Pencil Pressure When Writing

If you’ve worked with kids teaching handwriting or fixing handwriting issues, they you probably have come across a common handwriting problem area…Pencil pressure when writing. Handwriting pressure can play a huge role in legibility, whether pressing too hard when writing or writing too lightly. 

Pencil Pressure in Handwriting

Some kids press too hard on the pencil. They may press so hard on the pencil that the pencil tears the paper when they write. When they try to erase, there are smudges that never really go away.

Other students use too little force when writing. Or, you might see pencil pressure that is so light that you can’t discern letters from one another.

Either way, pencil pressure plays a big part in handwriting legibility.

Here are tips for pressing too hard when writing…and tips for helping kids write darker. Scroll down for everything you need to know about writing with that “just write” pencil pressure…Typo intended  🙂

These writing tips are great for kids that press too hard when writing or write too lightly.

 

Pencil Pressure with Writing

Learning to write is a complex task.  Choosing a hand to hold the pencil with, pencil grasp, managing the paper with the assisting hand, sitting up straight.

And then there is the physical task of marking letters: letter formation, line awareness, letter size… this is multi-level functioning for a child!  

Yet another aspect to consider is the pressure one exerts on the paper when writing.  Press too lightly and the words are barely able to be seen.  Press too hard, and the letters are very dark, the pencil point breaks, lines are smudged, and when mistakes are erased, they don’t really erase all the way, the paper tears, and frustration ensues!  

Sometimes, when it comes to pencil pressure, simply helping kids become aware that they are writing too lightly or writing with too much pressure can make a big difference. Here is one simple activity to work on pencil pressure. All you need is a sheet of foam crafting paper. 

Pencil pressure is dependent on proprioception, one of the sensory systems.  With October being Sensory Processing Awareness month, this is the perfect time to talk sensory and handwriting!
 
As an occupational therapist in the school setting, I’ve come across many school-aged children showing difficulty with pencil pressure.  There are reasons for these dark pencil marks and some tips and tools for helping with this handwriting difficulty. 

 

 
Tips and tools for kids who write with too much pressure in handwriting.  Does your child write or color so hard that the pencil breaks?  Writing too hard makes handwriting difficult to read and effectively write.
 
 
 
This post contains affiliate links.  

 

Proprioception and Handwriting


The proprioceptive system receives input from the muscles and joints about body position, weight, pressure, stretch, movement and changes in position in space.  Our bodies are able to grade and coordinate movements based on the way muscles move, stretch, and contract. 

Proprioception allows us to apply more or less pressure and force in a task. Instinctively, we know that lifting a feather requires very little pressure and effort, while moving a large backpack requires more work.  

We are able to coordinate our movements effectively to manage our day’s activities with the proprioceptive system.  The brain also must coordinate input about gravity, movement, and balance involving the vestibular system.


When we write, the pencil is held with the index finger, middle finger, and thumb, and supported by the ring and pinkie finger as the hand moves across a page.  

A functioning proprioceptive system allows us to move the small muscles of the hand to move the pencil in fluid movements and with “just right” pressure.  

We are able to mark lines on the paper, erase mistakes, move the paper with our supporting arm, turn pages in a notebook fluidly, and keep the paper in one piece.

Heavy Pencil Pressure

When students press too hard on the pencil, handwriting suffers. Sometimes, children hold their pencil very tightly. Other times, they are seeking sensory feedback.  You’ll see some common signs of heavy pencil pressure:

  • They press so hard on the paper, that lines are very dark when writing.  
  • The pencil point breaks.  
  • When erasing, the pencil marks don’t completely erase, and the paper is torn.  
  • The non-dominant, assisting hand moves the paper so roughly that the paper crumbles.  
  • When turning pages in a notebook, the pages tear or crumble.
  • Movements are not fluid or efficient. 
  • Handwriting takes so much effort, that the child becomes fatigued, frustrated, and sore.  
  • It may take so much effort to write a single word, that handwriting is slow and difficult. 

All of these signs of heavy pencil pressure are red flags for pencil pressure issues. They are not functional handwriting

Below, we’ll cover ways to reduce  pencil pressure? 

Writing Pressure: Too Light

The other side of the coin is pencil pressure that is too light.

Writing with too little pencil pressure is another form of non-functional handwriting. Some signs of too little pencil pressure include:

  • Kids may write so lightly that you can’t read the overall writing sample.
  • You can’t discern between certain letters.
  • The writing pressure is just so light that the child’s hand or sleeve smudges the pencil lines and the writing sample is totally not functional or legible.
  • The student starts out writing at a legible pencil pressure, but with hand fatigue, the writing gets lighter and lighter.

All of these signs of too light pencil pressure and too much force when writing can be addressed with some simple tips. Working on proprioceptive input and hand strengthening can help with too light pencil pressure. Try some of the writing tips listed below.

Pencil pressure and Messy handwriting

Messy handwriting can be contributed to many factors.  Decreased hand strength, Visual motor difficulty, motor planning issues, visual memory difficulties, or impaired proprioception. 

Difficulty with grading the movements required in drawing or making letters in a coordinated way may present as messy, smudged, illegible handwriting.
 

Writing Tips for Pencil Pressure

Bringing the writer aware of what’s occurring is one way to support pencil pressure issues. Proprioceptive activities allow the muscles to “wake up” with heavy pressure.

Moving against resistance by pushing or pulling gives the muscles and joints an opportunity to modulate pressure.  

Resistive activities before and during a handwriting task can be beneficial for children who press hard on the pencil. 

 

Pencil Pressure Activities:

Some of these pencil pressure activities are writing strategies to help kids become more aware of the amount of pressure they are using when writing.

Others are tools for helping the hands with sensory needs. Still others are tools for strengthening the hands. Try some or a mixture of the following ideas to addressing handwriting needs.

  • Stress balls or fidget toys can help to strengthen pinch and grip strength. 
  • Use carbon paper or transfer paper to help kids become more aware of the amount of pressure they are exerting through the pencil when writing. Here is some easy ways to use a Dollar Store find to use carbon paper to work on handwriting
  • resistive bands- Use these as an arm warm-up to “wake up” the muscles of the whole upper body. They are great for positioning warm ups too. 
  • theraputty with graded amount of resistance (speak to a license occupational therapist about the amount of resistance needed for your child. An individual evaluation and recommendations will be needed for your child’s specific strengths/needs). 
  • Gross grasp activities- These activities can be a big help in adjusting the grasp on the pencil, helping the hands with sensory input and strengthening the hands to help with endurance when writing. 
  • Some children will benefit from using a liquid gel pen for fluid handwriting marks. The gel ink will provide feedback when gobs of ink are dispensed when writing too hard.
  • Still others will benefit from a gel pen, marker, or using a dry erase marker on a dry erase board. This can be beneficial as a tool for teaching about pencil pressure or as an accommodation for those writing too lightly.
  • Pencil Weights or Weighted Pencils- Weighted pencils can be helpful in providing sensory feedback through the hands.
  • A 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 writing on a dry erase board with dry erase markers to work on consistent pencil pressure- Pressing too hard will make the marker lines wider and press down on the tip of the marker. Can the learner keep a consistent line with their writing or drawing?
  • Use a grease pencil- These pencils are commonly used to marking wood or used in construction. The lead of the pencil is very soft and can be a great alternative for those that press too hard on pencils.
  • Cheap eyeliner pencil- One cheap alternative to a grease pencil is using an inexpensive eye liner pencil from the dollar store. Get the kind that you sharpen with a turn sharpener (almost like a hand held pencil sharpener). Kids can use that pencil to draw lines and match the amount of pressure they are using. This is a good activity for those that press too hard when writing, too.
  • 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. 
  • Hand exercises are a great way to “wake up” the hands before a handwriting task. Encourage the child to squeeze their hand into a fist as tight as he can. Then relax and stretch the hand and fingers. Repeat the exercise several times. Practice holding the pencil with the same type of tight and relaxed exercises Practice writing on tissue paper. A very light hand is needed to prevent tears. Discuss the amount of pressure needed for writing on the tissue paper. 
  • 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. 
  • Instead of writing on a notebook, pull a single sheet from the pages and place on a hard table or desk surface. The firm surface will limit the amount of pressure. You can also slip a clipboard between pages of a notebook to provide that hard surface, if sheets must remain in a notebook.
 
Help kids with pencil pressure and handwriting problems with these writing tips to work on heavy pencil pressure or writing too light.

Need more tips and tools for addressing handwriting needs? Be sure to check out all of our handwriting activities here on The OT Toolbox.

More Handwriting Tips

For a comprehensive resource on handwriting, check out The Handwriting Book. This e-book was written by pediatric occupational therapists and physical therapists who focus on function and take a developmental look at handwriting.

In The Handwriting Book, you’ll find practical suggestions to meet all needs that arise with messy or sloppy handwriting. The developmental-based approach to teaching handwriting focuses on strategies to support common issues with written work.

Click here for more information on The Handwriting Book.

The handwriting Book

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

BLANK WORD SEARCH

blank word search

What better way to work on visual perceptual skills AND handwriting, than by adding this blank word search template to your treatment plans? If you’ve seen some of the other St. Patrick’s Day activities on the site this week, then you can add this activity to your March OT lesson plans.

This blank word search is great for visual perceptual skills and handwriting skills.

The OT Toolbox has a lot of St. Patrick’s Day activities including this blank word search template.

Plus you’ll find more free downloads in our Spring Activities headquarters.

BLANK WORD SEARCH TEMPLATE

When my girls were young, I was forever searching for ways to make their homework more fun, especially while learning spelling words.  Straight repetition and memorization might work for some learners, but for the rest, there needs to be more engaging ways to improve working memory for retention of information.

How can you use this blank word search worksheet?

What I love about simple worksheets like this blank word search PDF template, is the flexibility and usability it offers. 

By thinking outside of the box, dozens of treatment ideas can be created!  (This type of activity analysis would be a great project for therapy students or new teachers).

  • Use current spelling words on your learner’s list for the clues to the wordsearch
  • Add thematic words to your grid (winter, animals, foods, colors, clothing)
  • Write random letters in the grid and use this as a scanning task (find all the A’s)
  • Have learners create a grid for other students to use. This works on critical thinking skills, as well as promoting neatness and accuracy
  • Use the printable blank template as a grid for working on letter sizing, letter formation, and neatness
  • Work on speed and dexterity by seeing how many letters/dots/numbers they can write in a given amount of time
  • Use dot markers for accuracy either with a blank grid or while searching for letters or words
  • Laminate the page for reusability and eco friendliness
  • Extend the activity by having students write a sentence after finding each word, draw a picture, or define the words
  • Younger learners do not need to be able to read or spell these words, this will be a copying and visual memory task for those who can not read
  • Try presenting this without including a word bank.  See how many words your learners can find without clues, or remember what words are on their spelling list
  • Enlarge this template onto a smart board for group work, encouraging students to come to the board, and write vertically
  • What other ideas can you come up with?

What is your objective using this blank word search?

As always, shift your focus and observations toward the skills you are building.  In this task it could be:

  • Fine motor: letter formation,  handwriting, grasping, copying from a model
  • Visual perception:scanning, figure ground, visual memory
  • Sensory: arousal level, pressure on paper/pencil, seating position
  • Speed and dexterity
  • social/emotional skills, following directions, frustration tolerance
  • Executive function: organizing work, work completion, task analysis
  • Strengthening, bilateral coordination
  • Any combination of the above, or something entirely different

If your main objective is visual perception, check out this huge visual processing bundle offered in the OT Toolbox.

what and how to document session using this blank word search page

Using this blank word search in therapy sessions covers a variety of areas and goals. But how do you document? And what do you look for when using a tool like this in therapy sessions?

Here are a few things to watch for when learners use this resource:

  • Document in real numbers, percentages, and actual data
  • Accuracy of finding the words
  • Timing for finishing the task
  • Amount of physical and/or verbal assistance
  • Grasping pattern 
  • Sensory skills/problems
  • Behavior, social function

The resources available for individuals/members visiting the OT Toolbox, are great for new teachers/therapists who feel overwhelmed, needing an organized direction for making awesome treatment plans.

Don’t forget seasoned professionals who are burned out, or looking for quick and easy printables, PDF templates, and activities.  Whatever category you fit in, whether you are a professional or parent, the OT Toolbox has you covered!  

more ideas for your St. Patrick’s Day themed lesson plan

Sticking with the winter theme and tired of Frozen songs and worksheets? Try our Spring Fine Motor Kit full of flowers, butterflies, rainbows, and Spring fun. These reproducible activity pages include: pencil control strips, scissor skills strips, simple and complex cutting shapes, lacing cards, toothpick precision art, crumble hand strengthening crafts, memory cards, coloring activities, and so much more.

Understanding why you are doing treatment, what goals you are working on, how to assess and grade each task, document the lesson plan, and troubleshoot the activities, are the most difficult (and important) parts of treatment.  Picking a worksheet is easy, knowing how to use it is where skill is involved.  That is why it is so awesome that these tools are readily available.  No need to keep reinventing the wheel.  

Use the resources available to you at the OT Toolbox, or wherever else you search for quality materials, then take a moment of free time to listen to the Spring raindrops. Grab those Spring fine motor printables, then settle in with a book and a cup of cocoa.

Free Blank Word Search

Want to add this resource to your therapy toolbox so you can help kids thrive? Enter your email into the form below to access this printable tool.

This resource is just one of the many tools available in The OT Toolbox Member’s Club. Each month, members get instant access to downloadable activities, handouts, worksheets, and printable tools to support development. Members can log into their dashboard and access all of our free downloads in one place. Plus, you’ll find exclusive materials and premium level materials.

Level 1 members gain instant access to all of the downloads available on the site, without enter your email each time PLUS exclusive new resources each month.

Level 2 members get access to all of our downloads, exclusive new resources each month, PLUS additional, premium content each month: therapy kits, screening tools, games, therapy packets, and much more. AND, level 2 members get ad-free content across the entire OT Toolbox website.

Join the Member’s Club today!

Free Blank Word Search

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    Victoria Wood

    Victoria Wood, OTR/L has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.

    *The term, “learner” is used throughout this post for consistency. This information is relevant for students, patients, clients, preschool, kids/children of all ages and stages, or whomever could benefit from these resources. The term “they” is used instead of he/she to be inclusive.

    Use a Timer to Work on Writing Speed

    how to use a timer to work on writing speed

    Many times, school-based OTs are asked about normal writing speed. Just how fast should kids be writing and how can you improve writing speed while maintaining legibility? This super easy handwriting trick is one that can be done right now.  Pick up your phone, turn on the timer app and start practicing handwriting. Read on for a writing speed activity that you can work on any time.

    How to use a timer to improve writing speed and maintain handwriting legibility.

    Writing Speed Activity

    Using a timer to help with reaching a normal writing speed (or FUNCTIONAL writing speed) while maintaining legible letter formation is one way that kids can develop consistency with correct letter formation, speed, and accuracy.

    Remember that the main goal is functional handwriting legibility when completing writing tasks independently.  

    Related, is this resource on a functional pencil grasp, as pencil grasp can also suffer when writers are rushed to complete a writing task. But the main thing to keep in mind is:

    • Is the written sample legible?
    • Is the written sample completed within a reasonable amount of time?
    • Is the written work illegible when required to be written in a specific amount of time?

    Remember that when writing in a faster time (as when copying notes that are on a digital slide deck and the material must be copied before the next slide is shown) it is expected that proper letter formation suffers.

    Think about the last time you quickly jotted down a phone number. Did the numbers look different than your normal handwriting? Young writers are the same way, but as long as the written work is legible, we are good to go!

    How to use a timer to help kids work on letter formation, handwriting skills, legibility, speed, and accuracy of written work.

    How to Use a Timer to Help with Writing Speed

    This post contains affiliate links.  

    Students who are working on handwriting are often times addressing letter formation skills.

    The ability to construct letters stems from a top to bottom approach and in correct letter formation order.  For example, a child should not be writing a letter in sections or with unnecessary re-trace.  

    Many times you see preschool children form letters by sections and not constructing the letter correctly.  These inaccuracies can be carried over to the later grade years and will absolutely interfere with legibility as the child is required to write more, at faster speeds, and in smaller spaces.  

    Addressing correct letter formation is a must for legibility.  

    So, the child who needs to work on “building” correct letter formation can typically perform these tasks when working one on one with an individual who provides differing levels of support.  

    These might include verbal cues, visual cues, and physical prompts.    

    But how is the child to transition from varying percentages of cues to more independence in their written work?  

    A timer is an easy tool to use in this instance.   I love to grab a kitchen timer for practicing written work.  

    Turn on the timer and use it to work on writing speed AND legibility:

    1. Tell your child that you are going to turn on the timer to count how long it takes them to copy a line or sentence with accuracy.  
    2. Then, try to beat that time while maintaining accuracy with correct letter formation.  When kids are rushed to complete written work, they tend to speed up and return to comfortable, bad handwriting habits.  
    3. Using the timer to copy one line with a goal to beat their own time is a motivating way to encourage carryover of appropriate skills.  

    Next, check the work. Kids love when they can check their speed and try to beat their time. Try jotting down the time spent writing and check each letter formation.

    This is a great time to collect data on legibility, too.

    Mark off the number of correct letter formations in a sentence. Or jot down the amount of letters that are legible (or illegible) during a specific amount of time.

    Many learners will want to try to beat their score on the next trial!

    Timers for Writing

    There are many writing timers that can be used to work on hand writing speed.

    These timers for writing are great because they are small and easily fit into a therapist’s therapy bag:

    This one has a magnetic back, making it convenient to stick to metal desks.

    A small timer that fits into the palm of the hand is perfect for the clinician’s therapy bag or for fitting into a desk pencil box.  

    using a phone timer to work on writing speed

    While a phone timer is great, the phone itself can be a distraction for kids.  

    Some kids can become hyper-focused on the time as it counts and will stare or become anxious about the time as they watch the numbers change.

    A wind-up kitchen timer can help in those cases. You will need to count down to figure out the time spent on a handwriting task.  

    However, a phone timer or the good, old microwave timer will do the job too, and in some cases can be motivating for some children.

    This timer trick works best with kids who are working on letter formation and can form letters accurately and with correct formation with extended time, modifications, and/or added cues.  

    More ways to use a timer in handwriting: 

    • Use a timer to work on speed.  For the child that writes very slowly or becomes overly focused on letter formation, use the timer as a countdown to improve speed and accuracy.  Mark each trial with time and correction errors. 
    • Set the timer for handwriting time.  This is a good way to get kids who are not motivated to work on handwriting skills.  Small rewards such as choosing a fine motor or visual perception activity between writing trials can be reward options.
    • Work on am and pm activities.
    • Use it along with moveable parts on a clock face, using manipulatives like we did in this rock clock activity.

    Here are more time telling activities that may be used along with our timer handwriting activity.

    How to use a timer to help kids work on letter formation, handwriting skills, legibility, speed, and accuracy of written work.

    Be sure to check out all of the easy handwriting tips in this month’s series and stop back often to see them all.     You’ll also want to join the Sweet Ideas for Handwriting Practice Facebook group for more handwriting tips and tools.  

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

    SHAMROCK ACTIVITY: Fine Motor Clip Cards

    Shamrock activity fine motor clip cards

    Today on the site we’ve got a great Shamrock activity…Fine motor clip cards with a shamrock theme! This is a great addition to St. Patrick’s Day activities in therapy, home or the classroom, and they work on a ton of different skills. Print them off, laminate the clip cards if you like, and you have a literal therapy pot of gold!

    These shamrock activity fine motor clip cards can help with hand strengthening skills, fine motor control and much more.

    This week as we roll out these fabulous Shamrock Activity (Fine Motor Clip Cards), let us take a moment to be thankful the weather is warming up and we can finally celebrate spring. If you are not fortunate enough to have spring weather yet, I feel for you. 

    According to the news report, people are moving out of California, New Jersey and New York in droves. I am surprised more of y’all from Wisconsin and North Dakota aren’t rustling out of there too!  No matter what the temperature is outside, this cute Shamrock Activity Fine Motor Clip Card spring themed activity will help get you motivated for warmer weather. 

    Shamrock activity for Fine Motor skills

    There is something magical about rainbows and unicorns.  Throw some shamrocks in there for good luck, and it is the perfect spring trifecta! 

    Add them to these other shamrock and St. Patrick’s Day themed activities that support the development of fine motor skills:

    These Shamrock Activity fine motor clip cards are so versatile, they  will be able to be modified for most, if not all of your learners.  Read below for ways to adapt and modify this fine motor activity.  

    How to use this shamrock activity:

    • Have learners count the number of shamrocks and place a mark to designate the number of items on the card.  These cards would be great with a (Amazon affiliate link) Dot or Bingo marker!  
    • Learners can color in the rainbows as they go
    • Cut these ahead of time, or make cutting a part of this fine motor counting clip activity
    • Use clothespins to attach to the shamrock cards to count the numbers.  Decorated clothespins are even more fun!  They are great spray painted gold, or dipped in glitter
    • Color and laminate these cards for reusable fun.  Learners can use dry erase markers to count the objects
    • Enlarge or shrink this page to change the level of difficulty
    • Change the type of paper, heavier weight is easier to handle, but may be harder to cut
    • Colored paper might be more motivating, or provide better contrast
    • Project this onto a smart board to make it a touch task, or have students follow along with the diagram
    • Scatter the cards around the room to include a gross motor component
    • Add these cards to an obstacle course having learners complete the challenge, collecting clips along the way
    • Scavenger hunt to have learners find all of the cards in order
    • Crab walk from one card to the next
    • Create an entire St. Patrick’s Day theme for the week!
    • Add spring fine motor tasks with this great fine motor bundle found on the OT Toolbox
    • The possibilities are really endless, don’t let yourself get stuck doing this fine motor activity  just one way

    Things to Observe with these Shamrock Activity Clip Cards

    When working on this shamrock fine motor activity, there are several observations that can be  made: 

    • Can your learner scan the page and count all of the shamrocks?
    • How many items can your learner correctly count?
    • Does your learner correctly hold and manipulate the scissors, crayon, or bingo marker? How much assistance do they need to grip scissors, cut the paper, or color the rainbow?
    • Do your learners have the strength to open and place the clothespins?
    • Can your student motor plan all of the skills needed for this task?
    • Will you need to modify this activity for success?
    • Can your student continue to hold the clothespins while trying to manipulate the paper?
    • What is the number of times you need to repeat the directions so your learner can follow them?
    • How many reminders does your learner need while doing this activity?

    Use these notations in your documentation to document data and support the development of fine motor skills.

    what skills do my learners need?

    While cutting, coloring, counting, and placing clips is a straightforward task for higher level learners, beginners will struggle with all of the parts needed to complete this task. 

    Think about all that has to be involved to do this counting shamrock activity:

    • Fine motor skills – Resources can be found in our fine motor skills library at the OT Toolbox
    • Strength
    • Bilateral coordination
    • Visual perception
    • Executive function/behavior/social skills
    • Following directions
    • Attention to detail
    • Work tolerance
    • Cutting on a line
    • Coloring
    • Counting
    • Multistep directions 
    • Processing skills

    This is just the start of the list when using these Shamrock fine motor clip cards! 

    Perhaps focus your attention on addressing, or observing, just one or two of these skills.  For example, work on following directions or counting, rather than all of them.

    Need more great Shamrock and St. Patrick’s Day tools?

    Here are a few more spring activities and ideas from the OT Toolbox to get you started. Round out your shamrock theme with this new Color Handwriting Kit with Bonus Rainbow Sheets!

    While spring is a lovely change of pace from winter, summer is really my jam! Bring on the heat!

    Free Shamrock Printable Clip Cards

    Want to add this resource to your therapy toolbox so you can help kids thrive? Enter your email into the form below to access this printable tool.

    This resource is just one of the many tools available in The OT Toolbox Member’s Club. Each month, members get instant access to downloadable activities, handouts, worksheets, and printable tools to support development. Members can log into their dashboard and access all of our free downloads in one place. Plus, you’ll find exclusive materials and premium level materials.

    Level 1 members gain instant access to all of the downloads available on the site, without enter your email each time PLUS exclusive new resources each month.

    Level 2 members get access to all of our downloads, exclusive new resources each month, PLUS additional, premium content each month: therapy kits, screening tools, games, therapy packets, and much more. AND, level 2 members get ad-free content across the entire OT Toolbox website.

    Join the Member’s Club today!

    Free Shamrock Activity- Fine Motor Clip Cards

      We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.
      Victoria Wood

      Victoria Wood, OTR/L has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.

      • NOTE: The term, “learner” is used throughout this post for consistency. This information is relevant for students, patients, clients, school aged children/kids of all ages and stages, or whomever could benefit from these resources. The term “they” is used instead of he/she to be inclusive.

      Letter Reversals

      Letter reversals and phonetic awareness

      Letter Reversals…they are a major cause for handwriting concern by most parent’s standards. Here we are covering information about writing letters backwards and what is normal for letter reversals in development. We also have some great tips for addressing common letter reversal struggles and even reversal activities that can help with visual perception handwriting struggles. Read on!

      Letter b and d reversals: These specific strategies cover letter b and d reversals.

      Letter p and q reversals: You’ll find more specific letter reversal information in this post on reversing letter p and q.

      Also check out these activities to work on backwards letters.

      Writing Letters in Reverse

      Do letter reversals mean dyslexia? Not exactly! Dyslexia means problems learning to read, spell, and write. However, there is much more to reversals than what meets the eye, and should be assessed before jumping straight to the conclusion of dyslexia.

      Letter reversals such as switching b and d or writing letters and numbers backwards can be a result of various things. Here is information on letter reversals.

      Letter Reversals Normal Development

      Reversals are age appropriate up until 7-8 years of age!

      That’s right! Letter reversals are normal up to a certain age range. And when kids write letters backwards it is actually typical development in handwriting skills. Working on letter reversals in occupational therapy (and other visual perceptual areas) can be a common occurrence for school-based OTs…but just because kids are writing letters backwards, it doesn’t mean there is a true problem indicating a need for intervention.

      It takes our brains that long to integrate all the skills needed to form a letter correctly and automatically during written expression. Skills needed range from phonetic awareness, ability to imitate pre-writing strokes, automation of letter formation, and higher level cognitive skills for multi-tasking.

      Some kiddo’s develop these skills faster than others. Some kiddo’s struggle with these skills and may receive support services such as occupational therapy or pull out services with their school’s reading specialist before age 7.

      Services provided before age 7 are typically preventative and because the child has shown struggles in the foundation skills needed for reading and writing, such as phonemic awareness, challenges with pre-writing strokes and shape formation (visual motor integration), poor fine motor skills, dominance concerns or underlying vision concerns.

      What is a letter reversal

      The term Letter reversals refers to several things related to reversing letters in reading or writing:

      • Writing a specific letter backwards, when they replace a letter with another such as forming a letter b as a d or a letter p as a letter q
      • Writing a letter upside down or flipped, such as forming a u as an n
      • Reading a letter backwards, as when kids replace a d with a b
      • Writing letters backwards as when kids write letters h, n, s, z, etc. in a mirror image
      • Transposing letters or switching the order of letters when writing
      • Reversing or writing numbers backwards

      Common Letter and Number Reversals

      So, knowing that it is quite common developmentally, to reverse letters and numbers up until age 7 or 8, it can also help to know which letters are commonly reversed in writing.

      Letter Reversals List

      These letters and numbers are often times transposed for one another:

      • b and d
      • n and u
      • w and m
      • s and z
      • 3 and E
      • 2 and 5
      • s and 5

      It’s easy to see why the letters and numbers listed above are often reversed. They all contain similar pencil strokes. For children that are just learning to write, spatial integration can be still developing. Kids are getting the muscle memory in place can replace one letter or number for another.

      These letters are often written backwards:

      • b
      • c
      • d
      • e
      • f
      • h
      • j
      • k
      • p
      • q
      • r
      • s
      • u
      • z

      Each of these letters has a starting point at the top and pencil strokes that then go into a different direction. Children that are still developing handwriting skills are establishing the motor plan for direction changes with the pencil. The can sometimes “guess” the correct direction which results in letters being written backwards.

      Numbers that are commonly written backwards include:

      • 2
      • 3
      • 4
      • 5
      • 6
      • 7
      • 9

      Each of these numbers also have a direction change which could easily be confused.

      In many cases, working on letter and number formation so the muscle memory is established with fix reversal issues. Using multisensory formation activities helps to establish that motor plan.

      Letter reversals can be related to phonetic awareness difficulties.
      There can be a connection between letter reversal problems and phonetic awareness delays.

      Phonetic Awareness and Letter Reversals

      The current theory among the educational community is that reversals start with phonemic awareness. If a child is lacking phonemic awareness, they may struggle with letter identification and spelling needed for fluent written expression. Similar struggles may also be seen with numbers, resulting in a negative impact on math skills.

      In my clinical experience, I have found that children with high rates of ear infections and PE tubes (ear tubes) struggle with sound awareness. If the kiddo is unable to hear the sound of the letter clearly and consistently, it leads to poor sound awareness.

      I have also found that children with difficulties with attention and auditory filtering often pair the wrong letter sound with wrong letter. This is important to note in sessions as it may require remediation by a speech therapist or reading specialist if available. Here is more information and activities for auditory processing.

      While phonetics play a large role in reversals, many other foundational skills may influence whether a child will struggle with reversals or not.

      Letter reversals and a connection to hand dominance
      There may be a connection between letter reversals and hand dominance.

      Hand Dominance and Letter Reversals

      Hand dominance is typically fully developed by five years of age. Right at the same time most children are learning and mastering the formation of letters and numbers. It also coincides with the start of kindergarten, or formal education where children who are struggling may be noticed for the first time. Writing with both hands can be a common struggle and an indicator of hand dominance challenges.

      Children with handedness issues, whether it’s mixed dominance or delayed development of dominance, are more likely to struggle with left versus right tasks.

      This plays into reversal concerns as many of these children cannot consistently discriminate left from right, leading to b’s and d’s, p’s and q’s being flipped. Often times, they are unable to recognize that they have made the mistake as their brain is registering the letter as they meant it to be.

      VIsual processing plays a big part in letter reversals. Here's what you need to know.
      Visual processing plays a big part in letter reversals. Here’s what you need to know…

      Letter Reversals and Visual Processing

      Vision is can be one of the biggest challenges facing children who struggle with reversals. Chances are, they have had an underlying vision concern that goes unaddressed or unrecognized during the critical learning period of letters and their sounds.

      You will find much more information on visual perception in our free visual perception lab series.

      (Children in the U.S. typically begin to learn letters and sounds between 3 and 4 years of age when they enter preschool programs. Curriculums now expect children to know their letters, sounds and how to write them upon entering kindergarten.)

      Due to their vision deficit, the child may not consistently see the same image of the letter each time, or may not see the letter that is being taught due to “wandering” eyes or poor abilities to focus on the letter. The kiddo now has a poor foundation from which to build on, due to difficulties with recalling from their visual memory what the letter looks like, and pairing it with the correct sound.

      To add to vision deficits, vision is not just what we see, or how the eye’s work together. It is also a motor task of taking information in with the eyes and reproducing an image, or in this case, letters on paper. This skill is known as visual motor integration and also plays a role in reversals.

      Here are free visual perception worksheets that can address a variety of visual skills.

      Visual Motor Integration and Letter Reversals

      Visual motor integration allows us to write, draw and paint freely. To do all of these things, we go through a set development of producing pre-writing strokes and basic shapes in imitation to freely producing them from our memories and eventually becoming automatic. Here is more information and activities related to visual motor skills.

      Most children learn to imitate these strokes and shapes at a young age from top to bottom and left to right. However, some children do not learn it this way or their brains are not “wired” to follow this pattern of development.

      Children who deviate from this pattern may have difficulties with reversals as they struggle to learn and integrate letter stroke combinations in the correct order. When this happens, they struggle to write fluently and reversals may begin to appear.

      Signs of poor visual motor integration skills that could lead to reversals include:

      • Segmental Drawing—drawing a shape one stroke at a time instead of integrated
      • Bottom to top orientation when drawing
      • Right to left orientation when drawing
      • Difficulties crossing the midline during drawing tasks
      • Rotation of the paper to adjust for angle execution
      • Failed attempts to imitate basic shapes after the child has stated what the shape is
      Reversing letters can be related to an executive function difficulty.
      Writing letters in reverse can be a trouble with executive functioning skills.

      Executive Functioning and Letter Reversals

      Executive functioning skills refer to our higher level thinking that includes attention, multi-tasking and memory, among many other skills. Writing requires all of these skills to be working at their best. If a child is struggling with any of these skills, they may demonstrate reversals and poor overall handwriting.

      Reversals and poor handwriting may be the result of the child being unable to recall the strokes of the letter, the sequence of the strokes, what the letter looks like, where to start the letter, how big to make the letter, what each letter sound is, how to spell a word and complete their thought.

      Oh, and lets add in that they have to remember how to hold their pencil correctly. For a kiddo who is struggling, this is a CHALLENGE.

      There are so many more things that go into writing that may lead to reversals then what I have listed, but are too many to list out. 

      The main concept of executive functioning is that if the child cannot make it all work together, from fine motor to phonemic awareness to visual motor, they are more likely to struggle with reversals in their work.

      Try these letter reversal interventions to help kids who reverse letters and numbers.
      Try these letter reversal strategies…

      Letter Reversal INterventions

      It is important to recognize that reversals may be the sign of underlying deficits with foundational skills and should be addressed when they are noticed. The sooner that these underlying deficits are addressed the better off the kiddo will be. Once a child has had a long enough time period to practice incorrectly, it will be that much harder to break the “bad habits” and correct the reversals.

      You will find many letter reversal interventions in this blog post.

      1. This resource on letter b and d reversals is a helpful read on how specifically to work on these commonly reversed letters. You’ll find multi-sensory writing strategies to address b-d letter reversals.

      2. Try “building” letters to establish the motor plan needed to create muscle memory. Use different colors to help children see the ways that the pencil moves when writing letters and numbers. This letter construction activity explains more about this process. This letter building strategy, paired with other forms of multi-sensory handwriting and teaching letters in groups based on the ways the pencil moves can make a big impact.

      Addressing some of the other co-existing issues discussed in this article can be a start.

      3. Address the motor planning in handwriting necessary for letter and number formation. Strategies that develop motor planning skills utilizing multi-sensory approaches can help with letter reversal. When kids learn and practice letters with visual, auditory, and kinesthetic sensory channels at the same time, the weaker channel may be reinforced (Berninger, 2000).

      Multi-sensory letter reversal strategies include:

      4. Work on visual perception with toys and games, and activities to address specific visual perceptual skills or visual motor skills.

      5. Use cursive writing in some cases. Here are creative ways to teach cursive and our entire cursive writing series.

      6. Gain a better understanding of visual processing and all of the “pieces” of the vision puzzle that play into letter reversal and other concerns by joining thousands of other therapists, teachers, and professionals in the Visual Processing Lab.

      7. Use this Vision Screening Tool to identify and address specific vision concerns such as letter reversals.

      8. Try some of these activities to address visual motor integration and eye-hand coordination.

      Have concerns? Talk to your child’s teacher or occupational therapist to address your concerns.

      Work on letter reversals and get a better understanding of vision, visual perception, and visual motor skills in the visual processing lab.
      Work on letter reversals and get a better understanding of vision, visual perception, and visual motor skills in the visual processing lab.

      Contributor: Kaylee is a pediatric occupational therapist with a bachelors in Health Science from Syracuse University at Utica College, and a Masters in Occupational Therapy from Utica College. Kaylee has been working with children with special needs for 8 years, and practicing occupational therapy for 4 years, primarily in a private clinic, but has home health experience as well. Kaylee has a passion for working with the areas of feeding, visual development, and motor integration.

      Valentines Cursive Alphabet Uppercase and Lowercase Activity

      Valentine uppercase and lowercase cursive activity

      This post includes a FREE download of the Valentine Cursive Alphabet Uppercase and Lowercase printable. Start here with understanding how to teach cursive…then check out this post on which cursive letters to teach first. Then use the free cursive letters printable at the bottom of this page to work on cursive letter writing with a Valentine’s Day theme! This is a great activity to incorporate into your Valentines Day occupational therapy activities.

      This cursive alphabet uppercase and lowercase activity has a Valentine's Day theme, but the cursive letter cards can be used any time to year to work on cursive handwriting.

      Cursive Alphabet Upper Case and Lower Case Activity

      Because of the importance of cursive writing, the OT Toolbox has included cursive alphabet worksheets in it’s “Toolbox”.  This uppercase and lowercase Valentines printable alphabet PDF is a great learning tool for beginning to recognize the letters.

      In recent years there has been a lot of back and forth opinions about the validity and necessity of writing cursive.  Some of the people creating school curricula feel this is an old language since it is not used in books any more, and most written expression is done on keyboards.  While there is the argument that people only need cursive for signing their signature, and it should be abolished, cursive is so much more important than just a signature on a page. This article from the New York Times debates reasons to reinstate cursive writing in schools:

      Students with learning differences such as dyslexia greatly benefit from learning cursive. Cursive letters such as “b and d” are different from manuscript, therefore easier to decipher. 

      Flowing letters connected together in cursive are often easier for young learners to write. There are fewer diagonals, a definite direction of the letters eliminating bottom to top formation, and not having to keep stopping and starting can be a very efficient form of written expression. This post on cursive letter families is helpful in breaking down letters into formation patterns.

      The first stage to learning something new is being able to identify before being able to reproduce it. These upper and lowercase cursive alphabet worksheets for kids or other learners, are a great addition to your cursive curriculum. The OT Toolbox archives has an informative post on teaching cursive writing.

      What better way to teach a new skill than to tie it to an adorable Valentine theme? Learners are more compliant when there is a motivating fun theme. While these uppercase and lowercase alphabet worksheets can be introduced around Valentine’s day, they are versatile enough to be used year round. YouTube has a great video highlighting the History (and importance) of Cursive Writing

      How can I use these cursive alphabet upper and lowercase letter printable cards?

      Incorporate this cursive letters printable into occupational therapy sessions to work on individualized goals no matter what level or skills the learner is working to address:

      • Ask learners to write the letters as they match them
      • Higher level learners can write down, or describe the directions to the game
      • Print these on colored paper for more visual appeal or contrast, color the pictures, or laminate the pages to make these more sturdy and reusable
      • Learners can explore other games they could make using these Valentine match cards (perhaps hiding the letters around the room and having learners run around collecting them, or creating a “memory” game out of these upper and lowercase writing cards)
      • Practice scissor skills by cutting these cards apart
      • Change the weight of the paper – heavier paper is easier to handle
      • Make these into tracing cards with or without laminating them.
      • Research and talk about the importance of cursive writing, and have a debate
      • Project onto a smartboard for a group task using a pointer to push the pieces together
      • Enlarge or shrink this task to change the degree of difficulty
      • Turn it into a gross motor task, sensory activity, following directions game, or combination of all of these
      • Use this task durng more than one session by adding cursive practice, letter recognition, copying from a model, or putting letters together to make words.

      Skilled OT Observations with this Cursive Activity

      When working on this Valentine upper and lowercase cursive matching activity, there are several observations that can be  made: 

      • Can your learner scan the pages to identify the correct letters?  Are they recognizing what they are matching or merely matching shapes? Can they match items that are related but not the same (form constancy)?
      • How many items can your learner correctly match?
      • Can your learner correctly hold and manipulate the scissors? How much assistance do they need to grip the scissors and cut on the lines?
      • Can your student continue to hold the scissors while trying to manipulate the paper?
      • How many times do you need to repeat the directions so your learner can follow them?
      • How many reminders does your learner need while doing this activity?
      • Can they stay on task during this upper and lowercase cursive matching task?

      As with this Cursive Alphabet Uppercase Lowercase Valentine Worksheet, or any of the worksheets and activities on the OT Toolbox, you can teach one or ten different skills while teaching them. Working on letter recognition? Skip the cutting and coloring section.  Focusing on visual perception? Don’t have students write the letters after matching the cards. Beginning cursive learners? Have a letter page example with all of the letters as a reference. 

      You may decide you are focusing your treatment on task completion or compliance with a non preferred task. Therefore your observations would lean more toward behaviors and reactions, than written expression.

      Make several observations while your learners are working on these cursive letter matching pages.  See how you might need to grade or modify the task for your next group of learners.  Decide what works, and what does not work using this set of cards. 

      Use the other Valentine’s printables available on the OT Toolbox to create an impressive lesson plan.  Here is an entire Valentine Fine Motor Kit! 

      Whether you are searching for Valentines Slide Decks, posts highlighting Valentines Day ideas, or anything you want to build into your lesson plan, type your ideas into the search bar and tons of activities, posts, free printables, and kits will be available to you. 

      Whenever you get the urge to jump on the bandwagon to eliminate cursive, just take a look at the handwritten notes from your grandmother, or other elderly people.  It is simply beautiful penmanship and should not be lost in favor of typing.

      Cursive – it’s more than just a signature!

      Free Upper Case and Lowercase Cursive Letters Printable

      Enter your email address below to download this free cursive alphabet Uppercase and Lowercase Valentines Worksheet

      FREE Valentine’s Day Cursive Letters Printable

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        Victoria Wood, OTR/L

        Victoria Wood

        Victoria Wood, OTR/L has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.

        100 Snowballs Winter Math Worksheet

        winter math worksheet 100th day of school

        Today, you’ll find a fun winter math worksheet with 100 snowballs. This is a great activity for the 100th day of school…and working on writing numbers with kids. Number formation skill can be a challenge, so making practice fun and engaging is key. Use this 1 to 100 writing practice sheet with other winter occupational therapy activities all winter long!

        winter math worksheet 100th day of school

        100 Snowballs Winter Math Worksheet

        This 100 snowballs activity is a winter math worksheet that is perfect for the 100th day of school. Incorporate it into other number formation goals along with these number formation resources:

        When it comes to working on numbers and handwriting skills, meaningful and motivating activities is key. So when winter brings snow and ice, you can incorporate this functional practice activity into goal areas.

        Winter and 100 snowballs

        If you have read my other winter blog posts, you already know I am not a fan of winter. The temperature hit 61F last night and I was FREEZING!  I do not know how I am going to survive the southern winter at this rate.  Speaking of survival, I know I survived my childhood in the Northern US and lived to tell about it, but right now I don’t know how you do it.

        Snowball fights were a staple of my winter childhood. We spent hours creating our stockpile of balls, to be ready to ambush an unsuspecting neighbor or sibling. Have you seen the new snowball maker contraption?  That is one cool tool.  Perfectly round balls of snow in five seconds flat. I am not sure why I remember liking snowball fights at all. I am not good at throwing anything, especially a flimsy ball of snow (we didn’t have that ball maker when I was young).  I can dodge ok I suppose, but who wants to just dodge all the time?  

        We went to a man-made snow place in Georgia last winter.  I temporarily forgot how bad my aim is. I loved making the snowballs with the new snow packer tool, but still got pummeled.  Based on the popularity, I am going to venture a guess that snowball fights are still a “thing.” 

        What better way to reminisce about winter than creating a lesson plan about it?  For adults it will be a great story telling opportunity (unless you have never ventured to the snow covered mountains), and for learners an excellent tie in to what is going on around them.  If your learners live where it is warm, use this opportunity to teach about snow with video clips, worksheets, activities, fine motor games, making an all inclusive lesson plan.

        Winter Math Worksheet

        To start off your Winter Lesson Plan, the OT Toolbox has you covered!  Check out the new 100 Snowball Math Worksheet.

        The winter math worksheet that you can grab below is a great way to work on number formation and filling in numbers. Add it to a 100th day of school lesson plan, or therapists can use this as a complementary winter math lesson while still working on goal areas to support educational needs.

        In its simplest form, this is a great PDF printable to address counting, number formation, and writing to 100. Add this to the other winter worksheets from The OT Toolbox and your Winter Lesson Plan will be well on its way.

        Let’s take a look at the plethora of other ways to use this worksheet and incorporate it into treatment. 

        1. Make tiny snowballs of tissue or playdough to work on in hand manipulation.  Place the tiny balls on each of the numbers.
        2. Use a dot marker to dab the snowballs as they are being counted. This adds color and flair as well as building critical grasping skills.
        3. Cut all of the numbers, putting all of the snowballs back in order like a puzzle.
        4. Make large snowballs out of crumpled paper, then work on upper body coordination throwing the snowballs at a target.
        5. Build this into a gross motor task by running back and forth with snowballs. 

        Ways to modify this task for different levels of learners:

        • Count aloud as a group to find the next number
        • Encourage students to remember the numbers, instead of starting back at one each time
        • Enlarge this worksheet onto a board, for a group activity or to make more readable
        • Laminate this task and use markers to fill in the numbers
        • Print it onto colorful paper for visual contrast and readability
        • Color the winter math worksheet before laminating it, or have learners color after filling in the numbers
        • Provide a model for copying for learners who do not know the numbers yet
        • Make a dotted version of the answers for tracing into the open spaces
        • Use different writing tools for different effects
        • Cut the page into smaller chunks if your learners can not yet write to 100

        How to document about this 100 snowball printable worksheet?

        The most straightforward way to document your lesson plan with this math worksheet is to note the number of correct responses.  Then take it further and note number formation, the number of reversals, correct formation, sizing, legibility, placement inside the provided spaces, grasping pattern, and pressure on the paper.  To continue, make note of your learners’ attention to detail, frustration tolerance, number of cues needed, number of physical assists, overall attention, behavior, self regulation, working in a group, sitting posture, and 100 other observations.

        The great thing about worksheets like the 100 Snowball Printable from the OT Toolbox is the versatility of it.  My documentation might not have anything to do with number formation, grasping pattern, sizing, or spacing at all.  I can solely focus on social function and sensory strategies if that is the nature of my learner’s goals.

        For this reason, these winter worksheets can be used for a good variety of learners, not just the ones working on number formation.

        What else does the OT Toolbox have to offer?

        100 Snowballs- 100 snowballs, 1 to 100 writing practice sheet, winter math worksheets

        I love this all in one Winter Fine Motor Kit.

        For more snowball and snow themed activities, be sure to check out the Snowman Therapy Kit. It’s loaded with fine motor activities, crafts, gross motor tasks, coordination, motor planning, scissor skill tasks, and handwriting activities all with a snow and snowman theme.

        Free 100 Snowballs Worksheet

        Want to add this 100 snowballs worksheet to your therapy toolbox for winter occupational therapy activities this time of year? Enter your email address into the form below to access this printable. OT Toolbox Member’s Club members will also find this worksheet inside the membership, along with hundreds of other resources and tools.

        My treatment plans are all about efficiency, effectiveness, and getting the most out of each session…and this winter math worksheet fits the bill!

        Winter Math Worksheet for 100th Day of School

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          I will keep practicing my aim, just in case!

          Victoria Wood, OTR/L

          Victoria Wood

          Victoria Wood, OTR/L has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.

          Things to do on a Snow Day

          Use this snow writing prompt as a way to come up with things to do in the snow on a snow day.

          When school is cancelled for a snow day, it can be fun to think of things to do in the snow. For parents or therapists, sometimes kids need things to do on a day at home so they stay off the video games and screens. Here, you will find therapist-approved winter family activities, things to do in the snow, and a special printable handwriting worksheet with snow writing prompts…perfect for a home therapy task that helps kids build skills through motor skills, PLAY, and even motivating and functional handwriting.

          Use this snow writing prompt as a way to come up with things to do in the snow on a snow day.

          Things to do on a snow day

          Whether you live in the snow, are dreaming about wintery conditions, or are happy to never have to see it again, there is a lot to be said about a winter day. Check out these snow and ice activities, for snowy fun that doesn’t involve all of the cold, ice, and snowflakes!

          Snow days represent different things to different people. Does it represent winter family activities? As a child in Connecticut, winter and snowy days were great!  There were endless things to do outside in the cold. These winter days meant bundling up layers and layers of clothing to head outside, building forts, rolling a snowman, shoveling sidewalks, climbing snow drifts, making snow angels, creating paths of footprints across the fresh, untouched snow, walking across a frozen pond, sledding down a huge hill, or skiing.

          Some of my fondest childhood memories were made on winter days. During the blizzard of 1978, the snow was piled up over our heads.  We walked on top of huge piles over ten feet tall. We had a sheepdog for many winters, it was funny to see his fur covered in snowballs from jumping in the wet snow.  Not so funny having to take them all off after coming inside.  

          Snow days can also mean NO SCHOOL!  We watched and waited for the announcement that there would be no school.  While parents dread this news, kids everywhere cheer for a day off.  

          A day or two of fresh snowfall can mean some indoor cozy fun also. If the power went off, we had a rare chance for pizza from the little town.  I think the neighbor had a snowmobile to trek down and collect it. It also meant hot cocoa and home baked cookies.  In the 70’s and early 80’s TV was not really for kids, except Saturday mornings.  School cancellations did not mean lazy days by the TV or playing electronics.  Out came the board games, the Easy Bake Oven, puzzles, Legos, coloring books, and all of the other things we never seemed to find enough time for. 

          What does a winter snow day mean to you?  Did you grow up with cold winters, or just read about it?  Did you long for just one flurry during a southern winter? Winter days feel different to me now, than as a child.  Today I would treat a winter day as a cuddle up under a blanket with hot cocoa, cookies, a good book, and a dog.

          Snow days are now virtual school days?

          What does a snow day mean to your learners?  It could mean 100 different things. This is a great snow writing prompt for digging up memories, stories, shared ideas, and working on critical handwriting skills. 

          But, in many cases, a school cancellation means parents who still need to work while the kids are at home. There can be more screen time, video games, and YouTube watching than normal. Sometimes parents need a quick list of things to keep the kids busy and OFF screens.

          Even more recently, in many areas, a school cancellation day is no longer a day off from school. Snowy conditions and ice or other weather conditions that may have previously meant a day off from school now may mean a virtual learning day. This change for many kids, is a change that may not go away now that many schools have virtual learning opportunities in place. In these cases, kids attend virtual school, but then they are finished early or have breaks during the school day. The last thing parents want their kids doing during a break from virtual learning is hopping onto another device!

          That’s where a quick list of things to do on a snow day comes in handy.

          In these cases, therapists who may be seeing students virtually can offer therapeutic activities that actually develop the very skills that the students on their caseload are working on.

          Therapists may need a quick activity or task list that specifically addresses the skills their kids are working on, so the child can have an action list of activities to do outside in the winter.

          These snow day activities can even be followed-up on and used as writing prompts in a later session to address executive functioning skills, handwriting, memory, and other skill areas.

          That’s where the snow day activities worksheet available below comes into play. Print off the worksheet and use it to identify winter ideas. Then, when students do have a day off from school, they can use it as a winter bucket list. It’s also a great family activity list for winter days. Or, just use the worksheet in virtual or face to face learning to work on handwriting skills and executive functioning skills.

          Things to do in snow Worksheet

          This winter printable helps learners create a list of Things to do on a Snow Day.

          Each person will have a different experience to write about. Encourage your learners to explore all different aspects of winter days, whether they have experienced them, or just read about it.  Learners will write something to do in the snow in each snowball.

          This activity can be modified for all levels of learners:

          • Lowest level learners can dictate what they would like written in the snow balls
          • This printable can be projected onto the board to work as a group task
          • Pictures of activities can be printed separately, cut and glued onto the snow balls. Use this Snow Day bingo game board to cut out ideas or play snowy bingo
          • The snowballs can be cut and glued onto a separate sheet of paper to add cutting and gluing to the task
          • Middle level learners can write one or two words in each ball.
          • Higher level learners can write an idea in each ball, then create a story or memory out of each idea.  This turns into a multilevel activity to use during many sessions.

          Skills addressed? As always, therapy or teaching is more than just fun and games. There are goals and objectives to be addressed.  This Things to do in the Snow printable, while being fun and relevant, also works on key skills

          • Handwriting – Work on letter formation, letter size, spacing, word and letter placement
          • Letter formation – correctly forming the letters top to bottom
          • Letter sizing – correctly fitting the letters into the size boxes
          • Copying – copying words from a model, transferring the letters from one place to another
          • Fine motor strengthening, hand development, and grasping pattern
          • Sequencing – will your learner do the words in order?   Will they go in a haphazard pattern all over the page?  
          • Following directions, attention to detail, turn taking, waiting, social skills, compliance, behavior, and work tolerance
          • Cutting on the line ( if you choose to add this step), within half inch of lines, in the direction of lines
          • Pasting using glue stick or drippy glue with accuracy
          • Bilateral coordination – remembering to use their “helper hand” to hold the paper while writing.  Using one hand for a dominant hand instead of switching back and forth is encouraged once a child is in grade school or demonstrates a significant strength in one or the other.
          • Strength – core strength, shoulder and wrist stability, head control, balance, and hand strength are all needed for upright sitting posture and writing tasks.

          Remember, you can address all of these skills at once, or focus on one or two.  Some skills above will be addressed without your conscious knowledge, while other skills will be directly worked on. 

          Documentation in Therapy with this Worksheet

          Use this snow day worksheet to document and track skills for data collection. Take note of these areas to collect data for documentation:

          • the percentage of correct letters, 
          • how many letters are formed correctly/directionality/legibility
          • size of letters in relation to the boxes
          • grasping pattern, hand dominance
          • attention to detail, following directions, prompts and reminders needed, level of assistance given

          Therapist-recommended Winter Activities

          If kids are filling out the worksheet and need some ideas to fill in the spaces, try these ideas. You can even fill out a worksheet to have as a copying activity for some student’s skill needs.

          These things to do in snow are perfect for a day off of school or winter family activities:

          What would you add to this list? Do any of these look like winter family activities that you would like to do on your next snow day?

          Free Snow Day Worksheet

          Make this snow writing prompt just part of your winter lesson plan. Print off this worksheet and get started with winter activities for the whole family! This winter worksheet is also available in the OT Toolbox Member’s Club. Members can log in and download this resource along with hundreds of other resources and tools to help kids thrive.

          Get free SNOWBALL ALPHABET WRITING PRACTICE SHEETS

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            Gotta go get my cocoa and marshmallows!

            Victoria Wood, OTR/L

            Victoria Wood

            Victoria Wood, OTR/L has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.

            Snowman Therapy Activity Kit

            Grab the Snowman Therapy Kit for more things to do on a snow day, or just in winter, whether you are on a snow day, or don’t even live in an area with snow!