/right, persistent letter reversals…Does any of this sound familiar? It’s all visual tracking!  

Vision and visual tracking are tasks that happen without us even realizing.  The brain and it’s jobs is an amazing thing and our eyes are moving, tracking, scanning, focusing, pursuing, and accommodating without us even realizing.     There are many ways to work on visual perception in playful and creative ways.  

visual tracking exercises

Visual Tracking Exercises

Using visual tracking exercises like the one described below can be a powerful way to use eye exercises to improve vision in kids. These are the visual skills needed not for visual acuity, but rather, those unseen visual problems that impact visual processing skills.

Visual tracking exercises can include vision therapy activities that improve areas such as visual saccades or smooth visual pursuit.

Difficulties in Visual Tracking

You might see problems with these tasks if a child has difficulty with visual tracking:

  • Losing place when reading.  Re-reads or skips words or lines.  
  • Omits, substitutes, repeats, or confuses similar words when reading.
  • Must use finger to keep place when reading.
  • Poor reading comprehension.
  • Short attention span.
  • Difficulty comprehending or remembering what is read.
  • Confusion with interpreting or following written directions.
  • Writing on a slat, up or down hill, spacing letters and words irregularly.
  • Confusion with left/right directions.
  • Persistent reversals of letters (b, d, p, q) when naming letters.
  • Reverses letters when writing (persistent reversals after 2nd grade.)
  • Errors when copying from a chalkboard or book to paper.
  • Misalignment of horizontal and vertical series’ of numbers in math problems.

Also related to visual tracking and very similar while being involved in many of these problem areas, is visual scanning.  

It is important to note that not all of these difficulties indicate a true visual tracking and or visual scanning problem.  For example, many children demonstrate poor reading comprehension and may show a short attention span while not having visual scanning problems.  

All children should be evaluated by a pediatric physician, behavioral optometrist, and occupational therapist to determine true visual processing and visual tracking or visual scanning deficits.  These recommendations are meant to be a resource.    

Visual Tracking toys and tools to improve visual fixation, visual tracking, visual saccades, in handwriting, reading, and so many functional daily tasks and skills in kids.

Visual Tracking Activities

Today, I’m sharing an easy visual tracking activity that will help kids with many functional difficulties.  This post is part of our new series where we are sharing 31 days of Occupational Therapy using mostly free or inexpensive materials.

Today’s activity should cost you at most $2 unless you already have these items in your craft cupboard or office supplies.  Add this activity to your treatment bag for multiple activities.  Read on:

Amazon affiliate links below.

This Visual tracking activity is easy to set up.  Gather recycled bottle caps.  I used round dot labels from our office supplies to color the inside of each cap.  You could also use a marker or paint to color the bottle caps.  Use what you’ve got on hand to make this treatment activity free or almost free!   Next, gather matching crafting pom poms.  These can be found at the dollar store for and inexpensive treatment item.    

visual tracking activities

Skills Related to Visual Tracking

It’s important to mention that there are several skills related to visual tracking. These sub-areas should be identified as a piece of the overall puzzle. Areas related to visual tracking play a role in the eyes ability to fixate on an object and follow it as it moves. These skills include:

  • Visual fixation
  • Peripheral tracking
  • Visual pursuit

Visual Fixation Activity: (Maintaining vision on an item in the visual field) Work one eye at a time.  

  1. Have your child close one eye and place a colored crafting pom pom onto a matching bottle cap.  They need to use one hand to place the pom pom into the corresponding bottle cap and not move bottle caps around on the table.
  2. After the child has filled all of the bottle caps using one eye, repeat the task with the other eye.  
  3. Then complete the activity using both eyes.    
  4. You can also do this activity by placing the label dots on a paper. Match the bottle caps onto the dots. 

Visual Stare Activity (the amount of time the eyes can fixate on an object without eye movements)

  1. Hold up one bottle cap on your nose.
  2. Ask your child to sit about 18 inches from you and stare at the bottle cap.  Note their eye movements as they stare.  
  3. Keep track of time that the child can stare at the target without visual saccades (eye movements).

Peripheral Tracking Activity (visually tracking from the peripheral visual fields)

  1. Arrange the bottle caps on the table.  
  2. Place a pom pom in the center of the table, with the bottle caps all around it.  
  3. Ask your child to stare at the pom pom. While keeping their head still and only moving their eyes, ask them to quickly find a bottle cap with the same color.  
  4. Ask them to scan to another bottle cap of the same color until they’ve found all of the caps with that color.  
  5. You can add a level to this task by writing letters or numbers in the bottle caps and asking the child to find letters in order or numbers in order.

Visual Tracking Pursuit Activity (watching and tracking a moving object)

  1. Set one bottle cap on the right side of the table.  
  2. Place another at the left side.  
  3. The adult should blow a crafting pom pom from the right to the left and ask the child to follow the pom with his eyes, without moving their head.
  4. Repeat by blowing the pom pom from the left to the right, front to back, and back to front in front of the child.

Visual Tracking Tracing Lines (Watching a pencil line as it is formed, and following the line with eye-hand coordination to trace with a pencil or marker)

  1. Set one vertical row of bottle cap on the left side of the child.  
  2. Place another vertical row on the right side.
  3. The adult should draw a line from one bottle cap on the left side to a matching bottle cap on the right side.  
  4. Instruct the child to follow the pencil as you draw.  Nest, trace the line with your finger.  
  5. Ask the child to trace the line with their finger.  
  6. They can then trace the lines with a pencil or marker.
Visual Tracking toys and tools to improve visual fixation, visual tracking, visual saccades, in handwriting, reading, and so many functional daily tasks and skills in kids.

Mor eye tracking Strategies

  • Complete mazes
  • Do puzzles.
  • Use a newspaper or magazine article.  Ask your child to highlight all of the letter “a’s”.
  • Draw or paint pictures.
  • Place a marble in a pie pan.  Rotate the pan around and watch the ball as it rolls. Don’t move your head, only your eyes!
  • Find as many things shaped like a a square in the room.  Repeat the activity, finding all of the circular shaped items in the room.
  • Play “I Spy.”
  • Dot-to-dot pictures.
  • Play balloon toss.
  • Use tracing paper to trace and color pictures.
  • Trace letters with chalk.
  • Play flashlight tag on walls and ceilings. The adult an child each holds a flashlight. As the adult shines the light on walls, the child keeps their light superimposed on top of yours. Start with simple strait lines.  Then add curved lines, then a circle.  Tell them what you are drawing next.  Advance the activity by drawing shapes without telling them what you are doing next.
  • Play with wind-up cars.
  • Create a race track on the floor. Follow cars with your eyes.
  • Roll a ball between you and the child.  Roll from left-right, right-left, front-back, back-front, and toss the ball.

Visual Tracking toys and tools to improve visual fixation, visual tracking, visual saccades, in handwriting, reading, and so many functional daily tasks and skills in kids.

Visual tracking Toys

Looking for more tools to improve visual tracking?  The toys below are great for improving visual tracking and visual scanning in fun ways.  These toys, games, and ideas may be a great gift idea for little ones who have visual perceptual difficulties or problems with visual tracking and handwriting, body awareness in space, letter reversals, detail awareness, or maintaining place while reading.  

SO, save these ideas for grandparents and friends who might ask for gift ideas for birthdays and holidays.  These are some powerhouse visual tracking ideas!

Use Pattern Blocks and Boards to work on visual fixation of shapes and sizes of shapes. 

This Wooden Tangram Puzzle has many different shapes and forms that can be copied from instructions. Copying from a diagram is a great way to practice visual tracking.

For younger kids, this Wooden Stacking Toy encourages tracking for color sorting.  Try some of our pom pom activities that we discussed above!

Mazes are excellent for fostering and building on visual tracking skills. Particularly those that involve a moving ball such as a Marble Run
or a labrynth.

Watching a ball or moving object that is thrown around a room (like a balloon) is a great way to work on tracking in a big area. These Sportime Sensory Balls SloMo Balls are lightweight and move more slowly than a typical ball, allowing kids to visually track the bright color. These are very cool for games of toss and rolling in all planes and directions. Use them to address peripheral tracking as well. 


A flashlight can be used in so many visual tracking activities. Shine the light on words or letters taped to walls. Play “I Spy” in a dark room, shine shapes like this flashlight can for visual tracking and form tracking.

More visual Tracking Toys

Also check out these other top occupational therapy toys:

  1. Fine Motor Toys   
  2. Gross Motor Toys 
  3. Pencil Grasp Toys 
  4. Toys for Reluctant Writers 
  5. Toys for Spatial Awareness 
  6. Toys for Visual Tracking 
  7. Toys for Sensory Play 
  8. Bilateral Coordination Toys 
  9. Games for Executive Functioning Skills 
  10. Toys and Tools to Improve Visual Perception 
  11. Toys to Help with Scissors Skills 
  12. Toys for Attention and Focus 

Printable List of Toys for VISUAL TRACKING

Want a printable copy of our therapist-recommended toys to support visual tracking skills?

As therapy professionals, we LOVE to recommend therapy toys that build skills! This toy list is done for you so you don’t need to recreate the wheel.

Your therapy caseload will love these VISUAL TRACKING toy recommendations. (There’s space on this handout for you to write in your own toy suggestions, to meet the client’s individual needs, too!)

Enter your email address into the form below. The OT Toolbox Member’s Club Members can access this handout inside the dashboard, under Educational Handouts. Just be sure to log into your account, first!

therapy toy

Visual Tracking Toy Giveaway

Today’s prize in our annual Therapy Toys and Tools Giveaway is a visual tracking toy…a rebuildable marble run! This (Amazon affiliate link) marble run is a visual tracking (and fine motor, eye-hand coordination) toy with big fun. Plus use it with water for sensory play or drop jingle bells, beads, or crumbled paper into the run to add more fun & fine motor play. It’s a fun way to build visual attention and visual tracking skills through play.

Want to add this tool to your therapy toolbox??

And 5 winners will get a set of tools from The OT Toolbox Shop.

marble run visual tracking toy

Here’s how it works:

🏆 12 days of giveaways

🏆 72 prizes

🏆Automatic entry for Member’s Club members!

🏆Toys specifically selected to help kids thrive!

Want to enter?

  1. Scroll down.
  2. Enter your email address in the form.
  3. That’s it!

Fine print: This giveaway is in no way affiliated with Facebook/Instagram. There are 6 winners each day. One winner gets the toy, the other 5 get OT Toolbox materials‼️ Giveaway ends 12-6 and winners will be selected and notified 12-7-22. 🗓Open to international entries! 🌎 Be sure to enter a correct email address into the form: that’s how I’ll contact winners! 📧

Visual Tracking Toy GIVEAWAY

and Therapist-Recommended

VISUAL TRACKING TOYS HANDOUT

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    Visual Tracking toys and tools to improve visual fixation, visual tracking, visual saccades, in handwriting, reading, and so many functional daily tasks and skills in kids.

    Toys to Improve Pencil Grasp

    Pencil grasp toys

    Have you ever used pencil grasp toys to support development of handwriting? Helping kids with pencil grasp can be a challenge, so using motivating and fun activities to support the underlying skill areas is essential. Today, we’re going over the best occupational therapy toys that target pencil grasp development. Pencil grasp toys to challenge precision, dexterity, endurance, separation of the sides of the hand, and other skills needed for a functional pencil grasp. All of this can happen through play using toys to support stronger hands!

    The best pencil grasp toys to support the fine motor skills needed for a better pencil grip.

    Recently, we shared fine motor toy ideas and then gross motor toys. Both of these areas are closely related to a functional pencil grasp, so be sure to check out those toy suggestions, too.

    Pencil Grasp Toys

    We love coming up with fun play and craft activities designed to work on the development of an efficient grasp.  Being the season of gifting to others, we thought it would be fun to bring you our top recommended toys to work on tripod grasp, intrinsic muscle strength, rotation of the pencil while handwriting, and an open thumb web space

    Children who have difficulty with handwriting may completely HATE to work on letter formation and pencil grip.  Why not gift them with a fun toy this holiday that will work on the developmental skills necessary to improve their grip on the pencil?  Make the exercise fun as they PLAY their way to a better pencil grasp!

    Handwriting is more than just pencil grasp! Manipulating a pencil to write letters and numbers has a lot to do with visual perceptual skills. You’ll find easy and fun ways to work on visual perceptual skills through play here. 


    You will also love these Games to Improve Pencil Grasp

    Best Toys to Improve Pencil Grasp

    Toys that will help improve pencil grasp

    {Note: This post contains affiliate links.}

    Toys That Improve Pencil Grasp

    Coming up with this list, we thought about the skills needed for an appropriate pencil grasp and age-appropriate handwriting.  This toy gift guide is broken down into toys that will help with different sets of problem areas when it comes to a poor pencil grasp.

    Let’s take a closer look at toy suggestions for these areas:

    • Toys for Tripod Grasp
    • Toys for an Open Thumb Web Space
    • Toys for Hand Strength
    • Toys for Extended Wrist

    Toys for Tripod Grasp

    Tripod grasp: The most efficient way to hold the pencil when writing is with a dynamic tripod grasp.  So WHAT is a tripod grasp? 

    A Tripod grasp starts with a nice round circle made with the thumb and index finger.  The pencil is pinched with the tips of the thumb and index finger and held close to the point of the pencil.  The pencil is resting on and assisted by the middle finger.  The ring finger and pinky fingers are tucked into the palm.  All movement should happen with the fingers and thumb.  The wrist and arm should not move while writing, coloring, or drawing. 

    Often times, new pencil and crayon users will hold the writing utensil in a different way.  You might see four fingers opposing the thumb to hold the pencil.  You might see the pencil positioned in the knuckles between the index and middle fingers.  Maybe they hold the pencil away from the tip where the lead is and instead hold it in the middle of the pencil shaft.  There are SO many variations of awkward and inefficient pencil grasps.  If your little hand writer is showing some version that affects their letter formation and pencil control, try a few of these fun toys…

    A few toys that help to encourage a tripod grasp:

    Light Brite: Picking up and manipulating those little colored pegs encourage a tripod grasp.  Pushing them through the paper and into the holes is a great resistive exercise…disguised as FUN! 

    We have this Lite Brite Flatscreen – Red from Hasbro and love making pictures with the pegs!  When the child holds the pegs in his hand, it’s a great way to encourage the ring finger and pinkie finger in a tucked position.  Show your child how to pick up a handful of pegs and “squirrel them away” in their palm while they push one peg into the board.  What a great fine motor exercise!  Not to mention, the dots of the guide paper is a great visual motor activity…so important in handwriting!

    Lacing Cards:  Lacing cards are a great way to encourage a tripod grasp.  This set of Lacing Shapes from Patch Products come in simple shapes with bold colors. The child must hold the tip of the string in a dynamic tripod grasp to push through the holes of the card.  If your child has their thumb squashed up against their index finger while threading the cards, be sure to show them how to make a nice round circle for an easier time.

    Peg Boards: Grasping pegs encourage a tripod grasp especially while pushing them into the holes of a peg board. 

    This Lauri Tall-Stacker Pegs Building Set from Lauri is great for building peg towers while learning colors and shapes. 

    Older kids might love Fusion Beads like the Perler Beads 6,000 Count Bucket-Multi Mix from Perler.

    Spike the Fine Motor Hedge Hog– This fine motor toy builds a stronger tripod grasp, and when positioned appropriately, can place the wrist into an extended position, too. This helps to further refine precision movements for accuracy and dexterity. These are great skills to carry over to pencil control and pencil movements during handwriting tasks.

    Learning Resources 3 Prong Tong– This tong tool promotes a better grasp on objects…but only if the hand is positioned correctly. If you allow kids to just pick up the 3 prong tongs and start using them, they likely will position the tong into their hand with a gross grasp, or by using all of the fingers along the length of the prong. This can actually strengthen the wrong muscles, and promote an ineffective motor plan that becomes muscle memory when writing with a pencil.

    When kids use these tongs, they should have their hand positioned almost under the tongs, as if it were a pencil. When used this way, the tongs can strengthen the intrinsics and promote a tripod grasp. These 3 prong tongs can work well when used correctly, but be sure to work along side a child with this one.

    Toys for Open Thumb Web Space

    Sometimes you will see a child who is holding their pencil with a closed web space.  This happens when the thumb web space is the area between the thumb and the index finger.  If the thumb is squashed up against the side of their index finger, they are not able to manipulate the pencil with small movements.  They might move their whole arm to make letters instead of just the hand.  A closed web space is an inefficient way to grasp the pencil and will lead to poor handwriting.  This type of positioning requires activities that strengthen and stabilize the thumb.

    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!

    Toys for Hand Strength

    Hand Strength:  If a child has weakness in their hands, they may complain that their hand is tired when they write or color.  Then, to compensate for muscle fatigue, they resort to an inefficient hand grasp.  They may grip the pencil with four fingers or with their whole palm.  many times, a child will start off with a nice tripod grasp and then switch to a less efficient grasp…or even switch hands!  Do they complain that their hand is tired or that it hurts?  These kiddos need to work on hand strength.  To allow for increased endurance when writing and coloring, this child would benefit from strengthening exercises.

    A few toys that help encourage hand strength:

    Pop Beads:  Pushing pop beads together is a perfect way to strengthen the intrinsic muscles of the hands including the arches of the hands. 

    Pop beads are such a fun toy that can be used to make patterns, different lengths, bracelets, necklaces, and even shapes. This Pop Beads from ConstructivePlaythings are unique in their shape, color, sizes, and textures. A twist on the classic bead, this set will excite girls and boys of all ages.  Be sure to shop for size-appropriate beads for your child’s hands.

    Play-Doh:  Play dough is the ultimate open-ended toy for hand strengthening.  There are unlimited ways to play all the while encouraging hand development. 

    We love this Play-Doh 24-Pack of Colors for lots of creative play!  Hide coins, beans, or beads in the dough and allow the child to find the items.  Roll small balls of dough using just the thumb, index, and middle fingers. 

    Roll a play dough snake with the dough and have the child pinch the dough between their thumb and index finger.  Just get creative and make some things with your play dough.  Most of all, have fun!

    Tissue Paper Art:  There is possible no better art project for hand strengthening than tissue paper art!  Crumbling little bits of tissue paper is perfect for strengthening the small muscles of the hand. 

    Encourage your child to use just their finger tips to crumble the bits of tissue paper rather than two hands to crumble.  This ALEX® Toys – Early Learning Tissue Paper Art -Little Hands 521W from Alex Toys is bold, colorful and just plain fun art!  Even better for the intrinsic muscles of the hands is tearing bits of paper before crumbling.

    Squeeze Toys: a gross grasp is using the whole hand to squeeze and flex into a grip. 

    What a great way to strengthen the muscles of the hands!  This Melissa & Doug Louie Lobster Claw Catcher from Melissa and Doug is a fun way to encourage hand strength and endurance for coloring and writing.

    Geoboard Activities– Using a geoboard supports hand strength to enable endurance in handwriting. Manipulating the rubber bands promotes finger isolation, open thumb web-space, and and extended wrist.

    Learning Resources Helping Hands Fine Motor Tool Set Toy– This set of fine motor tools includes an eye-dropper, scissor scoops, and tongs. The sensory bin scoops and tools support hand strength through manipulating small objects or water.

    These tools are a great way to strengthen the exact muscles needed for a functional pencil grasp.

    Toys for Extended Wrist

    Extended Wrist:  An Extended wrist is a slightly bent back wrist.  When a child’s hand is bent forward toward the palm, they typically exhibit inefficient grasp on the pencil and weakness in the hand. A slight bend in the wrist towards the back of the hand (bent up toward the ceiling when writing) allows for better movement and flow of the fingers when forming letters.  Often times a child with a poor handwriting demonstrates a “hooked wrist” or a flat wrist and it leads back to inefficient control of the pencil and messy handwriting. 

    A few toys that help encourage an Extended Wrist:

    Easel: An easel can be used in so many ways while encouraging an extended wrist.  Paint, draw, color, or write on the elevated surface.  We love taping contact paper to our easel and sticking all kinds of craft supplies. 

    This really encourages an extended wrist while using a tripod grasp or tip to tip grasp to manipulate little items (think tissue paper, sequins, foil squares…the possibilities are endless!) This Easel is great for extended wrist activities.  And, it even folds down to reveal a desk surface.  It’s the perfect gift to promote improved handwriting!

    Ker Plunk: The Ker Plunk Game from Mattel encourages an extended wrist as the child pushes the sticks into the holes of the game.  They are encouraged to use a tripod grasp to hold the sticks as well.  Rotating the sticks encourages two types of in-hand manipulation.

    Take this game a step further in handwriting exercise for strengthening and play laying down on the floor, propped up on your elbows.  Getting down on the floor to play will activate the large muscles of the back and the shoulder girdle to improve precision in pencil grasp.

    Montessori Boards– Precision and dexterity activities are needed for pencil grasp and when you add in dexterity tasks and manipulation of tongs, spoons, or tweezers to move and place objects, it’s a win-win.

    This precision Montessori board builds the skills needed for pencil grasp: a stabile wrist, in-hand manipulation, open thumb web space, and dexterity.

    Best toys and ideas to help kids improve their pencil grasp

    Looking for a few activities to improve handwriting skills? Check out our round-up of the best handwriting activities from our blog and these other toy suggestions:

    More Therapy Toy Ideas

    Want to find more therapy recommended toys to help kids develop specific skills? Check out the list of skill areas below.

    1. Fine Motor Toys 
    2. Gross Motor Toys 
    3. Pencil Grasp Toys
    4. Toys for Reluctant Writers
    5. Toys for Spatial Awareness
    6. Toys for Visual Tracking
    7. Toys for Sensory Play 
    8. Bilateral Coordination Toys 
    9. Games for Executive Functioning Skills
    10. Toys and Tools to Improve Visual Perception
    11. Toys to Help with Scissors Skills
    12. Toys for Attention and Focus

    Printable List of Toys for Pencil Grasp

    Want a printable copy of our therapist-recommended toys to support pencil grasp?

    As therapy professionals, we LOVE to recommend therapy toys that build skills! This toy list is done for you so you don’t need to recreate the wheel.

    Your therapy caseload will love these PENCIL GRASP toy recommendations. (There’s space on this handout for you to write in your own toy suggestions, to meet the client’s individual needs, too!)

    Enter your email address into the form below. The OT Toolbox Member’s Club Members can access this handout inside the dashboard, under Educational Handouts. Just be sure to log into your account, first!

    therapy toy

    ANNUAL THERAPY TOYS AND TOOLS GIVEAWAY

    This year’s Therapy Toys and Tools Giveaway is BACK!

    This year, it’s better than ever! We’re giving away a therapy tool each day for 12 days. You can enter each giveaway for a chance to win a themed therapy toy! Today’s toy is a pencil grasp tool.

    🏆 12 days of giveaways

    🏆 72 prizes

    🏆Automatic entry for Member’s Club members!

    🏆Toys specifically selected to help kids thrive!

    Want to enter?

    1. Go to the form below.
    2. Enter your email address in the form.
    3. That’s it!

    Today’s giveaway is a fine motor/visual motor, and pencil grasp goldmine: the therapist-favorite, a Montessori Board with color matching cards, colorful manipulatives, and fine motor tongs!

    Check out this toy here: (Amazon affiliate link) Pencil grasp toy

    Plus, 5 winners will get fine motor tools from The OT Toolbox Shop. Each day will be a different skill area, and you can enter those giveaways, too.

    This is going to be fun!

    Fine print: There are 6 winners each day. Giveaway ends 12-6 and winners will be selected and notified 12-7-22. Be sure to enter a correct email address into the form: that’s how I’ll contact winners!

    PENCIL GRASP TOY GIVEAWAY

    and get a handout: Therapist-Recommended

    PENCIL GRASP TOYS HANDOUT

      We won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

      Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20+ years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

      Tips for Legible Handwriting

      legible handwriting

      When it comes to legible handwriting, there are a few tips that occupational therapy practitioners suggest. Handwriting is a complex task that incorporates motor skills, sensory processing, executive functioning skills as well as the creative writing aspect when it comes to thinking about what is being written.

      We’ve explored handwriting analysis in the past, including specific areas too look at when observing handwriting. In this blog post, we’ll cover skills needed for legible handwriting. 

      Legible handwriting tips and resources

      What is Legible Handwriting?

      Legible handwriting means written work that is overall able to be read and understood by the writer as well as others. Legible written work can be achieved in both print and cursive writing formats, as well as at each stage of writing:

      • Learning letter formation of upper case letters
      • Learning formation of lower case letters
      • Writing on lines (primary paper)
      • Writing on smaller lined paper (small ruled paper)
      • Learning formation of cursive lower case letters
      • Learning formation of cursive upper case letters

      Bad habits can start at each one of these stages.

      Legible handwriting is something most teachers hope for when it comes to a classroom of students!

      Putting it all down on paper can be where you see one or more of these contributing factors fail. 

      Handwriting legibility occurs when one is able to read their own handwriting. Think about the student that writes down a list of homework assignments in the classroom. They may be writing quickly as the bell is about to ring. When they get home at the end of the day, are they able to read the page numbers and words describing the assignment? This is where legible writing is important. 

      • Things to consider in this situation may include: increased writing speed, an unknown amount of time remaining to complete the written work, and a small writing space in the homework tracker, given for the written material

      Legible handwriting also refers to others being able to read the written material. Think about the student that writes letters, sentences, and paragraphs on a homework assignment. When the student offers the assignment to their teacher, they may not be able to read the written work. Then the student misses points or gets answers marked wrong because of the illegible materials. This can especially be the case on math assignments or spelling tests where letter formation and number formation is essential for legibility.

      • Considerations in this situation may include: The student rushing to complete materials, Poor letter formation, words or letters written in a small given area on worksheets or homework papers.

      Handwriting readability can also be related to habits. We all get into a habit when it comes to forming letters, and we all have quirks when it comes to how we hold the pencil, letter formation, and writing styles. The important thing to consider here is: is the written work functional.

      As a side note, you’ve probably seen a physician referral that has very bad and almost illegible handwriting. In these cases, the script is almost a scribble. Why is this a stereotype? One reason may be the continued practice of writing very quickly during medical school and residency studies. You can see how practice results in an established writing form! Similarly, the medical professionals that need to read that chicken scratch handwriting have a lot of practice in reading those sloppy scripts in order to process the medical advice!

      Functional and Legible Handwriting

      Functional handwriting refers to handwriting that is efficient. Can the student write in the given amount of time? And in that given amount of time, is the written material able to be read by the writer and by others?

      We’ve covered a great deal on the aspect of a functional pencil grasp. A functional handwriting style is similar!

      Kids often write so quickly that the handwriting impairs legibility. They may get into a bad habit of forming letters incorrectly, using poor use of the lines, letter size, or spatial awareness. 

      Fluency also has a huge impact on functional written work. When we say fluency, we refer to the typical speed of written work. For younger kids, fluent handwriting is longer because the child needs to think about the motor plan for each letter. They are still working on the fine motor skills needed for pencil grasp as well as other areas of development that impact written work.

      In older children, handwriting fluency increases as students gain motor skills, motor planning, and letter formation becomes more natural.

      Then you’ll see similar examples of handwriting fluency as the student learns cursive. At first, the child needs to think about the motor plan for a letter and letter connectors, especially after they’ve learned the printed version of the letter’s formation. Then, with practice, cursive fluency increases.

      By second grade, printed formation is established in most handwriting curriculum, but there is still room for increased legibility, especially with practice and effort.

      By third grade, most students are learning cursive letters and you’ll see fluency for handwriting decline if cursive is being used. 

      Fine Motor Skills and Legible Writing

      Fine motor skills play a HUGE role in a child’s ability to participate in writing activities. From grasp patterns, to which hand they use, to endurance and in-hand manipulation skills—there’s a lot to make sure you are checking off during your observations and evaluations. 

      To make sure you don’t miss anything, check out the tips below! They can make a huge difference when it comes to handwriting help.

      Skill #1: Hand dominance—When looking at hand dominance, you want to look and see if they are consistent with the use of one hand, or if they are trying to switch hands.

      If you observe challenges with consistency, this may indicate poor muscle strength and endurance. 

      In a previous blog post, we discussed how switching hands impacts neatness in written work.

      Skill #2: Grasp pattern—what does this look like while the child is writing? Is it a dynamic tripod? Static tripod? Or some form of primitive grasp pattern like a fingertip pattern or a gross grasp? 

      Take a look a the placement of the fingers on the pencil:

      • Where is the middle finger on the pencil?
      • Where is the index finger on the pencil?
      • Where is the thumb on the pencil?

      Each of these considerations can make an impact, but are not essential when it comes to a functional grasp on the pencil or neat handwriting. And, importantly, pencil grasp development plays a huge role.

      Make sure that you watch throughout the evaluation to see if they have any regression to a primitive pattern or switch how they hold the writing utensil frequently. 

      If you notice grasp pattern regressions, fidgeting or switching of grasp positions frequently, it’s a sign of fatigue related to poor muscle endurance and strength.

      It may also be an indicator that there is poor separation of the two sides of the hand, under development of the arches of the hand, and finger to thumb opposition, and even potentially poor web space development. 

      If pencil grasp impacts handwriting, work on pencil grasp through play.

      Bonus Tip! Watch for consistency of skills. If you notice that a skill is consistent, even if it’s an immature pattern, you can determine what is due to poor muscle strength and fatigue (inconsistent patterns) versus an established pattern or compensatory pattern (consistent patterns) that’s going to be difficult to change. This is called carryover of skills in handwriting.

      Consistency in motor skills can impact legible and neat written work because when the hand becomes fatigued, you may see legibility decline. 

      • Also take a look at how diagonal lines, vertical lines, horizontal lines, and shapes are formed
      • Assess written work in a variety of environments and when required to write at different paces or speeds.

      Skill #3: Joint Integrity—This is super important because a child that has a grasp pattern that is too tight or too loose can have compromised joints. 

      A grasp pattern that is too tight puts undue stress on the joints, ligaments and muscles which will lead to poor endurance, and hand cramps. And even potentially repetitive stress injuries. 

      On the opposite end, a grasp pattern that is too loose or where the child has hyper extended joints, they will experience similar pain and concerns. They are more likely to have joint pain due to the bone on bone of hyper extension patterns. 

      Both patterns are inefficient and will need to be addressed to help the child be successful with handwriting 

      Skill #4: Wrist and Hand Mobility—in this category, we want to look at how the wrist and hand move both as a unit, but also separately.

      Ideally, the hand and wrist should move independently of one another when writing with the wrist being stable and the hand moving. Read here about wrist extension and stability.

      If you see that the child is moving their hand and wrist as a unit with stabilization coming through the forearm, that is an inefficient movement pattern that you will want to work on addressing.

      This pattern is inefficient because it requires more energy from large muscle groups instead of utilizing them for stability. 

      Skill #5: Finger Mobility—similar to wrist and hand mobility, you will also want to assess finger movements and joint isolation. 

      Mature patterns will allow for the thumb, index and ring fingers to move in synchronized flexion/extension patterns to great dynamic movements. If you don’t see this, or notice that the child uses their whole hand to form letters, this is another inefficient pattern that you’ll want to address in your treatment. One way to support this skill is through finger isolation activities.

      If you’re not sure that this is an issue, have the child walk their fingers up and down a pencil to evaluate their in-hand manipulation skill focusing on shift. 

      Whether you are assessing an 8th grader or a preschooler these skills apply across the continuum to promoting independent and successful handwriting experiences. Working from this list of skills you can develop these skills further and take the stress out of handwriting!

      Letter Size and Spacing for Legible Written Work

      What Inconsistent Letter Size and Poor Spacing Means for Writing

      A key component to legible writing are three important components:

      Letter formation can vary, much like the functional aspect of a pencil grasp, letter formation can take a functional form as well.

      However, without proper letter size and space, valuable thoughts and ideas are lost, along with the student experiencing frustration and potential feelings of failure. 

      When a student demonstrates consistent challenges with scattered letter sizing, and overlapping letters or words it may cause a teacher to refer the student to OT for a writing evaluation to take a closer look at where the child is struggling. 

      As OTs, we are the experts in writing and decoding what these challenges mean for a child’s overall foundational writing skills. 

      Observing the letter size and spacing during a writing evaluation provides valuable information regarding how the child’s fine motor, visual motor and coordination are functioning. 

      Inconsistent Letter Size 

      Inconsistent letter size can come in a variety of patterns. Letters may be all over the place on the line with short letters being the same size as tall letters, letters varying in size within a given word or with collections of letters with similar strokes being the same size. An example of this would be all letters that start with a “C” are all the same size. 

      You may also see letters getting progressively smaller throughout the writing sample, which is known as micrographia. Or you may see the size get larger as the sentence goes on. 

      Regardless of the pattern you see, inconsistent letter size is an indication of:

      • Poor fine motor control 
      • An immature tripod grasp 
      • Fatigue or pain 
      • Limited joint movement for dynamic patterns 
      • Potential visual spatial deficits 
      • Poor fine motor coordination 

      Along with inconsistent letter sizing, poor spacing or overlapping letters/words is also common. 

      Overlapping Letters 

      If a student is struggling with letter size, it is likely that they will have challenges with overlapping letters or words. This is because many of the same skills are needed for spacing letters and words that are used when producing consistent letter sizes. 

      Overlapping letters and words may also be an indication of: 

      • Poor fine motor control 
      • Poor visual motor control 
      • Visual spatial deficits
      • Tracking deficits 

      If you observe consistent letter size, and only challenges with spacing, this is an indication of poor visual spatial skills being the primary deficit affecting the students writing performance. It is also likely that they have more difficulty when completing copying tasks. 

      Use Writing Samples to assess handwriting legibility

      When collecting your writing sample, make sure that you ask the student to complete words and sentences. This will help you to further determine what skills will need to be addressed during therapy. 

      Make sure that you are actively watching how the child writes. This will also provide more clues to the pre-writing and foundational skill challenges that they may be experiencing. 

      Letter sizing and spacing is just one of the many components needed for legibility.

      Development of these skills will significantly increase a child’s overall confidence and ability to participate in written activities, and you may even see development in other areas such as reading and hand eye coordination with your treatment! 

      Looking for more writing skill break down and a handy way to collect your observations? Check out the Handwriting Observation Kit!

      Tips for legible handwriting

      Tips for legible handwriting

      Working on the instruction for establishing a functional and efficient motor plan for letters, letter connections, and line use is important.

      So how do we support legible writing skills?

      Beyond addressing the physical motor skills as covered above, there are a few strategies that can support the development of legible handwriting. Use these resources to help.

      Practice formation in sensory activities:

      • Use sensory writing trays
      • Practice good writing habits by forming letters in sand
      • Write letters in shaving cream
      • Take a look at pencil grip
      • Try a slant board
      • Use modified or adapted paper styles
      • Focus on letter size (size awareness)
      • Highlight writing lines (line awareness)
      • Focus on spacing between letters and words (spatial awareness)
      • Use the digital download tools in our Member’s Club to practice proper letter formation
      • Look at upright posture when writing: how the hips are seated in the chair, chair height, desk height, posture, positioning of the knees, and placement of the feet and ankles
      • Use play dough for fine motor skill work, to improve hand strength, and dexterity
      • Practice letter groups- Group similar letters together and practice the letters that are in the same group based on the lines used to form that letter. Use cursive letter groups and printed letter groups based on writing lines.
      • Teach letters in specific orders: There is a printed letter order and a cursive letter order.
      • Use our Fine Motor Kits as tools to develop all of the underlying skills needed for written work; Each kit includes modified writing lines, handwriting opportunities, fine motor activities, visual motor opportunities, and fun and meaningful ways to support practice in each of these areas. 

      When a student’s learning and educational participation is impacted as a result of handwriting legibility issues, be sure to consult a pediatric occupational therapist to assess the potential for other underlying considerations. These may include:

      • Visual motor issues
      • Visual perception considerations
      • Sensory processing considerations
      • Fine motor delay
      • ​Developmental delay
      • Other considerations

      Legible handwriting can impact learning, lead to better grades, and result in overall improved confidence at school. Use the suggestions to establish good habits that carryover. Hopefully this resource had a few suggestions that impact your writer’s legibility!

      Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20+ years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

      Use these Fine Motor Kits for hands-on activity kits to develop fine motor skills, strength, dexterity, and manipulation. Kids LOVE these fine motor kits for the motivating activities. Therapists love them because it’s fresh, fun ways to work on pinch, grip, manipulation skills, and much more. Try some of these themed therapy kits:

      Writing Spacer Craft

      Writing spacer tool

      This handwriting tool is a writing spacer that supports spatial awareness between letters and words. To make this writing tool we used simple craft materials of a pipe cleaner and a craft pom pom, but you could use any items. The best thing about this handwriting spacing tool is that kids can make it their own. Add this writing spacer to your list of ways to use pipe cleaners in occupational therapy…and ways to use craft pom poms in OT!

      Writing Spacer

      When it comes to legible handwriting, spatial awareness between letters and words makes a huge difference! One way to go about this use of space between words is using finger spacers for handwriting. However, this can become an issue when kids are self-conscious placing their fingers between each word. Also, for the left- handed writer, the spacing finger is in the way when the writing hand moves over to write the next word.

      Whether you are a teacher in the classroom, a parent who is struggling to find the trick to get your child to write legibly, or a therapist working on the underlying skills needed for functional written work, you’ve probably noticed that when letters are smashed up against one another, it’s really hard to read what’s been written!

      Stretching out spaces between words makes a huge difference in legibility. And there’s more; Using consistent spacing between letters can help with legibility too. In fact, there is great benefit to using toys to support spatial awareness to develop these skills.

      That’s why we’re sharing this easy DIY handwriting spacer. It’s a do it yourself version that kids will take pride in making and using.

      Many of us have used and love spacing tools made from craft sticks.

      Use a pipe cleaner spacing tool to write with spaces between words.
      Use a pipe cleaner to make a writing spacer.

      Handwriting Spacing Tool Craft

      We actually have a few different options for making a writing tool to address spacing:

      • This craft stick spacing tool is very simple and has just a single visual cue to support visual tracking skills that play a role in spatial awareness.
      • This clothes pin spacer is unique in that it can be attached to a pencil pouch, folder, or papers so students always know where it is. It can also be accessorized and personalized by the student. It’s also a nice clothespin pencil gripper.

      Today, we’ve got a spacing tool that doesn’t use a craft stick…it’s another fun DIY spacing tool idea, but the difference is that this writing tool can be used to space between letters and between words.

      Use a Pipe Cleaner for a Spacing Tool

      This spacing tool uses items that you probably already have in the house or classroom. Kids can use their creative style in making their spacing tool and really make it their own. We used a few materials to make our spacing tools.

      Materials needed to make a spacing tool: 

      • Pipe cleaners
      • Craft pom poms (You could also use beads for a smaller space between words.)

      This project is super simple to put together. Creating the DIY spacing tools is a nice fine motor warm up to writing, too!

      If you are using a crafting pom pom like we did, use a smaller sized pom pom. A 1/4 inch crafting pom pom is a good size. Once the pipe cleaner is wrapped around the pom pom a couple of times, the size will increase.

      1. Wrap one end of the pipe cleaner around the craft pom pom several times so the pom pom is secure.
      2. A dab of craft glue can be used to secure the craft pom pom to the pipe cleaner, if you like.

      You won’t want the top of the spacing tool to be too wide, otherwise the space between words will become too stretched.

      A bead makes a nice spacer for spacing between words. Once the pipe cleaner is wrapped around the bead, there is a nice sized spacer for words.

      And that’s all there is to it!

      Use the spacing tool to space between words using the top of the space tool. The width of the pipe cleaner can be used to maintain a consistent space between letters.

      Use a pipe cleaner to space between letters when writing.

      These handwriting spacing tools can be as varied as the students in a classroom. Allow the kiddos to use creativity when making theirs. Bend pipe cleaners, add additional beads or other embellishments like ribbon or twine.

      Students will be proud to show off (and use!) their spacing tool when practicing handwriting and spacing between letters and words!

       

      Kids can use pipe cleaners and craft items to make their own DIY handwriting spacing tool for writing neatly and improving spatial awareness in handwriting.

      Working on spacing in handwriting? Why not start a handwriting club for kids? Kids can work on handwriting skills in a fun way. Here’s how to start a handwriting club kids will WANT to join!

      The Handwriting Book is a comprehensive resource created by experienced pediatric OTs and PTs.

      The Handwriting Book covers everything you need to know about handwriting, guided by development and focused on function. This digital resource is is the ultimate resource for tips, strategies, suggestions, and information to support handwriting development in kids.

      The Handwriting Book breaks down the functional skill of handwriting into developmental areas. These include developmental progression of pre-writing strokes, fine motor skills, gross motor development, sensory considerations, and visual perceptual skills. Each section includes strategies and tips to improve these underlying areas.

      • Strategies to address letter and number formation and reversals
      • Ideas for combining handwriting and play
      • Activities to practice handwriting skills at home
      • Tips and strategies for the reluctant writer
      • Tips to improve pencil grip
      • Tips for sizing, spacing, and alignment with overall improved legibility

      Click here to grab your copy of The Handwriting Book today.

      Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20+ years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

      Writing and Reading Stick

      Reading stick

      When it comes to handwriting, copying without losing place on the page impacts writing (visual attention plays a big role here), so much so that a reading stick or writing stick tool can be a huge help. Here we are showing an easy way to make a reading stick or writing stick that can be used to impact writing without missing letters or words…and why this happens.

      What is a Reading Stick

      Handwriting is a challenge when spacing is inaccurate.  Poorly spaced letters and words as a result of visual spatial difficulties can lead to illegible handwriting.

      A reading stick is a pointer stick that kids can use to follow along with words when reading and writing.

      When reading from a chalkboard or smartboard, a teacher might use a large pointer stick for this task. One tip for teachers is to add a bright visual cue to the end of the pointer stick to add a visual contrast that is engaging and visual. This might be something like bright tape added to the end of the pointer stick, neon tape or post-it notes folded over the tip of the pointer stick are some ways to easily do this.

      But, when kids are reading and copying from a space on their desk, they can use a miniature version of the pointer stick as a reading tool. What’s nice about the version that we created is that the reading stick can be used in many different ways:

      • Use the pointer stick with the visual cue at the end to point along with reading from a book.
      • Turn the reading stick on it’s side to follow along line by line when reading.
      • Use the craft stick as a spacing tool when writing.

      Why use a reading stick for writing?

      A writing stick is a handwriting tool that can also be called a pointer stick for handwriting. Students and teachers can use a writing stick to follow along with written work to support handwriting needs so that a student doesn’t miss letters or words when writing.

      Copying handwriting work requires several areas of visual processing:

      Using this pointer stick to copy words can help with copying written work without omitting letters or words. The reading stick then doubles as a spacing tool.

      Using a spacing tool can be a HUGE help for some kids!  This handwriting spacing tool pointer stick is a physical prompt and a visual cue that helps kids in handwriting and become independent with when writing.

      There is a lot going on when a child is required to write.  The visual motor skills needed to accurately copy or write written work requires the processing of visual perceptual skills along with coordination and manipulation of the pencil along lines and margins.

      These are a lot of different areas that can break down and result in sloppy or illegible handwriting!

      Try this handwriting spacing tool pointer stick to help kids with spatial awareness when writing.

      Use a spacing tool pointer stick to help with placing spaces between letters and words, assuring words, phrases, or sentences are not omitted, and when aligning columns of words, as in lists.

      Handwriting Spacing Tool Pointer Stick

      Affiliate links are included in this post.

      Try using this spacing pointer stick to keep margins aligned too.

      Looking for other ways to address spacing in margin use?  Here are a bunch of ideas for spatial awareness with margins.

      use a marker to make a reading stick to follow along with words when reading or writing.
      Use a marker to make a reading stick for kids.

      You will need just two materials to make a spacing pointer stick:

      Amazon affiliate links included:

      Use the marker to make a brightly colored dot on one end of the craft stick.  You could also use a small sticker, but I wanted to ensure a bright contrast between the colored craft stick and the colored dot.

      Use a reading stick to follow along when reading to make sure words aren't missed.
      Use a reading stick when reading so kids don’t miss words or lines of text when reading.

      And that’s it!  Show the child how to use it to keep their place when copying written work, when aligning margins, and when spacing between words.

      Use the spacing tool pointer stick to help kids with spatial awareness in these ways:

      • Point to words when copying from a text or sheet on a desk.  The pointer stick can help keep the child’s place, visually.
      • Align columns in math and lists of words.
      • Align left and right margins on the page.  Keep the margin from drifting in toward the middle of the page.
      • Space between letters and words when writing.
      Use this handwriting spacing tool pointer stick to align columns of words or math problems when writing, perfect for kids who struggle with spatial awareness.

      Read more about spatial awareness and how it relates to handwriting.

      Some spacing tools can be themed!  Go beyond the simple dot or sticker and make a spaceman spacing tool. You can also use a clothespin tool for spacing between words when writing. Finally, this writing spacer craft is another handwriting craft kids can make.

      Another great way to add hands-on play to spatial awareness is an activity like these spacing puzzles.

      Use this handwriting spacing tool pointer stick to help kids with spatial awareness when writing.

      Need more handwriting strategies?  

      The Handwriting Book is a comprehensive resource created by experienced pediatric OTs and PTs.

      The Handwriting Book covers everything you need to know about handwriting, guided by development and focused on function. This digital resource is is the ultimate resource for tips, strategies, suggestions, and information to support handwriting development in kids.

      The Handwriting Book breaks down the functional skill of handwriting into developmental areas. These include developmental progression of pre-writing strokes, fine motor skills, gross motor development, sensory considerations, and visual perceptual skills. Each section includes strategies and tips to improve these underlying areas.

      • Strategies to address letter and number formation and reversals
      • Ideas for combining handwriting and play
      • Activities to practice handwriting skills at home
      • Tips and strategies for the reluctant writer
      • Tips to improve pencil grip
      • Tips for sizing, spacing, and alignment with overall improved legibility

      Click here to grab your copy of The Handwriting Book today.

      How to Teach Spacing Between Words with a Clothespin

      spacing between words with a clothespin craft

      If you are working on spacing between words when writing, then this OT trick is for you. Many years ago, we created this blog post using a clothespin to teach spacing in handwriting. It’s a simple activity really, and one that kids love to use because they can make the clothespin spacing tool their own! Let’s teach spacing between words with a cute clothespin craft!

      Use a clothespin to teach handwriting as a spatial awareness tool.
      Use a clothespin to teach spacing between words.

      Teach spacing between words

      When it comes to legibility in handwriting, spacing between words makes all the! Addressing spatial awareness in handwriting can make a big difference in legibility fairly quickly given intervention, practice, awareness, and the tools to address spacing in written work.

      Using a visual and physical cue to teach spacing between words is very effective. This is especially true for young students who are beginning to write with more organizational requirements: lines, margins, smaller writing spaces, and faster writing speeds are some of these organizational needs in handwriting tasks.

      Let’s break those areas down to describe how each might impact letter formation and legibility of written work:

      • Line use- Line use progresses from kindergarten (where many students are exposed to writing letters and words on lines for the first time. This progresses to first grade with more writing requirements. Moving onto second grade may bring a smaller line space for written work. In third grade, writing lines may be smaller yet. In about fourth grade, many students move to a lined notebook. These pencil control and line use can impact legibility especially when handwriting lessons are rushed in the general curriculum of most schools. This blog post on line awareness is a great resource for written work requirements.
      • Margin use- One visual perception component to handwriting includes margin use in written work. This impacts legibility when writing on a sheet of paper or moving to the next line. Sometimes, margins creep over across the page as a student copies lists or words or writes sentences as in a journal. Spatial relations includes the visual perception aspect, particularly the visual processing skill of visual tracking, which includes following the pencil as in copying words. Visual attention and visual scanning are also involved. This blog post on margins in handwriting covers this area in more detail.
      • Writing in smaller spaces- Sizing in written work impacts legibility. When letters are written to large, the spacing can be crowded, leading to poor legibility. This can be especially the case when writing on worksheets or workbook pages with limited space availability. This blog post on spatial awareness is a good one to check out regarding sizing and space use.
      • Faster writing speeds- Writing sped impacts legibility because when a student writes quickly, sometimes the legibility of accurate letter formation is lost. When this is the case, adding a bit of space between words can impact overall legibility. As students progress, writing speed requirements increase. Consider the second grader that is required to copy their homework onto their notebook or homework planner. There is only so much time in the school day, so a limited chunk of time is given for this task. When a student struggles with pencil control, letter formation, motor planning, or any other contributing factor, this can really impact written work on a functional handwriting task that has dire consequences. When the student comes home for the day, they are unable to read their homework assignment. This same issue is true for older students. In middle school or high school, they are unable to copy notes in their class. This can lead to difficulty copying notes and studying. This resource covers writing speed in written work.

      We’ve shared several handwriting spacing tools here on The OT Toolbox, like a cute DIY space martian spacing tool and this pipe cleaner spacing tool.

      Sometimes a simple visual cue like this craft stick spacing tool and pointer stick can make a big difference in handwriting spatial awareness and handwriting legibility.

      Read on for another quick craft that kids can make and use to teach spacing between words…using a clothes pin for better spatial awareness in written work.

      Handwriting Spacing Between Words Tool

      This clothespin spacing tool is one that can be attached to a notebook or folder and used again and again…because any school-based OT knows that those spacing tools can get lost very easily!

      The best part of this handwriting spacing tool is that kids can make their own, while creating a unique tool that fits their personality!

      First, read more about how spacing tools work.

      Teach spacing between words with a clothespin for better legibility and spatial awareness in handwriting.

      Next, get all of your materials ready, because this handwriting spacing tool is a fun activity! In fact, school-based therapists can create a group activity in a classroom with random items found in a craft bin…while boosting those fine motor skills!

      To make a DIY spacing tool, you’ll need a clothes pin. The wooden type is perfect for painting and decorating, making a fine motor craft based on the child’s interests, favorite color, etc. When the child makes their own spacing tool, they are more likely to use it again and again.

      Using the clothes pin clip allows the spacing tool to be saved. (Better yet, the clip prevents another lost therapy item later found at the bottom of a backpack or in the midst of desk chaos!)

      Kids can make these clothespin spacing tools to learn spacing between words in handwriting for better legibility and neat written work, just clip to a notebook or folder!

      How to teach spacing between words with a clothespin:

      The clothes pin clip is perfect for attaching to notebooks, folders, or a pencil box on a desk. Students will always know where their spacing tool is…but how do they use it?

      Use a clothespin to teach spacing between words the same way you would use other spacing tools.

      Show students how to place the clothespin on the paper after the last letter of a word. They can keep the clothespin in place as they write the next word in a sentence. They physical and visual cue of moving and seeing the clothespin can make a lasting impact on spacing between words.

      Think about it this way: the messiest written work is easier to read when it has space between words. As readers, we tend to fill in missing blanks using our predictive reading skills. When words are spaced out, students will be better able to read back over notes, homework assignments, and other written work.

      Spacing is often times, the easiest way to make a big impact on handwriting legibility!

      For younger students, using the clip portion of the clothespin spacing tool can be achieved using strips of paper to practice handwriting. Simply cut regular double ruled paper into strips and clip the clothespin between each word as the child writes.

      Those strips can even be laminated and handwriting practiced with a dry erase marker.

      Using the clothespin spacing tool can make a big impact on written legibility!

      Use a clothespin craft to work on spacing between words.

      To make the ClothesPin Spacing Tool

      You’ll need some basic craft items (affiliate links are included below):

      Kids can make this clothespin craft in occupational therapy or school to teach spacing between words for better handwriting.
      Handwriting craft for occupational therapy
      1. Next, get the kids started on painting. Ask the child or group of kids to paint all sides of the clothes pins.
      2. On the wet paint, glitter and sparkling gems can be added.
      3. Let the paint dry and embellish with additional items including gems, stickers, puffy paint, or other items.
      Make a clothespin craft to work on spacing between words when writing.
      Paint clothespins and add gems or stickers for an occupational therapy handwriting craft.
      Use a clothespin craft to teach spacing between words for better legibility in handwriting.

      Looking for more ways to teach spacing between words? Try these ideas:

      Use a clothespin craft to teach spacing between words using a clip clothespin for better legibility and spatial awareness in handwriting.

       

      Visual Perception and spatial awareness in kids.  What is Spatial awareness and why do kids have trouble with spacing between letters and words, reversing letters, and all things vision.  Great tips here from an Occupational Therapist, including tips and tools to help kids with spacing in handwriting. Visual Spatial Relations activities for handwritingEasy accommodations for poor spatial awareness in handwriting.Try this line awareness and spatial awareness handwriting activity using puzzle pieces and crayons to work on handwriting in a fun and creative way that doesn't require writing.
       
       
      Looking for more ways to address spatial awareness? 
      The Handwriting Book is a comprehensive resource created by experienced pediatric OTs and PTs.

      The Handwriting Book covers everything you need to know about handwriting, guided by development and focused on function. This digital resource is is the ultimate resource for tips, strategies, suggestions, and information to support handwriting development in kids.

      The Handwriting Book breaks down the functional skill of handwriting into developmental areas. These include developmental progression of pre-writing strokes, fine motor skills, gross motor development, sensory considerations, and visual perceptual skills. Each section includes strategies and tips to improve these underlying areas.

      • Strategies to address letter and number formation and reversals
      • Ideas for combining handwriting and play
      • Activities to practice handwriting skills at home
      • Tips and strategies for the reluctant writer
      • Tips to improve pencil grip
      • Tips for sizing, spacing, and alignment with overall improved legibility

      Click here to grab your copy of The Handwriting Book today.

      Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20+ years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

      All About Me Free Printable PDF

      all about me free printable pdf

      Today, I have an exciting free printable for back-to-school: An all about me free printable PDF! An all about me activity is a great way to get to know students at the beginning of a new school year, and this free all about me printable is a writing and drawing activity designed specifically to focus on handwriting skills while allowing kids to tell all about themselves. Just print it off and get to know your new students this school year!

      all about me free printable pdf

      All about me worksheet

      I wanted to create an all about me printable worksheet that is slightly different than the others you may find available online. This worksheet focuses on list writing, use of spaces on a page, and drawing skills.

      Here’s why: I wanted this resource to tell us more about the child’s specific interests and facts like birthdates…I wanted this about me worksheet to help the therapist or teacher gain knowledge about the child’s handwriting and spatial awareness skills.

      This all about me worksheet tells us several things about the student:

      • Favorite things
      • Draw myself
      • When I grow up
      • All about my family
      • My favorite quote

      While completing the all about me activity, kids can tell a bit about themselves as an icebreaker to a new school year. The best thing about this all about me activity sheet is that it covers a variety of topics and includes drawing and writing sentences. You can really screen a student’s writing skills, pencil control skills, and visual motor skills with this activity sheet.

      To make this all about me activity even more interactive, ask kids to bring in a few items from home that tell about themselves. Ideas can include favorite things, sports or hobbies, family members, pets, etc. As long as all of the items can fit inside a brown paper bag, kids can bring that in their backpack and share a bit about themselves as an activity ideas for the beginning of the school year.

      all about me free printable: Favorite Things List

      Students can list out their favorite things on the lined paper. The worksheet includes a list so they can write out their favorite foods, sports, animals, colors, etc. Kids have the choice to write a list of the things that are most important to them, making the sheet personalized and not a cookie cutter worksheet.

      When the student writes out a list of words on the about me sheet, we can see how they use lines, spatial awareness, margins, letter size, and formation in a list.

      All About Me Drawing

      Students can draw a picture of themselves in the given area and we can look at their eye-hand coordination, spatial relations, body awareness, and pencil control.

      All ABout Me Growing Up

      Students can write out what they want to be when they grow up on the writing lines. Not only can we take a look at their handwriting in this space, but we can then see their interest and focus learning and therapy activities on that functional task.

      This is a great space for writing sentences and paragraphs. Kids can work on these skills but it’s also a good opportunity to quickly assess how students use spatial awareness, margins, and line use when writing sentences that they create, or the creative writing aspect where students compose the sentences rather than copy them from a model.

      All About Me (and My Family)

      All about the student includes the family unit, too! Students can write or draw about their family in the open space, and we can take a look at detail orientation of the child. Also, we can then ask the child about sending home notes and home exercise programs to parents when they complete this section of the About Me worksheet.

      My Favorite Quote

      Finally, there is a space on the All About Me Worksheet for a favorite quote. Students can either write a quote that they like or can make up a personal saying that they enjoy. This space can tell us a lot about the child’s mindset, motivation, and mindfulness awareness.

      Free All About Me worksheets for students aged kindergarten through middle school. Use this for back to school handwriting tasks and getting to know new students at the start of a school year.

      All About Me Worksheet for Middle School

      This All About Me worksheet is great for both younger ages (kindergarten through third grade) because one sheet includes a double rule writing lines. The second page is a duplicate worksheet, but contains single rule writing lines, making it great for older students (fourth grade through middle school).

      There aren’t many about me handouts for older students, so it was important to me to create a writing activity for students using a smaller writing area.

      Free All About Me Worksheet

      Want a copy of this free all about me worksheet PDF? Enter your email address below and grab this printable freebie!

      FREE All About Me Worksheet

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        More Back-to-School Freebies

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        Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20+ years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

        How to Write C in Cursive

        How to Teach Cursive Letter C

        we’ve covered many cursive letter resources here on the site, and this blog on how to write c in cursive is one of the top! There’s a reason why: Cursive c is a building block for forming other cursive letters. After learning how to make cursive c, students can then easily transition to several other cursive letters! Let’s get started with how to teach cursive, starting with the lowercase letter c.

        How to Write C in Cursive

        Cursive handwriting can be a difficult thing to teach kids.  Today, I’m starting a new series on how to teach cursive letters in fun and creative ways.  

        In this series, we’re starting with how to write cursive c first.

        Letter “c” is one of the first letters that kids are taught when learning cursive. The letter is directly related to it’s printed counterpart.  The curve of the letter is one of the most basic pre-cursive strokes that are made and helps to build several other cursive letters (a, d, g, q, and o).    

        In the Loops and Other Groups cursive writing program, these letters are called Clock Climbers. They are the letters a, d, g, q, o which start with the cursive c formation. The lines “climb a clock” around a curve.

        The fact is that fluent cursive writing predicts high level spelling and
        composing skills, more so than manuscript or typing. And, in fact, studies show that test completed in cursive receive higher scores than those completed in manuscript.


        First up is how to make letter c in cursive.  This series will most definitely not be in alphabetical order for many reasons, mainly because the cursive writing alphabet is typically not taught in alphabetical order.  Rather, the letters are taught in groups of related pencil lines. This supports the motor plan of forming each individual letter and helps with carryover skills. Read more about this concept in our post on cursive letter families.

        Let’s start with addressing cursive letter c!

        In this blog post, images show use of raised line paper. While this type of adapted paper isn’t a must, the raised lines support development of line awareness when teaching this lowercase cursive letter formation.

        Teach kids how to make letter c in cursive with the tips in this cursive letter writing series, perfect for kids who are working on their handwriting.

        How to Teach c in Cursive:

        This post contains affiliate links. 

        Beginning Upstroke

        The beginning upstroke of the beginning lines in cursive “c” can be practiced in creative ways in order to help with re-trace when forming the curve of the letter.

        Curve up to make cursive c on raised line paper.

        There is research that shows teaching the cursive letter c like a cursive “i” with a hooked top, the carryover of legibility is better.    

        Re-trace-

        After forming the up-stroke of the letter, the curved top, and the re-trace back to the bottom of the letter, it is helpful to work on sliding the pencil along the baseline of the paper to develop letter connectors and to improve legibility.

        Practice-

        The final step of writing cursive c is to practice, practice, practice! When it comes to writing c in cursive, there are many tips that you can use. Try the activities listed below as well as these practice tips:

        Write Cursive C with Gross motor practice- Use whole body movements to practice formation. This can occur on the ground with chalk, on a dry erase board at the vertical, in the air with air writing, or using the ideas listed below.

        • Air writing
        • Ribbon wand writing
        • Sidewalk chalk
        • Laser pointer or flashlight writing
        • Writing tray
        • Vertically mounted chalk or white board
        • Rainbow writing- The child writes the letter in one color and then trace over it with another color. Continue to trace over the letter with each color of the rainbow. This can be done on a large scale with chalk, markers, etc.

         

        Teach cursive c by showing how the pencil traces back over the first line, or re-trace.

        Tips for helping kids stop at the baseline when writing the letter “c”: 

        Use a verbal prompt to bump the bottom line. Trace the baseline with a highlighter for a visual prompt.  Try some of these tricks for writing on the lines. 

        Establish a motor plan to make cursive c consistently

        After cursive letter c has been taught, the next step is multisensory exposure to the motor plan to complete the letter consistently. This establishes the kinesthetic input and practice trials. We cover this in more detail in a blog post on motor planning and handwriting.

        With different tactile and sensory-based movements of handwriting, repetitions allow information to be embedded in the brain.

        Here are some activities to work on cursive c:

         

         

        The Handwriting Book is a comprehensive resource created by experienced pediatric OTs and PTs.

        The Handwriting Book covers everything you need to know about handwriting, guided by development and focused on function. This digital resource is is the ultimate resource for tips, strategies, suggestions, and information to support handwriting development in kids.

        The Handwriting Book breaks down the functional skill of handwriting into developmental areas. These include developmental progression of pre-writing strokes, fine motor skills, gross motor development, sensory considerations, and visual perceptual skills. Each section includes strategies and tips to improve these underlying areas.

        • Strategies to address letter and number formation and reversals
        • Ideas for combining handwriting and play
        • Activities to practice handwriting skills at home
        • Tips and strategies for the reluctant writer
        • Tips to improve pencil grip
        • Tips for sizing, spacing, and alignment with overall improved legibility

        Click here to grab your copy of The Handwriting Book today.