Pencil Grasp Activities with Fine Motor Play

Helping kids with pencil grasp can be a complicated matter. Kids can hold the pencil too tightly or with an immature grasp no matter how many pencil grips you try. But, there is hope. These pencil grasp activities are fun ways to improve pencil grasp with fine motor play. By using play activities to help kids build a better pencil grasp, kids develop a grasp that is strong and dexterous in ways that carryover to holding a pencil. Try these tripod grasp activities to help kids with pencil grasp development. This is something that therapists want parents to know about pencil grasp development…that a functional pencil grasp might not look like a traditional tripod grasp…and that there are fun ways to work on grasp development!

pencil grasp activities

That said…this is the place for all things pencil grip activities that actually make a difference!

Pencil grasp activities for kids

Pencil Grasp

I love to share easy tricks to work on things like fine motor skills. Working on pencil grasp and the fine motor skills needed for handwriting are two of my favorite ways to build functional skills as an Occupational Therapist.  This blog post is a round up of some of the best pencil grasp activities and ways to develop a more functional pencil grasp through fine motor play activities.  I’ve updated this resource to include more recent pencil grip occupational therapy ideas and grasp activities that I’ve shared. 

A functional pencil grasp might not “look like” the traditional tripod grasp. One thing to read up on is grasp patterns, because this plays a huge role inholding the pencil.

Want to know how to fix a problem with pencil grasps? Need help knowing where to start when it comes to immature pencil grasps or a child hating to write because their hand hurts? The Pencil Grasp Challenge in open for you! In this free, 5 day email series, you’ll gain information, resources, specific activities designed to promote a functional, efficient pencil grasp.

Click here to join the Pencil Grasp Challenge.

Pencil grasp challenge to help kids improve their pencil grasp.
Pencil grip activities kids will love for playing while working on pencil grasp perfect for occupational therapy activities.

Improve Pencil Grasp with Fine Motor Play Ideas

First, if you’ve go questions about pencil grasp, check out this resource on building fine motor skills through play.  You will find TONS of info about the fine motor “parts” of a functional grasp.  

Try these awesome activities to improve pencil grasp through play and fine motor development.

Fine Motor Play Activities to Improve Pencil Grasp

We love incorporating fine motor activities into our play.  These posts are some of our favorites from the past year, and as a bonus, will help with the development of the small muscles of the hands.  An efficient grip on the pencil uses a tripod grasp (thumb, index, and middle fingers) with an open space between the thumb and index finger.    This grasp on the pencil allows kids to better form letters correctly and in a given small space using the fingers to make the pencil movements, vs. using the wrist or whole arm.  If your child is struggling with their handwriting, look first at their grasp on the pencil and go from there.  Try one of these activities for improved muscle strength and pencil control.  

If you are interested in improving pencil grasp, and wondering about all of the fine motor skills that impact a functional pencil grasp, you will definitely want to join the pencil grasp challenge. This free 5 day email series explains everything you want to know about pencil grasp activities that have a powerful impact. Click here to join the Pencil Grasp Challenge. 

Pencil activities to help kids write with a functional grasp

So let’s get moving on some of the best pencil grip activities that actually make a difference in a functional pencil grasp.

Pencil Grip Activities

We have many pencil grasp tricks up our sleeve as school based OTs…but there are many ways that you can target specific needs with fun and engaging pencil grip activities! Most of these ideas don’t even use a pencil. They target the underlying skill areas like hand strength, dexterity, and precision. Other tasks DO use a pencil though!

While these wouldn’t be specified in a manual dexterity goal, you would target functional skills of handwriting. These ideas are the play-based strategies, or tools.

Fine motor play idea that promotes pencil grasp with beads and play dough

Pencil Grasp Exercises with Play Dough is fun with these mini fluted flower beads.  They build a flexed thumb IP joint which is needed for an efficient pencil grasp. 

Strengthening activities for fine motor skills like handwriting activities

Hand Strengthening Exercises are fun with tongs! They are an easy tool to  build so many handwriting skills.

Fine motor play activity using tweezers made from craft sticks

These Craft Stick Tweezers build muscle strength, an open web space, and tripod grasp.

Use play dough and this free play dough mat to work on intrinsic muscle strength in the hands.

 Play Dough Strengthening Mat works on building the intrinsic muscle strength of the hands.

creative ways to build and work on a functional pencil grasp
Improve pencil grasp through fine motor play with blocks.

Fine Motor Development with Blocks is a great way to build many skills needed in handwriting.

Use coins to work on fine motor skills like in-hand manipulation

In Hand Manipulation with Coins can help build skills needed for pencil grasp like manipulating the pencil during letter formation.

Work on fine motor skills with paperclips to improve thumb opposition.

Thumb Opposition is an important skill needed for an open thumb web space and functional and efficient grasp on the pencil.

Mini Circles Pencil Control Exercises

Mini Circles Pencil Control Exercises help with building small motor movements and tripod grasp through improved intrinsic muscle strength.

Help kids with fine motor skills using small balls of play dough.

Finger Isolation with Play Dough helps with minute movements of the hands and individual finger movements in managing the pencil. 

Use clay to work on fine motor skills

Clay Exercises can help strengthen the muscles of the hand for increased endurance of pencil grasp.

Improve hand dominance using fine motor activities.

Motoric Separation of the Hand is essential for managing the pencil while utilizing the ulnar, stability side of the hand.

Kids can work on fine motor skills by playing with masking tape on a table surface.

Fine Motor Table-Top Play addresses intrinsic muscle strengthening.

Work on fine motor skills by playing with waterbeads

  In-Hand Manipulation: Two Activities In hand manipulation is necessary during pencil grasp to manipulate and advance the pencil while writing, as well as making adjustments with the pencil while erasing.  

Fine motor play using tissue paper

Fine Motor Play with Tissue Paper is a great way to build intrinsic muscle strength. Strength in the intrinsic muscles ensure a functional tripod grasp.

Make DIY lacing cards to help kids with fine motor skills.

DIY Lacing Cards improves bilateral coordination, needed for holding the paper while writing.

   

Use pipe cleaners to work on fine motor skills.

Pipe Cleaner Fun builds tripod grasp for use with handwriting.

Use clothespins to work on hand strength.

  Fine Motor Strengthening Color Match works on increasing the intrinsic muscle strength of the hands.

Make your own pencil control worksheets.

Pencil Control Worksheets You Can Make at Home These worksheets build pencil control, line awareness, and spatial awareness during handwriting.

   

Use dry pasta to work on fine motor dexterity

Learning With Dyed Pasta provides a fun activity for building eye hand coordination.

Play with coins to improve fine motor dexterity.

  Manipulating Coins for Fine Motor Development is a great way to work on in-hand manipulation needed for manipulating the pencil during handwriting.    

Tracing letters with sidewalk chalk improves hand strength.

Rainbow Writing provides a resistive writing surface, providing proprioceptive feedback and a way to work on motor planning in letter formation, as well as tripod grasp on the pencil.  

Use Wikki Stix to build hand strenth

Tripod Grasp with Wikki Stix Pushing the wikki stix into the container works on tripod grasp and intrinsic muscle strength, as well as bilateral coordination.  

Use pipe cleaners and a plastic bottle to work on tripod grasp.

Using Pipe Cleaners in Fine Motor Play also improves intrinsic muscle strength and bilateral coordination with a brightly colored stick.  Using the plastic bottle provides great auditory feedback.  

Here is more information on pencil control and distal mobility in handwriting.

Here are games to improve pencil grasp.

Creative ways to work on pencil grasp

tripod grasp activities

Working on tripod grasp is fun when you add activities! Some tripod grasp activities that strengthen the intrinsic muscles of the hand include:

  • Tearing paper
  • Playing with tweezers
  • Dropping coins into a bank or slot
  • Rolling balls of play dough
  • Pushing paper clips onto paper
pencil grip occupational therapy ideas for fine motor skills and pencil grasp

More ways to support this skill include the ones below.

developing pencil grip activities

The ideas listed below are simple tasks you can do to help kids with developing pencil grip. These are the ideas OTs usually have on hand.

Creative ways to work on pencil grasp
Teaching pencil grasp? Use these fun fine motor activities to improve pencil grasp through play.

Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

Sensory Handwriting Backyard Summer Camp

Have you ever thought about running a handwriting tutor session or a Summer handwriting camp? A handwriting camp is a great way to support the Summer slide when it comes to handwriting skills, or work on a few handwriting activities in fun and engaging ways over the summer months. For school based OT practitioners, this is a great summer work opportunity too!

how to run a handwriting summer camp

How to Run a Summer Handwriting Camp

There are a lot of different ways you could go about this…I have personally run handwriting sessions in different ways. In this blog post, we’ll cover a few different ideas. Some might work better for you!

  • Handwriting tutoring- Reach out to your current caseload (the ones that may benefit) with the option to enroll in cash based tutoring sessions. This is just like summer tutoring that teachers offer. You may want to consider offering this option to a counselor in the school that has a list of teachers that offer tutoring because parents ask for a list of tutors all the time. Why shouldn’t your name be on that list too?
  • Run a summer camp. Set this up in a park, at a local rental space, or other location. Outdoor handwriting is a great idea for developing skills! You could incorporate kinesthetic learning activities and outdoor sensory activities.
  • Run sessions throughout the summer- This would be weeklong sessions (already outlined with specific activities in mind) and parents could sign up for one or more of the sessions.
  • Just offer summer handwriting activities– This could be in a camp style or even a backyard summer camp type of session.

Summer Handwriting Camp Ideas

Summer is a time of relaxation, lazy play, and freedom for kids.  It can be a time of sliding backward in skills like handwriting, too.  While it’s important to remain free of schedules over the summer and allow kids to just be kids, there can be a need for some kids to maintain skills to prevent a loss of skills.  

These sensory handwriting activities are a fun way to incorporate the senses into handwriting practice, in a fun way.  I’ve created sensory-based handwriting activities that can be used to create a DIY backyard summer camp at home.



Use these ideas to work on handwriting skills through the senses!

sensory summer camp at home idea for handwriting summer camp for kids using all of the senses to prevent the summer slide.

You’ll also be interested in our new Summer Occupational Therapy Activities Packet. It’s a collection of 14 items that guide summer programming at home, at school, and in therapy sessions. The summer activities bundle covers handwriting, visual perceptual skills and visual motor skills, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, regulation, and more.

You’ll find ideas to use in virtual therapy sessions and to send home as home activities that build skills and power development with a fun, summer theme. Kids will love the Summer Spot It! game, the puzzles, handouts, and movement activities. Therapists will love the teletherapy slide deck and the easy, ready-to-go activities to slot into OT sessions. The packet is only $10.00 and can be used over and over again for every student/client!

Grab the Summer Occupational Therapy Activities Packet HERE.

summer occupational therapy activities for kids

Tips to be a Handwriting Tutor

This post contains affiliate links.

Before beginning handwriting tutoring sessions, or a handwriting camp, you’ll want to create a few pieces of paperwork. Important papers such as disclaimers, waivers, and intake information can cover a few important issues as a handwriting tutor, handwriting coach, or handwriting camp. 

  1. Identify if you are using your therapy license or not? This is an important item to cover from the very start. Identify the scope of the handwriting tutoring sessions or camp sessions. If they are going to be considered under the scope of occupational therapy, there are certain considerations to be addressed. These are not to be considered therapy, unless you are actually doing an occupational therapy evaluation and creating a specific course of treatment. In these cases, fees for therapy or insurance can be collected, and you would operate under your license. Occupational therapy assistants would need to work under supervision of an occupational therapist. If the sessions would be operating without evaluation, assessment, and individualized interventions, then the scope of the sessions can occur under general tutoring or camp activities. In both situations, a disclaimer explaining these specifics should be created (next item).
  2. Disclaimer- Create a disclaimer that covers the scope of the tutoring or camp sessions.
  3. What will you cover in tutoring/handwriting camp? Identify the scope of tutoring content or handwriting summer camp content. Are you going to be covering letter formation? Simply handwriting practice? The importance of cursive writing? Cursive letter formation? Copying skills? Functional handwriting? Pencil grasp? Fine motor skills? Free writing?
  4. Waiver- Create a waiver that covers liability and removes yourself from any liability issues as a tutor or camp creator. There are many waiver and liability templates available, or you can reach out to a local attorney.
  5. Intake paperwork- Create paperwork for collecting information from parents. This should include name, contact information, special considerations such as allergies, emergency contact information, etc.
  6. Handwriting Camp Plans- Create a plan for handwriting tutoring or handwriting camp sessions. See below for ideas for each handwriting camp session.
  7. Collect money- Determine how you will be collect money to paid for tutoring sessions. A great tool that I have used in the past is SendOwl. You can create an account and create a “product” that is listed as a service. For an average of $20/month, you can have a way to collect income, sales pages, and market to your list month after month.

Handwriting tutoring or Handwriting Camp Plans

After you’ve created the logistics of the camp or tutoring session, it’s important to come up with a plan for general tutoring or camp sessions. You can create a plan for the entire camp that covers several weeks so that you’ve got ideas Try these tips to keep handwriting summer camps fun and stress-free.

  1. Identify what will be covered in the handwriting camp/handwriting tutoring.

Start by identifying what you’ll be covering in tutoring sessions or handwriting camp sessions. These are general topics and can be used with any student no matter the level (this is important if you are not going to be doing an evaluation and treatment plan and operating under your license).

Some topics for handwriting camps and handwriting tutoring sessions can include:

You can also consider a theme for the camp or handwriting sessions. Some ideas include an outer space camp theme or a circus summer camp theme.

2. Next come up with a schedule for handwriting camp sessions or handwriting tutoring:

Start off sessions with movement, play, and activities that build skills through play. Below are some ideas for the schedule of a tutoring or handwriting camp session:

  • Use lots of movement breaks and brain break activities.  Try to keep written work tasks as movement oriented as possible. 
  • Start each mini-session with gross motor activities: crab walks, jumping jacks, heavy work, or vestibular games.
  • Move on to fine motor movement activities, incorporating proprioception, and dexterity tasks.
  • Proceed to handwriting activities, keeping them as fun and activity-based as possible.  Incorporate several of the senses into written work, allowing the children to involve as many senses as possible in each mini-session. Limit written work activities to 15-20 minutes. You can use our free Handwriting printables and resources available on the website. See all of our Free Handwriting Resources HERE
  • Try using some handwriting games to keep the motor skill work fun and engaging.
  • Encourage 10 minutes of journal writing or letter writing.
  • Use these Summer Writing Lists for quick list writing that build handwriting skills
  • Finish with movement activities, using whole-body games like playing catch, batting a balloon, jumping rope, or kicking a ball. 
sensory summer camp at home idea for handwriting summer camp for kids using all of the senses to prevent the summer slide.

Summer Handwriting Camp Ideas



When it comes to handwriting, the motor sensory systems have a HUGE input in terms of handwriting ability, legibility, and fluency.  

START HERE for learning more about sensory processing and handwriting; This is everything you need to know about handwriting and sensory concerns.


I will be the first to admit: There are not too many kids out there who want to work on handwriting during their summer break.  The trick to building or maintaining skills it to make it fun.  Here are a bunch of ideas for motivating kids to write.


Once you’ve got some ideas to incorporating handwriting into summer days, you can try a few sensory strategies for practicing written work.  Try the handwriting ideas below to making written work fun using the senses.


Tactile Sensory Handwriting Ideas:

  • Pressing Too Hard When Writing Proprioception Tips is the perfect post if you are looking for tips on writing with too much (or too little) pencil pressure.
  • Fizzy Dough Cursive Letters uses the sense of touch with tactile exploratory input with fizzy, sensory letter formation.
  • Sensory Letter Formation Work on letter formation using dish soap in this tactile and olfactory letter learning and writing activity.
  • Fidget tips and tools can be used for kids who are constantly fidgeting during writing activities.
  • Write in shaving cream on a plastic tablecloth.
  • Practice letters while writing in oobleck.
  • Use mess-free sensory bags.
  • Form letters in a sand tray, salt tray, sugar tray, cornmeal tray, or flour.
  • Write with wet chalk.

Auditory Sensory Handwriting Ideas:

  • Write in the air letters while singing.
  • Use Encourage singing or humming during written work.
  • Use headphones to block out sounds or to provide background noise.
  • Practice written work from an auditory source.  
  • Take handwriting activities outdoors to the backyard, and notice birds chirping, cars, dogs barking, etc.
  • Minimize auditory distractions for other children.
  • Ask children to repeat the directions.
  • Use visual cues such as index cards with written directions.
  • Handwriting on Foam Craft Sticks and letters and coffee filters use the auditory sense when writing.  Whisper, tell, yell, rhyme, or sing the letters as your child writes them.

Olfactory Sensory Handwriting Ideas:

Proprioception Handwriting Ideas:

  • Start with these ideas  for understanding the basics of the proprioception sense and its impact on handwriting.
  • Write on a resistive surface.
  • Form letters with push pins on a lid.
  • Write with chalk on a driveway or rocks.  Try rainbow writing with chalk.
  • Write while laying on a trampoline. TIP: Use a clipboard.
  • Use a therapy ball to sit on, lay on, and write on.
  • Practice letter formation and pencil pressure by lacing a sheet of paper over a foam computer mouse pad. If pressing too hard, the pencil point will poke through the paper. 
  • vibrating pen provides sensory feedback to the fingers and hand and helps to keep children focused on the task. 
  • Practice handwriting by placing a sheet of paper over a piece of sandpaper. The resistance of the sandpaper is great heavy work for small muscles of the hand. 
  • Practice Ghost Writing: Encourage the child to write very lightly on paper and then erase the words without leaving any marks. The adult can try to read the words after they’ve been erased. If the words are not able to be read, the writer wins the game. 
  • This will provide the child with awareness and words for the way they are holding the pencil. 
  • Wrap a bit of play dough or putty around the pencil as a grip. Encourage the child to hold the pencil with a grasp that does not press deeply into the dough. Encourage using a “just right” pressure. 
  • Provide terms for they way they write. Encourage “just right” writing and not “too hard” or “too soft” marks. 
  • Use a lead pencil to color in a small picture, using light gray, medium gray, and dark gray. Talk about how using different amounts of pressure changes the shade of gray. 
  • Practice writing with a pen on thin paper surfaces such as napkins and tissue paper.

Vestibular Sensory Handwriting Ideas

  • Write while laying in the slide. Try using the slide as a writing surface while the child is lying on their belly.  Try both head towards the top of the slide and head towards the bottom of the slide.
  • Try a wiggle seat cushion such as a balance disc or a wobble chair.
  • Try sitting in a rocking chair, using a clipboard to write on.

Gustatory Sensory Handwriting Ideas

  • Form letters with taste-safe play dough.
  • Use bread dough to form letters.  Bake and eat.
  • Write in pudding.
  • Try taste-testing handwriting activities:  Try practicing writing while the student is chewing gum, or sucking on hard candy.  Other ideas include: chewing licorice, sour candy, chewy gummy candy, lollipops, or crunchy pretzels.  These types of oral sensory input are organizing. With the children, see if they notice improved concentration and written work output with these types of oral sensations.

Visual Sensory Handwriting Ideas

  • Write with highlighters.
  • Write with a flashlight in a darkened room.
  • Write with sparklers in the evening. (Use glow sticks for a safer option.)
  • Make a DIY light box.

 Sensory Summer Camp at Home themes

What do you think?

Have you thought about running an occupational therapy summer camp or a sensory summer camp? Maybe you’re thinking about targeting clients or just creating a group activity for non-clients as part of summer programming. Let me know if you’ve done any of the activities listed here. And, tell me…What are some awesome occupational therapy summer camp ideas you’ve had or sensory summer camp strategies that you’ve used?

 

Want to take summer play to the next level? Be sure to grab your copy of the Summer OT Activities Bundle!

Summer activities for kids

Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

Margins in Handwriting

Trouble with margins in handwriting

Occupational therapists work on many aspects of handwriting to ensure that legible writing is a functional means of communication for children and students. One aspect of that is addressing the margins in handwriting. When margins are omitted or neglected, handwriting moves from functional to difficult to read.

Poor use of margins when copying written material is a handwriting problem that looks like different things. When using margins is difficult in handwriting, it leads to illegibility and trouble copying written work.

Margins in handwriting

One thing that comes up frequently in school based OT, is the use of margins when writing. I’ve worked with many students that struggle with knowing to move their pencil to the next line when writing. Other students cram letters into the right margin of the page and then move to the next line only to slightly move over a bit. This means that the left margin slowly creeps across the page.

You’ve seen it before.  A child is writing a journal entry or a writing response on a piece of paper and each line of the paragraph creeps in toward the center of the page.

The margins in their handwriting are just all over the place! By the end of the passage, the left margin is half way across the page. You might see them start halfway across the page and try to squash letters in by the time they get to the right side of the page.

It’s hard to read and even the kiddo has trouble reading back over their work. The thing is, the student may not even be aware they are writing like this…

When a child has poor use of margins when writing, there is typically a problem with spatial organization and page orientation.

Decreased spatial awareness can happen due to trouble with visual perceptual awareness.  

It may carry over to handwriting that appears very messy with words that are squashed up against one another or spaced with very large spaces between letters.  

what are margins in writing

Margins are the edges of the paper. When we write, we move our pencil up to the edge of the right side of the paper, but we stop before we move to the next line to continue writing.

The right margin on a page is where the student will stop writing, but so often, I’ve seen students that cram words right up to the edge of the paper because they can’t conceptualize how much space is needed to fit the word onto that line of the paper. They might end up cramming the whole word so the letters are very small or squished up to the edge of the page.

The left margin is the edge of the page where the next line begins on the paper. I’ve also seen many students who write or copy a list of words, or are writing a paragraph on lined paper. When they move to the next line, the move their pencil over just slightly because they are aligning the word with the written material on the line above. Eventually, you see a margin that creeps across the page toward the middle of the page.

Why kids struggle with margins in handwriting

So, why do we see those handwriting samples where the lines of written work slowly creep over to the middle of the page? With each line that the student writes, they start writing just a bit more away from the margin?

There could be a few different things going on here that impact margin use:

1. There could be a visual perception difficulty going on. Visual perceptual skills could lead to trouble with margin use. Specifically, it could be a problem with visual spatial relations. Spatial relations, or poor spatial awareness difficulties shows up frequently in handwriting.

This presents as poor spacing between letters and words, poor use of margins, or written work that drifts in toward the center of the page. Kids may struggle with knowing when to stop writing on the end of a line of the page and try to squash the material in rather than stopping to move to the next line.

Left to right use of paper or writing spaces on worksheets can be a problem. Other size aspects of handwriting including letter size, placement of letter “parts”, and consistency in sizing can be difficult for the child with visual spatial concerns.

Visual spatial relations can also impact placement of objects or the child’s body parts in relation to other objects, other people, or in movement. This can show up as poor coordination, poor balance, poor self-awareness, poor self-confidence, and even impaired social emotional relations.

Spatial awareness is the ability to perceive the world around one’s self and position themselves or objects accordingly.  Awareness of space relates a lot to the proprioceptive and vestibular systems as well as the visual system.  

A child who demonstrates poor spatial awareness in handwriting tasks most likely shows some variances of difficulty with gross motor movement, understanding directions, abstract concepts, and language.  

2. There could be an oculomotor component. The movement of the eyes in activities is complex! When we see issues with margins, there could be a couple of oculomotor issues happening. At a  basic level, the eyes move to take in information and process that information for use.

One oculomotor skill that may be in play with margin trouble are visual saccades/visual scanning. Saccades are the ability to visually scan information. Saccades require the ability to fixate on information in the visual fields.

Saccadic movement, or more commonly known as visual saccades, is the ability of the eyes to move in synchrony from point A to point B rapidly WITHOUT deviating from the path. When kids move their eyes to the next line of a paper, they jump to the nearest anchor (which will be the letter above on the last line of text they just wrote.) They will then scoot their pencil over and under that letter, resulting in written work that drifts in toward the middle of the page. Here is more information on visual saccades and learning.

We cover more about oculomotor skills and how they result in functional issues in reading, writing, and daily activities in the free Visual Processing Lab here on The OT Toolbox. 

3. It might be developmental. In this case, kids just need more experience with writing paragraphs of text. They place their written material anywhere on the page or drift over on the line when starting to write. Visual and verbal cues…and more practice can help.

Even children without visual perception difficulties may tend to drift their handwriting in toward the middle of the page as they write paragraphs.  This is especially apparent in free writing, journal writing, or writing prompts.  You will see that children who are developing their ability to form thoughts in paragraph form. As they write, it is common to see the lines start to drift toward the middle of the page. Here is more information on development of eye-hand coordination.

3. It might be speed of writing or visual inattention. Basically, you might see a kiddo who just isn’t paying attention when they are writing. In this case, students might be writing so quickly that they are focusing on the content of the writing versus the layout of the page and where they are placing their written work.

This happens when kids are taking notes and trying to quickly get the information on the page. You may also see the lines of text drifting over during free writing or timed writing tasks. In these cases, a visual cue can help but it might just take a verbal prompt. Point out how the margins are creeping over and see if that helps. Here is more information on visual attention.

4. Look at reflexes. One thing that might be contributing to margin use is a retained ATNR reflex. Check out our resource on retained primitive reflexes. Here is information on primitive reflexes in general and how these movement reflexes impact function.

5. Look at midline crossing. Delays with crossing midline can impact movement across the page as the student writes. Read about midline and then try some of these midline activities. In this case, bringing attention to the margin can help. Use the strategies we have listed at the bottom of the page.

 
 
Use a highlighted line to mark the margin in handwriting tasks, to help kids with spatial awareness.
 
 
 
 

Visual Processing Checklist

 
This visual processing checklist can be a helpful tool in screening for visual processing difficulties prior to a full evaluation. It can be a way to collect qualitative information to include in assessment write-ups as well. 
 
 

Tips for Handwriting Margins

Today, I’ve got some tips for helping with spatial awareness in handwriting, including how to help with margins when writing. These tips can help kids with writing on the paper and using handwriting that is legible so they can come back and read what they’ve written. (And so the teacher or parent can read that handwriting too!)

Visual perceptual skills are needed for so many functional skills. You’ll find easy and fun ways to work on visual perceptual skills through play here. These are creative ways to work on the underlying issues that might be playing into trouble with margin use in handwriting as a result of spatial awareness difficulties.

 This post contains affiliate links.


QUICK tips for improving spatial awareness:

For some of the issues mentioned above, such as an underlying visual perceptual or oculomotor problems, further help and interventions will be needed. Seek out assessment from an occupational therapist for individualized treatment and intervention plans. Use of our visual processing checklist to help to identify a specific area related to visual processing needs.

The strategies that I’ve listed below are tools for helping students use margins when writing and copying onto paper. I love using some of the visual prompts because it helps to draw visual attention toward the prompt. Some of the strategies below are fun for kids and unexpected, so that visual prompt helps them to remember where to start or stop their pencil along the margins.

Try some of these strategies to help with margins:

  • There are ways to accommodate for difficulties with spatial awareness.  One quick tip is to use a highlighted left margin.  This is a great way for those kids whose writing drifts over to the middle of the page as they write or kids who start in the middle of the page.  
  • Use stickers placed along the right margin of  to cue the student that they are nearing the edge of paper when writing.  
  • Draw a line down the left margin for a starting point. Then use a different color to draw a vertical line down the right margin.
  • Place a thin piece of tape along the left margin. This can serve as a visual and physical cue as the place to start writing. It’s a visual anchor that helps with visual scanning.
  • Draw boxes for words on worksheets for them to write within.
  • Place small green dots on each line along the left margin. These are the “green lights” so students know where to start writing. Place small red dots on each line along the right margin. These are “red lights” so students know where to stop writing.
  • Spacing Tools for spacing between words or letters.
  • Draw a red stop sign at the right margin.
  • Try using graph paper for writing. Here is some Graph paper on Amazon. Try 1/2 inch wide rule first.
  • Raised line paper
  • Slant board
  • Slant the paper on the desk and work on writing posture.
  • Try smaller width of lines instead of primary paper.
  • RediSpace paper has a green line along the left margin and a red line along the right margin.
  • Try using a spacing tool pointer stick.  You can easily make your own!
  • Take a look at the ATNR. This could also be an issue impacting margin use.
 
 
 
Handwriting sample with poor margins and spatial awareness in writing task.
Kids can use handwriting accommodations for poor spatial awareness and margins in handwriting.
 
 

This activity is part of our month-long handwriting series where we are sharing creative and easy ways to address common handwriting issues in our 30 Easy Quick Fixes for Better Handwriting series.

Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

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.

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 by focusing on grasp pattern development through play!

Amazon affiliate links are included in this blog post. As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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. While not necessary…a functional grasp works, too…a tripod grasp is a term we’ve probably all heard described before.  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: (affiliate link) 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 (affiliate link) 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: (affiliate link) Lacing cards are a great way to encourage a tripod grasp.  This set of Lacing Shapes (affiliate link) 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: (affiliate link) Grasping pegs encourage a tripod grasp especially while pushing them into the holes of a peg board.  Here are homemade pegboard ideas and even a precision pegboard you can make using perler beads (see below).

This Lauri Tall-Stacker Pegs Building Set (affiliate link) 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 (affiliate link) from Perler.

Spike the Fine Motor Hedge Hog– (affiliate link) 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– (affiliate link) 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 intrinsic muscles 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 (affiliate link) from Learning Resources is a colorful way to encourage an open web space.  The vertical surface is perfect for encouraging an extended wrist.

Bead Sets: (affiliate link) 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 (affiliate link) 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: (affiliate link) 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 (affiliate link) 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:  (affiliate link) 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 (affiliate link) 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: (affiliate link) 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(affiliate link) 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: (affiliate link) 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 (affiliate link) 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:(affiliate link) 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 (affiliate link) from Melissa and Doug is a fun way to encourage hand strength and endurance for coloring and writing.

Geoboard Activities– (affiliate link) 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– (affiliate link) 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: (affiliate link) 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 (affiliate link) 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: (affiliate link) The Ker Plunk Game (affiliate link) 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-(affiliate link) 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 (affiliate link) 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!

peg board building toy with text reading " pencil grasp toy"

Pencil Grasp Toy Giveaway

Today’s toy item is a (affiliate link) Peg Board Set.

As we discussed before with handwriting skills, children may strongly dislike working on their pencil grip if they struggle with handwriting. Therefore, activities need to be meaningful and motivating to keep the child engaged! With the Peg Board Building Set, children have the chance to be creative and build pegboard towers while also working on their pencil grasp without even realizing it! Grasping the pegs will encourage them to use a tripod grasp, especially when pushing them into the holes of the peg board! With 100 pegs in this set, the creations are endless!

Want to enter our Therapy Toys and Tools Giveaway for a chance to win a pencil grasp toy? Enter your email address into the form below. You’ll also get a free printable list of pencil grasp toys.

This giveaway runs from 12-5-23 through 12-5-23. A winner will be chosen on 12-6-2023.

Pencil Grasp Toy Giveaway

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

    Enter all the giveaways here:

    Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

    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.

    Amazon affiliate links are included in this blog post. As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases.

    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.

    Related is the visual figure ground piece, which allows us to pull visual information from a busy background, and track that visual input.  

    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 slant, 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 (affiliate link) 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. (affiliate link)  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.

    More 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 (affiliate link) to work on visual fixation of shapes and sizes of shapes. 

    This Wooden Tangram Puzzle (affiliate link) 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 (affiliate link)
    or a labrynth (affiliate link).

    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 (affiliate link) 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 (affiliate link)can for visual tracking and form tracking.

    More visual Tracking Toys

    These visual tracking toys are Amazon affiliate links.

    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!

    Therapist-Recommended
    VISUAL TRACKING TOYS HANDOUT

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

      Rainbow Writing Letter Formation Activity

      Colorful letter As and lowercase a's with overlapping colors. Text reads "rainbow writing"

      This quick and easy rainbow writing activity is an easy handwriting activity to working on letter formation and letter construction.  Rainbow writing handwriting is a strategy to work on letter formation as a multisensory learning activity for kids. This handwriting activity is an Easy Handwriting strategy that can be so helpful in teaching letter formation and pencil control. 

      rainbow writing

      You can practice letters with rainbow writing using different utensils. We used rainbow writing with chalk before too.

      What is Rainbow Writing

      Rainbow writing might be a handwriting activity that you’ve heard of before. Many times, we see rainbow writing as an option for practicing sight words or high frequency words, especially as a multi-sensory learning options.

      Typically, you’ll see rainbow writing as one way that kids can practice writing words and letters: They are asked to write the words in a color of the rainbow and then trace over those letters with another color, thus making a rainbow of letters.

      Rainbow writing is a great strategy for practicing handwriting! Kids get multiple attempts at forming letters, working on motor planning, pencil placement, and repetition (practice) that very much plays a part in handwriting legibility.

      Things to Watch for with Rainbow Writing

      Color mixing rainbow writing activity for helping kids with letter formation

      When tracing, there are some things to consider. Especially with rainbow writing, kids can develop bad letter formation habits. Read through this resource on tracing sheets to see the pros and cons of tracing with kids.

      Some things you’ll want to consider about rainbow writing activities:

      • Be sure to watch how the student starts the letters when they rainbow write. It can be easy to start a poor muscle memory for writing the letters if they start at the wrong starting point or form the letters incorrectly. When they rainbow write each letter and it progressively gets worse, this can create an incorrect motor plan in the handwriting process.
      • Make sure the child that is using rainbow writing to practice letters don’t progressively move their pencil in bigger and bigger strokes as they include each color.
      • Some kids tend to make the rainbow letters with colors next to each other like a rainbow rather than tracing on top of each color. Ask the student to make a mixed up rainbow by tracing right on top of each color.

      How to use Rainbow Writing for handwriting

      Rainbow writing is a way to work on legibility of written work.

      Helping kids write letters with correct letter formation is essential for legibility, especially as kids get older and are required to produce more written work at a faster rate.  Consider the high school student that needs to rapidly jot down notes.  If letters are formed from bottom to top or in sections, their speed and legibility will drastically drop. Sometimes it is speed OR legibility  that suffers when a child needs to produce more amounts of written work in a specific period of time (i.e. copying down notes as a teacher rattles off details.    

      The younger student will be affected by inaccuracies in letter formation as well. Around the third grade, students are responsible for jotting down their homework assignments into a planner.  

      When the child is bombarded by classroom sensory input (pencil sharpeners, students, desk chairs moving, hallway distractions, coughing classmates…) difficulties with letter formation can result in illegible homework lists and trouble with re-reading the assignment list when the student attempts to start on homework.  

      Rainbow Writing Color Changing Activity

      There’s more to rainbow writing than incorporating colors and sensory experiences into handwriting. Color Mixing Rainbow Writing is a creative way to help kids learn the right way to actually form letters, because the task allows children to self-correct their written work right in the moment.

      They can see where their letter formation has veered into poor letter size or placement. Rainbow writing then becomes a strategy to improve motor planning in handwriting and pencil control as well.    

      Affiliate links are included below.

      In the handwriting activity shared here, we are taking rainbow writing a step further.

      This letter formation activity is really simple and a LOT of fun.  Kids can work on typical motor pattern of letters by exploring color mixing.  

      MATERIALS for Rainbow Writing

      When you rainbow write, a student can use different colors of crayons, markers, colored pencils, or even chalk. You can use colors of the rainbow, or if you want to work on color changing, use just a couple of the colors.

      • You’ll need just three markers for this activity.   
      • Red, Yellow and Blue markers  are all you need to work on letter formation with color mixing.  We used dollar store markers, but also tried these washable markers (affiliate link- As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases.) and the activity worked too. 

      How to rainbow write with color changing

      1. For this activity, you’ll need to first write the letters that you are working on in one color. Then, using another color, trace over the letters to create a new color.  

      2. Mixing the yellow and red made orange letters and mixing the yellow and blue markers made green letters.  

      Kids can work on letter formation but experience the color changing of the markers when they write over letters in different colors.

      Some different options to try with this rainbow writing activity:

      • Use just 2 colors so kids can try mixing two primary colors to see what the colors make
      • Not when the colors do not change: did they marker lines go off the lines? Can letters be written again or can the student try again to make the colors change?
      • Some kids may benefit from a model that is written in one color by the teacher, therapist, or parent. Then, the student can try to keep their letters on the lines to ensure proper size, spacing, and formation
      • Try making color coded messages to one another using the color changing activity
      • Work on phonetic awareness, by making vowels or phenomes one color and consonants or letter blends another color.
      Rainbow Writing Activity with Color mixing for handwriting.

       

      Tips for Rainbow Writing

      Because kids can develop bad habits with rainbow writing, here are some things to keep in mind.

      1. Work on letter formation with this activity by providing kids with the amount of assistance they need to form letters correctly.  At first, they may need verbal, physical, and visual cues to form letters correctly.
      2. Encourage students to form the letters from top to bottom and in the correct way.  When they re-trace the letters with a second color, be sure they are forming and tracing the letters correctly.    
      3. When kids trace over the colors, they will be forming letters slowly in order to trace over the letters and ensuring the colors mix.  
      4. By tracing over the lines to form letters, they are building the typical motor patterns needed to write the letters correctly and efficiently.  

      We worked on cursive letters with this activity, but it would work very well with printed letters, particularly letters that are typically reversed or confused like b and d reversals.  

      Here is more information on letter reversals to consider.

      Color mixing rainbow writing activity for helping kids with letter formation

       Looking for more creative ways to work on handwriting?  Check out these creative ways to help kids work on their written work:  

      Functional Handwriting Practice Ideas

      What is Visual Spacing

      Visual Tracking Tips and Tools

      Handwriting Spacing Tool and Spatial Awareness Tips and Tools

      DIY Dry Erase Board Handwriting Travel Kit

      Colors Handwriting Kit

      Rainbow Handwriting Kit– This resource pack includes handwriting sheets, write the room cards, color worksheets, visual motor activities, and so much more. The handwriting kit includes:

      • Write the Room, Color Names: Lowercase Letters
      • Write the Room, Color Names: Uppercase Letters
      • Write the Room, Color Names: Cursive Writing
      • Copy/Draw/Color/Cut Color Worksheets
      • Colors Roll & Write Page
      • Color Names Letter Size Puzzle Pages
      • Flip and Fill A-Z Letter Pages
      • Colors Pre-Writing Lines Pencil Control Mazes
      • This handwriting kit now includes a bonus pack of pencil control worksheets, 1-10 fine motor clip cards, visual discrimination maze for directionality, handwriting sheets, and working memory/direction following sheet! Valued at $5, this bonus kit triples the goal areas you can work on in each therapy session or home program.

      Click here to get your copy of the Colors Handwriting Kit.

      Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

      Tracing Letters with Chalk

      chalk lines overlapping to make letter z in several colors of chalk. Text reads "chalk tracing"

      Have you heard of rainbow writing? How about chalk rainbow writing? There are many fine motor and visual motor skills that are used when using rainbow writing as a handwriting practice strategy! Let’s break down what rainbow writing is and how this chalk writing activity is a skill-builder for letter formation. Also check out our handwriting library for more ideas.

      tracing letters with chalk

      Tracing letters with chalk is a handwriting practice strategy that helps to build muscle memory when learning letter formations. You can rainbow write on paper or with different utensils such as crayons, colored pencils, markers, or chalk!

      Tracing Letters with Chalk

      Tracing letters with chalk is a colorful way to practice letter formation. The strategy builds skills in visual motor and hand eye coordination in order to trace over the lines of a letter.

      When you use chalk tracing to practice a letter or a word, the child traces over the letter with each color of the rainbow.

      They will end up with 6 or 7 trials in writing over the letter.

      Some things to consider with tracing with chalk

      Tracing over letters with chalk, crayons, or colored pencils is a powerful strategy when practicing letter formation and the line awareness needed for letter size and line placement.

      Read through this resource on tracing sheets to see the pros and cons of tracing with kids.

      Some things you’ll want to consider about chalk tracing writing activities:

      • Be sure to watch how the student starts the letters. It can be easy to start a poor muscle memory for writing the letters if they start at the wrong starting point or form the letters incorrectly. This creates an incorrect motor plan in the handwriting process.
      • Make sure the letters don’t progressively get worse as the student traces over the letters when rainbow writing.
      • Some kids tend to make the rainbow letters with colors next to each other like a rainbow rather than tracing on top of each color. Ask the student to make a mixed up rainbow by tracing right on top of each color.

      Rainbow Writing with chalk

      We did rainbow writing with chalk one day. This was a great way to work on letter formation while outside because there was the added benefit of playing on the ground.

      Using chalk to practice letters supports development by adding proprioceptive input through the core, strengthens the shoulder girdle for adding more stability for writing, as well as adding strength and stability to the wrist. It’s also a great way to focus on wrist range of motion exercises in a fun way.

      Upper body strength in this way supports distal finger dexterity and mobility needed for writing.

      Chalk Rainbow Writing

      This chalk tracing activity was a lot of fun.

      We have a big ol’ bucket of chalk that we play with almost everyday.  Our sidewalk and driveway have been know to be very colorful at times!  We took the chalk to our sidewalk squares one day this week and practiced a little letter formation.

      Our sidewalk squares were the perfect area to practice forming letters accurately.  I used simple verbal cues to describe the formation of each letter (big line down, little curve around, little line) and we started in the corner of each square as we made the letters. 

      I made the letter first and Big Sister and Little Guy watched.  Then we went to work making our letters very colorful!

      Tracing the letters over and over again was a great way to practice accurate formation.  Big Sister got into this activity.  Little Guy only wanted to make a few letters that are in his name.

      When the child is tracing the letters over and over again, they become more efficient at planning out and executing the movements needed to make a letter accurately.  This activity is great for a new writer because they are given a confined space to practice a letter, and visual cues (and verbal prompts from mom).

       

       
       
       

      Use the activities and ideas in The Handwriting Book for more ways to work on writing skills.

      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 has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

      Cursive Writing Order to Teach Cursive Letters

      order to teach cursive letters

      Did you know there is a specific order to teach cursive letters to promote cursive writing legibility and carryover of cursive handwriting? Occupational therapy providers work with the occupation of handwriting and cursive letters are part of that process. In this post, you’ll learn about cursive writing order to teach letters of the alphabet, including the Handwriting Without Tears letter order for teaching cursive. The order that kids should learn the cursive alphabet, including print letter patterns that are directly transferable to cursive alphabet letters.

      order to teach cursive letters

      Using a developmental approach to teaching cursive letters supports children and sets them up for success.

      order to teach cursive letters


      The order that cursive letters are taught is based on development of skills. Just like the order to teach printed letter formation is based on development of pencil control skills, visual motor skills, cursive letter order is also taught developmentally.

      This means that letters are grouped into similar pencil strokes, or letter families.

      Learning to write the alphabet in cursive, writing one’s name in cursive, and writing words in cursive is something that many kids want to do around the second grade.

      It’s around second grade, or 7-8 years of age that fine motor skills develop in such a way that pencil control and graded precision are developed to enable greater in-hand manipulation, and movement through the range of mobility in the thumb and intrinsic muscles within the hand.

      This enables pencil movements to become more mobile and fluid, which are pre-requisites for cursive writing skills.

      Prior to this skill achievement, handwriting is taught based on pencil strokes, including uppercase letters before lowercase letters because of the developmental aspect of learning letter formations.  

      Cursive seems like a “grown up” style of communication that kids see adults or older students using and they try to make swoopy writing on their own.  

      Some children can be very motivated to learn to write the alphabet in cursive and use it in their written work.

      Cursive writing alphabet and how to teach kids cursive handwriting with correct cursive letter order.



      However, one tip for teaching children to write in cursive is to go through the letters in an order that makes sense according to the pencil movements needed to create the letters.

      Writing cursive letters in a group of similar pencil strokes is helpful for carryover of pencil control practice and letter formation. Here is more information on teaching groups of similar cursive letters together in a chunk, or cursive letter families.


      Once kids have a start on cursive letter formation, they can practice in creative ways like on the window.


      Other children who may not be exposed to cursive written work might have their first exposure to cursive in the classroom.  Still other students might be in a public or private classroom where cursive handwriting has been dropped from the curriculum.  These kids may need extra practice at home or might need to learn cursive handwriting from the very beginning.


      But where to start when teaching kids (or adults!) the cursive writing alphabet and how to form words in cursive?  Read on for tips and strategies to get started on learning cursive letters.




      Cursive Letters Order



      We’ve touched on cursive handwriting in previous posts, include a small piece about starting to teach cursive letters.  This strategy will outline the alphabet and the letter order to make learning cursive more easy, based on learning letters in a developmental and progressive order.

      RELATED READ: Practice letters in a Cursive Writing Journal.


      There are print letter patterns that are directly transferable to cursive letters.


      These are cursive letters that are formed similarly to their printed letter counterparts. The muscle movements of the hands that are used to form some printed letters are directly related to the same letters.  For this reason, it’s a good idea to start with these letters when learning the cursive writing alphabet.


      The printed letter patterns that make up some letters will transfer directly to cursive, and when formed with a few subskills, cursive letter formation will easily follow (in most cases):

      • Left-to-right strokes
      • Good starting points
      • Direction of movement
      • Consistent stopping points
      • Control of downstrokes
      • Smooth rhythm

      Given the subskills noted above, cursive letter formation will lend to more legible letter formation.  Often times, learning correct letter formation and motor practice will help with legibility and ease of cursive writing into a viable form of written communication.

      Cursive Letter Order Patterns

      If you take a look at cursive letters, you might see a pattern that is similar among the letters. This is part of why we use a cursive pre-writing lines approach when teaching cursive for the first time.

      You’ll see pencil and paper activities that support this pencil movement with different pencil strokes:

      • Upswing (the line to start a cursive i or t)
      • Downswing (the line to start a cursive c or a)

      Both of these movements can transfer to different starting lines for the other letters. The muscles used to make these lines can then transfer to the other starting movements. Check out our blog post on cursive beginning lines for more information on this concept.

      Heling kids to start off with confidence in pencil control to make these beginning strokes supports confidence when learning cursive letters from the start!

      When teaching the cursive alphabet, where to begin?

      These letters have print patterns that are directly transferable to their cursive letters. This is related to the pencil strokes that are used to form the cursive letters. For this reason, there is a different order to teach cursive lowercase letters compared to their uppercase letter counterpart.

      When we consider printed letters, we can directly translate the pencil strokes to some of the cursive letter counterparts. This means that learning the cursive letter form of the letter should be easier based on knowledge of the printed letter’s form.

      Having letter recognition skills for printed letters supports the ability to learn cursive letters. For example, there are printed letters which directly translate to the pencil strokes in cursive:

      • t, i, and u and w transfer to their cursive letter counterparts.
      • e and l transfer to their cursive letter counterparts.
      • n, m, p, and h transfer to their cursive letter counterparts.
      • a, c, d, q, and o transfer to their cursive letter counterparts.
      • j and g transfer to their cursive letter counterparts.

      This means that the remaining letters are the only ones that need to be taught as a new handwriting motor plan in mind. Those letters include:

      • b, f, k, r, s, v, x, y, and z

      We can help learners with this group by calling them cousins or relatives to their printed letter counterpart because they are similar, but different.

      Lowercase Cursive Letters

      The following letters transfer directly to their cursive letter forms: c, a, d, g, o, q, i, t, u, j, e, l, f, h, p, n, and m.

      Knowing that there are letters that use similar motor plans as a starting point, it is recommended to follow an order when teaching lowercase cursive letters:

      • c, a, d, g, q – These letters can be considered “wave letters” because of the beginning stroke.
      • i, t, p, u, w, j – These letters can be considered the “tree letters” because of the beginning line to swing up.
        e, l, f, h – These letters can be considered the “loop letters” because of the loop that the pencil makes.
      • k, r, s
      • b, o, v – These letters can be considered the “tow truck letters” because of the ending connection.
      • m, n, y, x, z – These letters can be considered the “bump letters” because of the beginning pencil stroke.

      Uppercase cursive letters

      Upper case cursive letters should be presented in a specific order as well:

      A, C, O, U, V, W, X, Y, Z, P, R, B, H, K, N, M, I, J, E, L, I, J, Q


      This letter order uses a combination of research-based strategies and focuses on movement based patterns as well as common letter formations, i.e. the way the letters connect to form words. Read about how to connect cursive letters for specifics.

      In general, it’s considered that the baseline connecting letters are taught prior to the middle line connecting letters. This isn’t accurate for the Learning Without Tears program (Handwriting Without Tears cursive letter order) when it comes to letter w which is taught near the beginning, due to it’s direct translation from the printed version of letter w.

      This upper case cursive letter order (or cursive capital letters) order teaches upper case letters that are similar to lower case letters first.  Always teach lower case cursive letters before upper case letters.

      Print out the Free printable version for the classroom or home.

      Cursive writing alphabet and how to teach kids cursive handwriting with correct cursive letter order.

      Affiliate links are included below.

      WOrk on Cursive Letter Order with these Ideas:

      Here, you’ll find More creative ways to work on learning cursive writing:

      Cursive Writing Order

      Looking for more information on how to teach cursive writing? You’ll love our 31 day series on How to Teach Cursive Writing.  

      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

      A final note on teaching cursive letters

      Sometimes, cursive letters are taught as a writing format for children that struggle with the motor plan to form and use legible printed handwriting. This might be the case for several reasons:

      • The motor plan to form printed letters is choppy and difficult to recall the different pencil strokes for each letter.
      • Cursive letters use a smoother flow to form letters. The continuous hand movements can be easier for some students because it involves fewer stops and starts compared to print writing.
      • The challenge of letter reversals and letter confusion that occurs with dysgraphia can mean that cursive writing may be easier to learn and use than printed handwriting. This is because cursive letters connect with continuous pencil strokes, leading to less letter reversals and other common writing errors associated with dysgraphia.

      Just like printed handwriting, cursive letters are one form of written expression however, there are differences when it comes to legibility. Perfect formation and pencil strokes are not always necessary!

      Cursive Letters Tips

      We have many blog posts here on The OT Toolbox that support cursive letter writing. Explore these activities and tools to teach the cursive alphabet.

      Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

      Pencil Control Worksheets

      pencil control worksheets

      Part of handwriting legibility is the visual motor skills needed for pencil control and one tool in our toolbox are pencil control worksheets. Pencil control in isolation isn’t always addressed, but actually focusing on the refined pencil strokes and controlled movements of the pencil makes a huge difference in overall legibility. In this blog post, you’ll find many pencil control worksheet ideas and even have the ability to access a few of our favorites.

      pencil control worksheets

      Pencil Control Worksheets

      Pencil control worksheets, or printable PDFs that target specific visual motor skills needed to move the pencil with precision and refined movements are tools that support handwriting.

      When we use pencil control worksheets, it’s more than just moving the pencil to make marks.

      Pencil skills worksheets can target many aspects of writing with a pencil:

      • Making small lines within a given space
      • Moving the pencil within a given space on a paper with presence of finger dexterity
      • Writing a letter on a small space, such as on our code breaker worksheets
      • Tracing over lines (Read here about the benefits of tracing lines)
      • Using precise movements in order to re-trace over letters when forming the alphabet correctly (letters like h, m, n, and r have re-trace where the pencil moves over an already formed pencil line).
      • Erasing the pencil marks
      • Writing with an appropriate and legible pencil pressure
      • Fluid and coordinated pencil strokes

      Using worksheets to target specific skills like practicing letter formation isn’t always ideal. The occupational therapy practitioners may actually sway away from rote handwriting practice.

      We’ve all seen it: A child is copying letters on a worksheet and the letters progressively get worse as they go across the page…or the margin creeps in as the child writes down the paper.

      That is not to say that all letter formation worksheets are bad! In fact, we LOVE to target specific skills using letter writing practice on printable PDFs.

      The OT trick is to facilitate the underlying skills, special themes that make the worksheet fun and engaging, and even using interactive worksheets that support skills in games or play-based learning.

      The multisensory aspect is what turns an ordinary writing worksheet into a therapy tool!

      All of these reasons are why using pencil control worksheets are great ways to target specific skills leading to handwriting legibility and functional writing skills.

      Below, you’ll find ideas to make DIY pencil control worksheets, and then some of our favorite pencil control sheets. You can also grab a printable pencil control worksheets pdf at the very bottom of the page.

      DIY pencil control worksheets

      DIY Pencil Control Worksheets

      The ideas below are some of our favorite ways to create your own DIY pencil control worksheets.

      Does your school-aged child have difficulty with line awareness, pencil control, or letter formation?  Is your preschooler just learning to control the pencil while making straight lines, the diagonal lines of an “X” or the angled, connecting lines of shapes like a square, rectangle, or triangle? Do you know a child who is learning to control the “wobble” of the pencil while making a circle that connects the start to the finish?

      All of these are pencil control skills!

      It is easy to make fun worksheets that apply to your child’s needs/age-appropriate level/skills…and interests!

      To make your own worksheets, you need just a few items:

      • plain paper
      • lined paper
      • graph paper
      • marker or highlighter
      • markers
      • pencil
      • stickers
      • dice

      You don’t need to use all of these items…the activities below can be created over the course of several days or weeks. Pick and choose an activity and then go from there!

       
      We shared one of our favorite pencil control exercises previously.
       
      Use that idea along with these other worksheet ideas for more visual motor and fine motor work.
       
      These are some easy handwriting exercises that can be done at home, or in the classroom. However, going from personal experience, the school-based OT doesn’t always have a ton of supplies on them. Depending on the setting and schedule, you may only have a marker, a pencil, and some paper in your possession. That’s where these DIY pencil and paper worksheets come into play.
       
       
       
      Pencil control worksheet with stickers
       

      DIY Pencil Control Sheet with Stickers

       
      This worksheet activity is great because it targets pencil skills with a motivation factor. Using fun stickers makes it engaging for the user. Plus, you can factor in the benefits of playing with stickers by asking the child to place the sticker at one end of the lines.
       
      Try to find some stickers that work with your therapy theme of the week or just are fun and motivating for the child’s interests.
       
      Don’t have stickers? It’s not a big deal. Draw a small smiley face, simple car for the child that loves vehicles, or even colors of the rainbow. You can easily factor in so many personal interests to make this activity motivating with a simple drawing.
       
      To make this pencil control activity:
      1. Use a highlighter to make straight, angled, and curvy lines going across the page…or add different twists and turns for your older child to trace along. 
      2. Grade the activity with the line width. Use thicker lines for a new writer and the school-aged child can work on very thin lines.
      3. Add a sticker at one end of the line. You can also add another sticker at the other end of the line if you like. 
       
      Ask the child to keep the pencil lines inside of the yellow guide.  Fun stickers at the end of the lines always help 🙂
       
       
      DIY pencil control worksheet

       

      Graded Pencil Control Activity

      This handwriting activity can be “graded” (adjusted to start out very easy for the child and then changed just slightly to make it more and more challenging).  Grading an activity is helpful for the learner because it allows the child to feel success and gain confidence during a task, but also builds success with more difficult  levels.
       
       Ideas to grade these pencil worksheets:
       
      • Consider orientation: By changing the direction of the lines, you can target different skills.
      • Lines that start at the top of the page and go down toward the child’s body are easiest. Start there. Consider placing this style of worksheet activity on a slant board or vertical surface for strengthening, support, or upper body positioning. 
      • Lines that go from left to right across the page cross the midline. This is a need for many children and can also target visual scanning skills. Also check out our blog post on crossing midline activities for preschoolers for the younger ages.
      • Consider using all curved lines or all angled lines, depending on the needs of the individual.
      ((I love Little Guy’s knight costume sleeve in this picture.  He rocks the knight costume at lease once a day  haha!))
       
       
       

      DIY Pencil Control Sheets- Shapes

       
      For the preschool child who is just learning to control the writing utensil, requiring them to write letters or write their name is beyond the scope of their development. We cover this in our resource on what happens when preschoolers are asked to write.
       
      The pre-writing skills preschoolers actually need involve lines, shapes, coloring, and of course, fine motor play! We can target these skills using a pencil control sheet on shapes.
       
      Think of it this way: To make a letter “A”, a child needs to create diagonal lines, which are two separate pencil strokes. The pencil needs to be placed at the correct point as the second line is created. The diagonal lines are further down the line-up, developmentally. Then, the middle line needs to connect two diagonal lines. For the child with an “A” in their name, asking them to make these marks before typical developmentally ready, you may end up with curved lines, shaky pencil marks, and misaligned connecting lines.
       
      Practicing these skills in preschool over and over again leads to a motor plan for a poor letter formation.
       
      That’s where pre-writing lines pencil control tasks are key.
       
      We can foster the line markings of letters by making shapes and lines that ARE developmentally appropriate.
       
      Pre-writing skills that can be targeted with pencil control shapes include: 
      • Straight lines
      • Starting the pencil at a certain point
      • Stopping the pencil at a certain point
      • Diagonal lines of an “X”
      • The angled, connecting lines of shapes like a square, rectangle, or triangle (making a sharp corner)
      • Smooth pencil strokes to create a curved line of a circle
      • Connecting shapes completely to close the shape
      • Hand strength and endurance to color in the shapes
      • Lifting the pencil and placing it on a specific point (Like adding a triangle to the top of a square to create a house, which is a skill needed to form some letters like adding the middle line to an “A”)
       
       
      This DIY worksheet is similar to the one described above. Simply draw shapes using a marker. Create thicker or thinner lines. Then ask the child to trace over the lines.
       
      You can then ask the child to color in the shapes using a crayon. We explained the skills behind this task in our pencil control activity which used colored pencils to fill in circles. 
       
       


      DIY Pencil Control WORKSHEET with Line Awareness

      The next worksheet idea focuses on spatial awareness skills in handwriting. This is also a pencil control technique.
       
      1. Use a blank piece of paper and using a marker, draw a shape such as a square.
      2. Draw a square around it. 
      3. Take turns with your child to make larger and larger shapes.

      This activity is an easy way to work on pencil control skills using pre-writing shapes, but also focuses on the sharp angle of lines as they turn a corner. 

      When the child makes the shape around your shape, they can work on pencil control for evenly spaced pencil strokes.

       
      It’s a lot like doodling you did in your notebooks or while talking on the phone, right?
       
       
      Taking turns with your little handwriting student helps them to see an accurate shape right next to the lines that they are drawing…with sharp edges and straight lines.
       
       
       

       


      DIce Pencil Control Worksheet

      Big Sister LOVED doing this one.  She filled out the whole sheet and had so much fun!  She would roll the dice, count the dots, and draw the dots (in the correct arrangement) in the squares on the page.
       
      To create this DIY worksheet, you’ll need:
      • Blank paper
      • Marker
      • Dice
      • Pencil, crayon, or marker

      You can work on so many skills with this activity. Counting, Copying, and Drawing with accurate spacing all work on her visual perceptual skills and spatial awareness.  

      Set this activity up by:

      1. Draw lines to create a large grid on the paper. 
      2. Roll a dice. We used a large dice but a regular game dice would work too.
      3. Count the dots on the dice using the point of the pencil. Touch each dot. (A GREAT activity for targeting graded precision skills with the pencil)
      4. Then draw the dots on the paper in one of the spaces. Draw the dots exactly as they are on the dice.
       
      These skills are essential for forming letters on lines, placing letters close enough to others in a word, and when copying lists of words. It’s a great beginner activity for near point copying skills.
       

       
       
       
       
      Make early handwriting fun and your preschooler will have success…and love it!
       
       

      Printable Pencil Control Worksheets 

      Printable pencil control PDFs are an easy way to work on skills in therapy. You can print off a handful of the worksheets for your therapy caseload and use them in a variety of ways to target different OT goals and by grading the activities.

      In The OT Toolbox Membership Club, we have over 130 printable pencil control worksheets (along with a thousand+ other skill-building activities and PDFs!). Membership Club members can log in and then head to our Pencil Control Skill to access them all.

      Some of our favorites include:

      • Pencil control mazes
      • Dot games
      • Simple line printables
      • Eraser skill PDFs
      • Pencil control roads
      • Mazes
      • Connect the dot PDFs
      • Pre-writing pencil mazes
      • Pencil shading worksheets
      • Pencil line drawing activities like adding textures, dot features, or symmetry activities
      • Word search printables
      • Connect the matching items
      • So many more!
      free pencil control worksheets

      20 Free Pencil Control Worksheets

      To get some printable pencil control worksheets, head to these blog posts. Each one addresses various aspects of handwriting skills, but in them, you can get a free printable pencil control PDF.

      To get these printable worksheets, simply go to the bottom of the blog post and enter your email address into the form. (Each printable is also found in Level 1 of our membership, where are all “freebies” can be found. Level 2 members also get this benefit as well).

      1. Pencil Control Exercise– Copy pre-writing lines and shapes in a given space, between writing lines
      2. OT Coloring Pages– target hand strength and coloring in the lines
      3. Copy OT Words onto lines
      4. Mitten I Spy and Writing Pages– Color the shapes with a colored pencil and then write the words on the lines
      5. Number Formation Worksheet– Trace numbers on the shaded numbers
      6. Winter Color By Number– Color in the given space with controlled pencil/crayon motions
      7. New Years Maze– Keep your pencil in the path of the lines
      8. Number Road Playmats– Great for pencil control when making numbers
      9. Blank Word Search– Place letters inside the squares of the wordsearch grid
      10. 100 Snowballs Worksheet– Place numbers inside the circles
      11. Snowball Letter Practice– Trace letters on snowballs
      12. Holiday Lights Letter Tracing worksheet
      13. Hannukah Word Scramble– write the letters in the boxes
      14. Christmas Word Match– write the letters in the boxes
      15. Arctic Animal Word Search– circle single letters or the words to work on pencil skills
      16. Shadow Matching Worksheet– Connect the matching animals with pencil lines
      17. Dinosaur Worksheet– Connect the matching dinos with lines
      18. Owl Directed Drawing– Use pencil lines to create a simple owl
      19. Cotton Swab Art PDF– Break a cotton swab in half and use it to dot the lines
      20. Fine Motor Writing Sheets– Place play dough or small objects in the dots…or mark each dot with an X to fill the picture. Then write on the lines

      For more resources, check out our library of letter formation worksheets. These printables are free and can be used to target a variety of skills.

      The OT Toolbox membership club

      Get all of the items listed above when you join The OT Toolbox Member’s Club! Free printables are available in our Level 1 membership and the freebies PLUS 1500+ more printable tools are available in our Level 2 membership!

      Join The OT Toolbox Member’s Club today!

      Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.