Upper Case Cursive Letter Formation

Teach kids how to write upper case cursive letters.

Teaching kids to write uppercase cursive can be quite tricky. Upper case cursive letters are part of handwriting and everyday written expression, but when it comes to uppercase letters in cursive letters can create another motor plan that needs to be established for accuracy. Below you’ll find tricks for teaching uppercase cursive letters and uppercase cursive letter formation.

Upper Case Cursive

In this blog post, we refer to the terms “upper case cursive letters” and “uppercase cursive”. The semantics of describing capital letters in cursive is simply for understanding the material, and meeting the needs of all individuals seeking resources on teaching upper case letters in cursive formation.

Let’s get started with the uppercase cursive writing resources and tips.

Some uppercase cursive letters are not used as often as their lowercase counterpart.

When kids learn to write their name in cursive and become proficient at their cursive signature the uppercase letter is just part of the motor plan becomes natural and a personal part of a personal style.

There are many uppercase cursive letters that can easily be forgotten simply because they are not used very often!

Here are the verbal prompts needed to teach uppercase cursive letter formation.



This post is part of our 31 day series on teaching cursive. You’ll want to check out the How to Teach Cursive Writing page where you can find all of the posts in this series. 

For more ways to address the underlying skills needed for handwriting, check out the handwriting drop-down tab at the top of this site.

Uppercase Cursive LetterS

Some students develop a natural speed and personal writing style and will prefer to write in cursive. Other students will write only their signature in cursive. Still other students develop a natural speed and personal style and may mix upper and lower case cursive letters. 

If you look at the average adult handwriting you may notice that there is a mixture of printed and cursive letters. The goal being functional written work, this is fine for adults and individuals who are writing for speed such as high school students.

However, consistent and accurate formation is needed for formal written work in cursive.

Like the cursive letter families for lowercase, the uppercase letters are divided up into groups of families based on pencil strokes.

Teaching kids to write cursive upper case letters is broken down by formation and pencil strokes. We’ve listed the letters out in groups below to support letter formation and motor planning skills.

Read this resource on motor planning and handwriting to better understand this concept.

The descriptions are designed to promote the easiest formation style of cursive letters, eliminating extra lines such as the beginning loop of uppercase cursive letter C. The letters that are exact replicas of their printed counterparts are designed to ease transition for letters that are not commonly used in written work. This is a tactic of the Handwriting Without Tears format. 

Uppercase Cursive D, F, T

Cursive D, F, and T are Uppercase Cursive letters with a downward start.

These letters include D, F, and T. These letters all start with a downward stroke of the pencil. Let’s break these letters down by formation and pencil strokes.

Uppercase cursive D begins down followed by a loop to the left upwards with a curved back to the baseline and a big round curve to finish off the top.

Uppercase cursive F starts in the middle of the letter with a downward stroke followed by a curve to the left and a crossline. Then on top is a crossline topper.

Uppercase cursive T starts with a middle down work stroke in the middle of the letter followed by a curve to the left and no crossline. Then on top is a crossline topper.

Uppercase Cursive A, C, E, O, and Q

Upper case cursive A, C, E, O, and Q are considered “Right curve start uppercase letters” because the pencil stroke starts in the right upper corner. This group includes uppercase letters that start on the right side and curve left. Consider the formation of these letters much like the formation of a printed c.

Uppercase cursive A starts at the right top line and curves to the left with a big C motion to the baseline. The pencil then curves up to close a letter causes at the top line. Retrace back down in loops a way to connect.

Uppercase cursive C starts with a right curve start at the top uppercase C

Uppercase cursive E starts with a right curve start at the top line. It includes two small curves pausing at the middle line before curbing again to the left to the baseline.

Uppercase cursive O is a right curve start beginning at the top line and curving in a big city motion to the baseline. It continues around to close the lot start has a small loop at the top.

Uppercase cursive Q is a right curve start letter beginning at the top line and curving in a big motion to the baseline. Q continues around to close the top of the letter and has a small loop at the end. It then has a kickstand line to complete the letter.

Uppercase Cursive B, P, R, L

These letters are considered “Rocker start uppercase letters“. Uppercase B, P, R, and L begin with a small curving motion to begin the letter at the top line.

Uppercase cursive B starts with a rocker start followed by a straight line down to the baseline. It retraces up to the top line and curve around right to the middle line. Pause and curve around right to the baseline.

Upper case cursive P is a rocker start cursive letter. The letter starts with a rocker line to the top. Straight  line down to the baseline. Retrace up to the top line. Curve around with a small curve to the middle line.

Upper case cursive R is a rocker start cursive letter. The letter starts with a rocker line to the top. Straight line down to the baseline. Retrace up to the top line. Curve around with a small curve to the middle line. Kick out to the baseline with a slant.

Upper case cursive L is a rocker start letter that continues with a small loop down to the baseline. The line continues with a small group and diagonal line to connect as it swings away to the baseline. 

Upper Case Cursive I and J

Next up in teaching cursive capital letters are the “Left curve start letters“. These letters switch pencil stroke directions and have a starting point on the opposite side of the other letters previously covered. There are just two letters start with a left. These include uppercase letter I and J. Both letters start with the pencil moving in a left line direction.

Uppercase letter I is a left curve start letter. The letter starts at the baseline and swings in a loop to the left and turns at the top line. It continues the tall loop back to the baseline, but continues the motion until reaching the middle line. The pencil pauses and pulls in toward the loop at the midline.

Uppercase letter J is a left curve start letter. The letter starts at the baseline and curves left and then up to the top line. It swings straight back down to the baseline and pass the baseline with a table. The line then swings left and then curves up and away to connect.

Upper Case Cursive H, K, M, N, X, W

Next up are the “Top loop start letters“. Several letter start with a top-starting loop that continues down. These letters include capital H, K, M, N, X, and W.

Uppercase cursive H begins with a top loop that continues down to the baseline. The pencil picks up and starts again at the top line. The pencil stroke goes straight down to the baseline and then swings away to touch the initial pencil line. It swings in a loop and then connects over to the second line. 

Upper case cursive H is one of a few letters with two pencil strokes where the pencil picks up to continue a letter. Most cursive letters and all other cursive letters use only a single pencil stroke.

Uppercase cursive K is a loop start letter. It begins at the top with a link to the right on the lease straight line down to the baseline. This is much like the uppercase letter H. However with the K, the second line starts at the top line and continues in to cross the first line with a small loop and then continues out again to the baseline.

Upper case cursive M is a loop start letter that begins at the top line with a loop. The line continue straight down to the baseline and stops. It retraces up over the climb to the top with a bump and continues down to the baseline again. The pencil strip retraces back up that one to the top line and bumps over to the baseline

Upper case cursive N is a loop start letter that begins at the top line with a loop. The line continue straight down to the baseline and pauses. It re-traces back up and curbs away with a bump at the top line. The line continue straight down to the baseline and stops.

Uppercase cursive X is a loop start letter that begins with the loop at the top line followed by a diagonal line down to the baseline. The pencil is picked up and continued at the top line and has a diagonal in the opposite direction to cross at the middle of the X.

Upper case cursive W is a loop start letter that begins at the top line with a loop. The line continues down with a bottom bump inverted bump at the baseline that continues up to the middle line and beyond to the top line. The line is retraced back down with an inverted pump at the baseline. The line continues back up to the top line.

Upper case cursive U, V, W, Y, Z

The last remaining uppercase cursive letters are ones that are very similar information to their lowercase counterparts. They are quite similar in most cases to their printed letter.

These letters include U, V, W, Y, Z

Uppercase cursive U is an exact replica of its printed counterpart.

Uppercase cursive letter V is an exact count a part of its printed counterpart.

Uppercase cursive W is an exact replica of its printed counterpart.

Uppercase cursive Y is an exact replica of it’s lowercase cursive counterpart.

Uppercase cursive Z is an exact replica of the lowercase Z form.

Uppercase Cursive letter practice

Now that you have the specific letter formation directions down and the order to teach uppercase cursive letters, the next step is practice!

Creating a motor plan for automatically creating letters supports handwriting speed, autonomy, and legibility. Practice makes perfect, after all!

But how do you help kids (or adults) create that motor plan for uppercase letters?

Adding sensory motor handwriting strategies! Use the ideas below as a practice component for practicing uppercase cursive writing.

Use bold lines to help kids write with better legibility
Use transfer paper to work on letter formation, size awareness, line awareness, and pencil pressure in handwriting with this easy writing trick that will help kids write with neater and legible handwriting.

Bold Lines Handwriting Trick– Work on forming uppercase cursive letters on the lines using this bold lines trick.

Teach Handwriting with Transfer Paper– Work on that motor plan for uppercase cursive by using transfer paper.

DIY Desk Letter Strip– Make an uppercase cursive letter strip to using forming letters correctly and grouping uppercase cursive letters into families based on the way the pencil strokes go.

Work on Visual Perception with Markers– Use this marker trick to work on forming uppercase cursive.

Sky-Ground Paper and Size Awareness– Help writers learn where the pencil starts with making uppercase cursive letters.

Box and Dot Size Awareness Handwriting– The box dot handwriting trick supports uppercase cursive too.

Need more uppercase cursive tips? Try the Handwriting Book:

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.

Here are the verbal prompts needed to teach uppercase cursive letter formation.

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.

Cursive Handwriting Loop Letters

teach cursive loop letters

Here we are covering how to teach cursive b, cursive e, cursive f, cursive h, cursive k, and cursive l. These loop letters are all connected because of their similar pencil movements that make the letter. You can add these tips and strategies to teach cursive letter writing. Today, you’ll find creative activities and tips for teaching formation of cursive loop letters. Cursive loop letters are those ones that start with a loop line up. Lowercase cursive letters b, e, f, h, k, and l are loop letters. 

Writing cursive letters in order with a specific strategy is very helpful in teaching proper letter formation in a way that is logical.


What are loop letters?

Loop letters are a set of cursive letters that all have a loop in the initial formation of the letter. These loop letters include:

  • cursive b
  • cursive e
  • cursive f
  • cursive h
  • cursive k

After the initial loop, or upswing of the pencil, the pencil moves back down toward the baseline and moves into another pattern to form the rest of the letter.

This cursive letter family is a group of cursive letters that are formed with similar pencil strokes.

Breaking letters down into cursive families can help students learn cursive letter formation. Below, you will find information on how to teach cursive letter formation of “tree letters”.

Use these tips and strategies to help kids learn to write in cursive and learn the cursive loop letters (Cursive b, e, f, h, k

This post is part of our 31 day series on teaching cursive. You’ll want to check out the How to Teach Cursive Writing page where you can find all of the posts in this series. 

For more ways to address the underlying skills needed for handwriting, check out the handwriting drop-down tab at the top of this site.

Motor Plan for Formation of “Loop” Letters

When instructing students in forming these loopy cursive letters, start by outlining a cursive letter lesson plan of activities. You can read more about cursive letter lesson plans here. Students can start out with learning the cursive letters that make up the Loop Family. 

Start by practicing a series of upward curves across a line of paper. This can look like a string of cursive letter loopy l‘s joined together. When practicing the curve of the cursive letter l motions in a strand across a page, set the child’s awareness on height and the start/stop point of each curve.  

Most important is the width of the loop. Instruct students to draw the lines with proper width of the loop. A wide loop will make the letter inefficient and difficult to connect to other letters.   

When beginning with cursive instruction, students should concentrate on an upward curve from the base line to the middle line or top line of the paper.

This loop occurs in the Loop Family letters: b, e, f, h, k, and l.   

Fine Motor Activity for Practicing Cursive Loop Letters 

  Try this activity to practice the loops of the loopy letters.   Use washable markers to draw loops on a paper towel. (Adding pencil lines for writing spaces before starting can be a big help for addressing loop and letter size!)  

To the loops, add drops of water and watch the colors expand. 


Be sure to talk to the child about loop height and width as these aspects to cursive writing will carry the most weight when it comes to legibility.


For a colorful work of art, trace over the marker loops with additional colored markers.
Read more about this cursive handwriting activity and others here on The OT Toolbox. 

Activities for Teaching Cursive Loop Letters

  Use short phrases to instruct cursive formation. Phrases like “Loop up to the top line” or “Loop up to the middle line” can help.   


Try these sensory activities to teach cursive handwriting loop letters: Affiliate links are included below.

Write with glitter or colored glue on lined paper. Allow the glue to dry. Students can feel the raised lines of the loops.

Draw with wet chalk on a chalkboard or sidewalk. Be sure to add guide lines first to address loop height.

Create different sized loops using wikki stix. These are a great tool for getting the hands in on the fine motor action with a tactile experience that promotes motor planning and kinesthetic learning. 

How to Teach Cursive b

Use the following verbal prompts to teach lowercase cursive letter b:  

  1. Start at the baseline.
  2. Loop up to the top line and back to the baseline.
  3. Swing up to the middle line.
  4. Tow rope away to connect.

Lowercase cursive letter b is a tow rope letter. These are letters that connect at the middle line. They change the beginning of the letter they connect to.

It can be helpful to practice letters that are commonly connected to letter b such as ba, be, bi, bl, bo, br, bu, and by.  

How to Teach Cursive e

Use the following verbal prompts to teach lowercase cursive e:

  1. Start at the baseline.
  2. Loop up to the middle line and back to the baseline.
  3. Loop away to connect.
  4. Instruct students to stop at the middle line.  

How to Teach Cursive f

Use the following verbal prompts to teach lowercase cursive letter f:

  1. Start at the baseline.
  2. Loop up to the top line and back to the baseline.
  3. Continue straight down past the baseline.
  4. Curve right and up to the baseline, connecting at the strait part of the tail.
  5. Swing away to connect. 


Note about cursive letter f– This letter requires the pencil lines to close the tail into a “bunny ear” type of loop. Think about drawing a tall bunny ear. The lines create a long, loop type of shape that does not cross like a the loop on the top part of the f.

Rather, the curved motion has a potential for an opening. It’s important for students to close the tail of the f. Likewise, it’s important to keep the closure point at the baseline. If the closure point creeps up above the baseline or has an opening, the letter can potentially look like a cursive b.

Work on loop formation and motor control for closure points in multi-sensory activities such as with sandpaper or in writing trays.    b, e, f, h, k, and l. 

How to Teach Cursive h      

Use the following verbal prompts to teach lowercase cursive letter h:  

  1. Start at the baseline.
  2. Loop up to the top line and back to the baseline. 
  3. Pause.
  4. Re-trace back up to bump to the middle line.
  5. Continue over the bump to the baseline.
  6. Swing away to connect.    

How to Teach Lowercase Cursive k

Use the following verbal prompts to teach lowercase cursive letter k:  

  1. Start at the baseline.
  2. Loop up to the top line and back to the baseline. 
  3. Pause.
  4. Re-trace back up to bump to the middle line.
  5. Continue over the bump and pull back into the loop.
  6. Add a kickstand to the baseline.
  7. Swing away to connect.

Use these sensory activities to practice cursive letter k:

Note about cursive letter k– This letter requires the pencil lines to close the bump at the loop. It’s important for students to pull the pencil lines in and to close the bump. 

If the closure point doesn’t close at the loop, the letter can potentially look like a cursive h.

Work on loop formation and motor control for closure points in multi-sensory activities such as with sandpaper or in writing trays. 

How to Teach Cursive l

Use the following verbal prompts to teach lowercase cursive letter l:    

  1. Start at the baseline.
  2. Loop up to the top line and back to the baseline.
  3. Loop away to connect.  


A few tips for teaching cursive loop letters

    It would be very difficult to teach cursive handwriting only by verbal instruction. Carryover and accuracy would suffer!

A visual component and slow teaching strategies are very important. Try these tips to help with learning cursive loop letters.    

  • Use large motor movements when starting out with cursive instruction. 
  • Teach each letter individually and for short periods of time each day.
  • Practice cursive letters in multiple sensory experiences, including shaving cream on desks, writing trays, in goop, with play dough or slime, etc.
  • Practice near copy work using a visual cue like these free cursive letter flashcards.
  • Practice each letter in a group focusing on one letter at a time. When a new letter is introduced, continue with previously learned letters. 

 

Want to teach other cursive letter families? 
Here is information on how to teach wave letters (c, a, d, g, q).
Try these ideas to teach bump letters (m, n, v, x, y, z).
Try these ideas to teach tree letters (i, j, p, t, u, and w).

Use these tips and strategies to help kids learn to write in cursive and learn the cursive loop letters (Cursive b, d, f, h, k, l)

More Cursive Handwriting Tools and Resources:

Affiliate links are included.

Try these cursive writing tools to help with forming letters: Affiliate links are included. 

Cursive Writing Wizard is a free app on Amazon that allows students to trace letters and words. The app has stickers and animations as well as games that promote learning of cursive letters and connecting lines.   

Cursive Handwriting Workbook is a workbook for kids in elementary grades and focuses on  formation of cursive letters (upper and lower case) as well as words.   

  Teachers can use a laser pointer in the classroom to help students see parts of cursive letters as they instruct each part of the formation. This is helpful when teaching letters in cursive letter families.        

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Valentine’s day activity sheet

valentine's day activity sheets

In today’s free printable the Valentine’s Day Activity Sheet, all the Valentine stuff is certainly mixed up!  This set of Valentines pencil control scanning worksheets combines visual motor and visual perceptual skills in several different PDF forms to delight and entertain even the most picky learner! Add this resource to your Valentine’s Day occupational therapy activities.

Valentine's Day activity sheets to work on visual perceptual skills

Valentine’s Day Activity Sheet

Add this hearts and roses worksheet to your therapy line-up. This is such a fun time of year to add creative resources like the Valentine activity sheet described below. It may even become a new Valentine tradition!

Do you have any Valentine’s traditions? Maybe making handmade valentines, baking cookies, or going out to a favorite restaurant.  Sometimes traditions are purposeful, while other times they just happen. If something “works” one year, it tends to become a tradition whether you want it to or not.  There are expectations in motion, or maybe just lack of creativity.  Hey, she liked it last year, let me do it again for 25 years.

For at least fifteen years I received a box of Russell St****rs chocolates for Valentine’s day.  I am not a fan of this kind of chocolate.  I probably faked enthusiasm the first year, thus starting a tradition.  In short, traditions are ok, but it is also awesome to mix things up a little!

Before looking at the Valentine’s Day Activity Worksheets, we need to understand:

What is visual perception and why is it important? 

Visual perception is being able to look at something and make sense of it.  Items have to be “perceived” in the correct way for motor output, reading, following directions, self care, and just about everything we do. That jacket that is inside out?  It takes more than just fine motor skills to right it.  The eyes and brain need to “see” that the jacket is inside out, where the problem stems from, then use motor skills to correct it. 

Check out this article from the Vision Learning Center about breaking down visual perceptual skills.

While righting jackets and reading are not the most enticing tasks for developing visual perceptual skills, Valentine Printable Scanning Sheets are!

Better yet, to avoid having to submit your email address each time, consider becoming a member of the OT Toolbox! Membership has it’s perks. As a member you will not only be able to find every single one of the free printables offered on The OT Toolbox, but you’ll:

  • Be able to download each of them with a single click (No more re-entering your email address and searching through folders!)
  • Receive early access to new printables and activities before they’re added to the website (You’ll find these in the What’s New section.)
  • Receive a 20% discount on all purchases made in the The OT Toolbox shop!

Valentine’s Day Activity Sheet for Visual Perception

This great bundle of free visual scanning/pencil control printables works on several different visual perceptual skills:

  • Visual memory – remembering what was seen long enough to find it somewhere else
  • Visual scanning – being able to look at all of the choices (either in random or sequential order)
  • Visual form constancy – looking at items that might be slightly different or in a different position and recognizing they are the same figure

four more visual perceptual skills

We use these to make sense of what is seen.  Can you think of examples of activities or everyday tasks that require these skills?

  • Visual figure ground – picking out items from competing backgrounds
  • Visual spatial relations – identify items in relation to other items. What is in front, next to, behind
  • Visual closure – making sense of an item when only given part of it, such as doing a puzzle
  • Visual discrimination – the ability to idenfity differences between objects which may be obvious or subtle

When thinking about figure ground, picture looking for an item in the refrigerator.  This skill requires being able to perceive or “see” the item among a forest of other items.  Visual spatial relations may be looking at pictures to determine what is in the foreground and what is in the background, or how far something is.  There are a lot of pictures and games that trick the mind’s eye into thinking it is seeing something else.  The brain has to work extra hard to decipher these.

In case you missed it, Colleen Beck posted a great article on visual perception:

Some people have amazing visual perceptual skills, while others really struggle. I have mentioned before, there is a gender divide when it comes to visual perceptual skills.  Males were designed to hunt/gather/protect, therefore their eyes do not perceive subtle differences.  Do not despair!  These can be taught, or at least compensated for.  

Knowing that visual perceptual skills can be a weakness for many, it is important to address these difficulties early, and train the brain to recognize the difference between objects, be able to find things, and solve puzzles.  Learners who struggle with anything, are going to be less likely to want to do something that is challenging.  Make it fun!  Get puzzles that have the theme your learner gravitates toward. The OT Toolbox has a great Valentines Day Fine Motor bundle to add to your theme. Use food or other motivating items to teach these skills.

While I tend to discourage more electronic use than is already imposed on young minds, here are a couple of fun examples of online games that are motivating AND build visual perception from the Sensory Toolbox.

As always, there are a dozen ways to adapt and modify these Valentines Day Activity Sheets to meet the needs of most of your learners.  

This Valentine scanning pencil control worksheet is no exception:

  • Laminate the page for reusability. This saves on resources, and many learners love to write with markers!
  • Print in black and white or color for different levels of difficulty
  • Cut the shapes and make a matching game instead of using a writing tool to draw lines
  • Talk about the items, describe their characteristics, and give context clues to help your learner understand why certain pictures match
  • Copy some of these designs to add to the visual motor element
  • Try different writing utensils. This is not only motivating, but some learners work better with markers as they glide easier on paper. Did you know that golf sized pencils promote more of a tripod grasp than traditional long pencils? Try having your learner color with one inch crayons to enhance their grasp
  • Enlarge the task for beginning writers who need more writing space
  • Shrink the task for older learners who need to learn to write smaller
  • Velcro the back of the Valentine items, after laminating and cutting them,  to create a matching game
  • Have students write on a slant board, lie prone on the floor with the page in front to build shoulder stability, or supine with the page taped under the table
  • Project this page onto a smart board for students to come to the board and write in big lines
  • More or less prompting may be needed to grade activity to make it easier or harder
  • Make this part of a larger lesson plan including gross motor, sensory, social, executive function, or other fine motor skills
  • Don’t miss this great post on Valentine’s Day Activities, including Valentine’s Day Playdough, and a Valentine’s Day Shredded Paper Sensory Bin

Besides visual perception and/or writing, what else is being addressed using this Valentine’s scanning, pencil control printable?

  • Fine motor – grasping pattern, wrist stability, intrinsic hand muscle development, pencil control
  • Bilateral coordination – hand dominance, using “helper hand”, crossing midline
  • Proprioception – pressure on paper, grip on writing tool
  • Strength – shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, core, head control
  • Visual perception – scanning, figure ground, line placement, crossing midline, visual closure, seeing parts to whole
  • Executive function/behavior – following directions, attention, focus, sequencing, planning, task completion, frustration tolerance
  • Social function – working together in a group, problem solving, sharing materials and space, turn taking, talking about the activity

It can be very frustrating if you have excellent visual perceptual skills and other people do not “see” the world as you do. Take comfort in the fact that these skills can be learned with a little bit of effort.  Until then, make sure the Ketchup is always on the same shelf, and the clothing is never inside out!

Free Valentine’s Day Activity Sheet

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FREE Valentine’s Day Activity Sheets

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    Superior visual perceptual skills here! – 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.

    **The term, “learner” is used throughout this post for readability, however this information is relevant for students, patients, clients, 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.

    Looking for more pencil control activities?  Look no further:

    How to Draw an Owl Worksheet

    how to draw an owl

    Today, I have another fun free occupational therapy worksheet for you. This How to Draw an Owl activity is a directed drawing worksheet that can be used in owl activities in OT or in the classroom. Draw an owl with step by step directions to work on visual motor skills, direction following, pencil control, and more. This easy owl drawing activity uses basic shapes and pencil lines, so it’s a great owl drawing activity for kids!

    how to draw an owl

    How to Draw an Owl

    Owl directed drawing activities like this one is a great way to help kids develop visual perceptual skills and visual motor skills. When kids follow the step-by-step directions on the drawing worksheet, they are developing several skill areas:

    • Visual perceptual skills (form constancy, visual discrimination, visual attention, visual closure, visual memory, sequential memory, visual spatial relations)
    • Pencil control
    • Eye-hand coordination
    • Direction following
    • Working memory
    • Copying skills needed for handwriting

    Directed drawing activities like this owl drawing easy directed drawing page are fun ways to help kids strengthen a variety of areas in a creative way!

    Free how to draw an Owl (Easy) Worksheet

    If you are part of the OT Toolbox newsletter list, then you may have seen this free OT worksheet before. Be sure to subscribe by entering your email address into the button at the top of this page to access weekly free resources!

    I wanted to create a how to draw an owl EASY worksheet for younger kids starting out with pencil control, but also older students who need to work on skills outlined above. In this easy owl drawing, kids can use simple pencil lines to make the cartoon owl drawing.

    This owl drawing easy activity uses simple pencil strokes and only 4 steps to complete the owl cartoon. Kids that are moving from simple drawing lines like circles and curved lines can benefit from the four simple steps to add details to the owl drawing.

    Want to grab a copy of this free how to draw an owl EASY worksheet?

    Just enter your email address into the form below. You can print off the directed drawing sheet and use this to work on copying skills.

    FREE How to Draw an Owl (EASY) worksheet

      We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

      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.

      Rainbow Pencil Control Exercises

      Pencil control exercises with colored pencils

      If you are looking for ways to work on handwriting legibility and pencil control, then you are in the right place. This Occupational Therapist loves to teach kids handwriting.  Neatness counts when it comes to writing on the lines and being able to read that homework assignment a few hours into the nightly after-school ritual.  Today, I’ve got one easy tip for helping kids to manage with pencil control in order to write on the lines at an age-appropriate speed. Add this pencil control activity to this list of pencil control exercises.

      Pencil control exercises with colored pencils
      This activity is perfect for kids from Kindergarten on up through school-aged.  Anyone who is writing with a pencil and trying to form letters on lines, copy written work, fill in worksheets, and take notes will love this handwriting exercise in pencil control.
       
      Try these pencil control handwriting exercises to work on writing in lines with the small muscles of the hands for more accuracy with lines, legibility, and speed when writing.
       
       


      Pencil Exercises

      This post contains affiliate links.
       
      Pencil exercises like this simple colored pencil activity are powerful ways to improve pencil control in handwriting.
       
      This activity is really, so simple.  There is nothing you need more than a pencil and paper.  We pulled out colored pencils to make our handwriting activity into a rainbow of color and to add a visual scanning component.

       

      Try these pencil control handwriting exercises to work on writing in lines with the small muscles of the hands for more accuracy with lines, legibility, and speed when writing.

       

      Rainbow Pencil Control Exercises

      With this activity, we’re working on keeping the pencil strokes within the lines of a small circle.  

      1. First, draw a bunch of circles in different colors on a piece of paper.  The circles should be 1/4 inch in diameter.  
      2. Ask your child to fill in the circle with the matching colored pencil. A red circle should be filled in with the red colored pencil.  

      The objective here is to fill in the whole circle without going over the lines.  Because the circle is so small, filling it in with the colored pencil requires very small muscle movements of the fingers.  

      A child who uses their wrist or forearm to write (such as a child using a grasp such as the thumb wrap grasp, for example, are over compensating for weakness and lack of endurance of the intrinsic musculature in the hand and utilizing a stabilizing grasp.  This rainbow pencil control exercise strengthens dexterity, including range of motion in the thumb IP joint. Read more about the thumb IP joint and handwriting in a previous post.

      This overcompensation does not allow fluid motions of the fingers when moving the pencil in handwriting.  Because the circles are so small, the child can focus more on using the small motor motions to fill in the color.

       
      Try these pencil control handwriting exercises to work on writing in lines with the small muscles of the hands for more accuracy with lines, legibility, and speed when writing.

       

       

      More Pencil Control Exercises


      Extend this activity to further your child’s fine motor skills and pencil control in handwriting:

      • Ask your child to draw an “X” in each circle, without going over the lines.
      • Ask your child to draw horizontal or vertical lines within each circle, much like we did here.
      • Create a color coding activity: Match one circle color up with another pencil color.  When you call out a color, your child can fill in that colored circle with a different, predetermined colored pencil.  This is a test of visual scanning and quick thinking.
      • Draw larger circles and show your child how to fill them in with strait pencil strokes.
      • Work on pencil control strokes using the pages in our Colors Handwriting Kit
      Pencil control exercises for kids using colored pencils

          This rainbow handwriting activity is part of the Rainbow Activities for Kids series.  Find more rainbow activities here:

      rainbow activities for kids

      FROM LEFT TO RIGHT:Rainbow in a Bag – No Mess Art // Powerful Mothering Rainbow Pasta Threading // Play and Learn
      Everyday Rainbow Tinker Tray // Still Playing School How to Flip a
      Rainbow | Simple Science for Kids
      // Lemon Lime Adventures Rainbow Sun Craft // Fairy Poppins Beginning Sound Rainbows // Playdough to Plato DIY Rainbow Crayon Names // Pre-K
      Pages Rainbow Bear Color Matching Game
      // Life Over Cs Rainbow
      Marble Painting Process Art
      // Preschool Inspirations DIY Paper Plate Loom: Rainbow Yarn Art // Sugar Spice and
      Glitter Rainbow Sight Words // The Kindergarten Connection Rainbow Math with a DIY Abacus // Fun-a-Day Simple Rainbow Sensory Bottle for Kids // Coffee Cups
      and Crayons Roll a Rainbow // The STEM Laboratory  

      Colored pencils exercises for improving pencil control in handwriting.

      Looking for more handwriting ideas?  Here are some of my favorites:

      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 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.

      The Many Benefits of Coloring with Crayons

      Fine motor skills with coloring

      There are many benefits of coloring with crayons in occupational therapy interventions. Coloring with crayons is a fine motor skill that builds other skills. Did you know that the act of coloring with a crayon can help children develop fine motor strength, dexterity, grasp, and endurance in their hands? And, coloring skills develop by more coloring. Here’s the thing: occupational therapists use crayons to help children develop fine motor skills, but they also work on the development of coloring skills as a functional task that is part of play, and typical child development. Let’s talk about all of the coloring skills that occupational therapy addresses with a simple box of crayons.

      Benefits of coloring in child development

      You know that smell, right? It’s kind of waxy and flaky (if that’s a smell…) and so distinctive! If you open a box of crayons that have the little marks of each crayon inside the cardboard box, it has an even stronger smell.  Crayons smell like childhood! This post on coloring skills is part of my 31 Days of Occupational Therapy series, where each day is a creative activity using OT treatment materials that are free or almost free.  

      Fine Motor Skills with Crayons

      Crayons are something that most homes have in a pencil box, in an old tin, or in a drawer somewhere.  Did you know those childhood memory sticks (aka Crayons) can be used in SO many skill areas?  

      Consider fine and gross motor strength, tool use, sensory processing, pencil grasp, line awareness, hand-eye coordination, dexterity, endurance, self-confidence, creativity, task completion, and learning objectives like color identification, and color matching.  Crayons develop the very skills needed for pencil grasp and carryover of that pencil grasp. Whew!  No wonder crayons get worn down to nubs with all of those areas that they are working on!  



      Coloring is a fine motor skill and it helps kids develop other areas.

      Benefits of Coloring for Children

      There are so many developmental benefits to coloring! It’s more than creating a colorful preschool work of art.

      Related Read: Read about how we worked on carryover of pencil grasp and strengthened fine motor skills and so many other areas with our 3 Crayon Challenge activity.

      There are so many benefits to coloring for kids: hand strength, visual motor skills, visual perception, tool use, creativity, endurance, creativity, self-confidence, task completion, and learning objectives!  Tips from an Occupational Therapist for working on coloring and handwriting in school and at home.

      Coloring with crayons Improves Tool Use


      Coloring with crayons improves a child’s ability to manipulate tools such as pencils, scissors, utensils, grooming and hygiene tools, and other functional tools with ease. By developing coloring skills, kids have a natural opportunity to explore a writing utensil in a way that is fun and creative.  

      They can use different colors by placing crayons back into the box with a coordinated manner.  To further develop tool use with children, offer a crayon pencil sharpener, a small bin or zippered pouch that needs opening or closing, and a variety of crayon sizes and shapes. All of these can extend fine motor skills with more practice in tool use as well as dexterity.

      Coloring with Crayons improves Bilateral Coordination

      Bilateral Coordination is a fine motor skill needed for so many tasks. Using both hands together in a coordinated manner is a skill needed for handwriting, scissor use, and many functional tasks.  When coloring, a child needs to hold the paper as they color.  Using the assisting, non-dominant hand as a stabilizer allows a child to build strength and dexterity in their dominant hand.  This skill will carry over to writing tasks, and makes coloring a great activity for kids who are switching hands in activities.

      Coloring with Crayons Improves Endurance


      Building on the fine motor skill areas, coloring can deepen a child’s endurance in completing writing tasks.  

      Many times, kids will complain of hand fatigue while coloring.  They can build muscle endurance by coloring with the small muscles of their hands and allow for greater endurance when writing, too. To help a child develop hand strength, use coloring!

      You can help kids improve hand strength with this simple coloring exercise: Instruct a child how to color in small circles to work on the strength and endurance of the intrinsic muscles.  Ask them to fill in the complete circle. To extend the activity, create more circles. This exercise can be extended further by working on a vertical surface such as an easel or by taping the page to a wall. This develops proximal stability at the shoulder girdle as well as core strength, allowing for postural stability in written work.

      If a child needs to work on this area, you can show the student how to color on a slanted surface like a slanted table surface or elevated surface. Here is an easy way to create a DIY slant board.

      Broken Crayons help with hand strength! 

      Fine motor skills with coloring

      Coloring develops Tripod Grasp


      Coloring is a fine motor strengthening tool that many Occupational Therapists recommend and use in treatment sessions.  Coloring is a resistive task that provides the small muscles in the hand to work the waxy crayon onto coloring sheets.  When a child holds a crayon, they are working on the strength of the intrinsic muscles of the hand.  

      Using broken crayons requires more work and is a greater strengthening task for kids who need to work on their tripod grasp. For more strengthening, encourage your child to color more resistive surfaces such as construction paper, cardboard, or even sand paper. 


      Coloring offers sensory input


      Coloring with a crayon can be an opportunity to add heavy work through the hands. This sensory feedback is proprioceptive input that “wakes up” the muscles of the hands and can be calming input.

      Unlike a marker, children can color lightly or very dark by exerting more pressure.  The proprioceptive system comes into play when a child attempts to vary the amount of pressure they are exerting through the crayon.

      Coloring with markers just doesn’t provide that resistive feedback that coloring with a waxy crayon does. Markers are smooth and don’t give kids the sensory input that help with learning letters.  For a fun twist on letter formation activities, grab a box of crayons!  

      To help kids write with heavier or lighter pencil pressure when writing, encourage children to shade and combine colors by being aware of how lightly or darkly they are coloring.  There is also that crayon scent that children are aware of, either consciously or unconsciously.  If you recall the scent of crayons from your childhood, then you know what I’m talking about here!

      Coloring Skills Develop Spatial Awareness


      Coloring skill development progresses as children gain experience in coloring. By developing coloring skills, kids can improve visual perceptual skills. Spatial awareness is an aspect of perceptual skills.

      Visual perception is so important to many functional skills in handwriting: awareness of the body’s position as it moves through space, line awareness, using margins on a page, and writing within a given space.  Coloring is a great tool in working on these areas as children color within lines and given spaces.  

      But sometimes, kids have trouble staying in the lines or coloring in areas without leaving large spaces uncolored.  Verbal prompts, highlighted lines, bold lines, thick coloring lines, and physical prompts like raised lines can improve spatial awareness in coloring.

      There are so many benefits to coloring for kids: hand strength, visual motor skills, visual perception, tool use, creativity, endurance, creativity, self-confidence, task completion, and learning objectives!  Tips from an Occupational Therapist for working on coloring and handwriting in school and at home.

      Coloring Skills and Eye Hand Coordination

      One reason that coloring in occupational therapy sessions is so well-used as an intervention strategy is the development of eye-hand coordination skills. There are benefits of coloring with crayons when it comes to coordinating vision and motor skills. When writing or coloring, children must coordinate their physical movements with information received from their visual system.  

      Controlled movements are essential for handwriting, letter formation, and neatness in handwriting.  Coloring helps with practicing coordination of the visual input with physical movements of the hands in very small spaces or large areas.

      Providing smaller areas of coloring require more controlled movements and dexterity.  For difficulties in this area, consider adding boundaries to coloring areas, with darkened and thicker lines or raised boundaries like using Wikki Stix around the coloring area.

      Coloring Benefits Creativity and Self-Confidence


      Another of the benefits of coloring with crayons involves self-confidence. Coloring inspires creativity in kids.  A blank piece of paper and a box of crayons can inspire stories and pictures.  Being creative allows a child to build their self-confidence in other areas, especially handwriting and pencil tasks. If you’ve ever received a coloring masterpiece from a child, then you know the pure delight they have when giving a creation they have made.  That boost of self-confidence will entice them to complete other paper/pencil tasks.

      Coloring helps with Color Identification and Color Matching


      Crayons are color!  Kids can be encouraged to practice color identification with the bright and vivid colors in a crayon box.  Use a color by number activity to work on color matching skills.

      These visual discrimination skills, visual scanning, visual attention, and visual memory needed to identify and match colors are part of the visual perceptual skills we talked about above. All of these are needed skills for reading, writing, math, and other higher level cognitive skills.

      Coloring with crayons in occupational therapy helps kids develop fine motor skills

      Coloring in occupational therapy teletherapy

      All you need to develop the skills listed above is a simple box of crayons. This makes coloring a powerful tool in occupational therapy teletherapy, because many homes have crayons available.

      Working on fine motor skills in teletherapy can be difficult because so many of an occupational therapist’s favorite fine motor tools might not be available. This is where using crayons to work on a variety of skills can be so powerful.

      Try some of these teletherapy activities using crayons:

      So, now you know the many benefits of coloring with crayons.  How can you use crayons in developmental and functional tasks?  Let’s explore crayons for various ages and stages.

      Toys and tools for kids who love to color and ways to incorporate coloring into kids daily lives to work on so many functional skills like fine motor, grasp, visual perceptual.

      Toys for Coloring Skills

      Here are some creative learning and play ideas that kids will love.  Some of these are more pricey than just a box of crayons, but your crayon fan will enjoy using these toys and games and won’t even realize they are working on so many skills!

      (We’re including affiliate links.)   One of our favorite books is The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Dewalt. This is a book for crayon fans! We grab this book from the library anytime we see it, and it’s got a great message, too. Kids will be inspired to color after reading this book about crayons. 

       It’s no secret that crayons are a fine motor powerhouse when it comes to developing that tripod grasp! You can use larger crayons for smaller kids or children who need to work on other grasps, like a lateral key grasp, or children who need to work on thumb adduction in functional tasks like scissoring. These ALEX Jr. Tots First Crayons are just the thing to try! 

       Work on more fine motor skills, like finger isolation when using Finger Crayons.

      Kids can get creative and explore sensory play while using crayons in the bathtub. 


       These Bath Time Crayons are on my list to try!

      Do you remember rubbing crayons over fashion design kits as a kid? There is a reason to do this play activity with kids! 


      This Fashion Design Activity Kit provides proprioceptive input and strength to little hands in a fun and creative way. 


       With 152 colors, this Crayola Ultimate Crayon Case will give your kiddo a color for every creative whim. This looks so inviting! 


       There is a coloring book out there for everyone! Even adults can get in on the coloring fun with creative coloring like this Art Nouveau Animal Designs Coloring Book . Color alongside your child for calming and relaxing art time. 


       I love the large size and big pictures of the Melissa & Doug Jumbo Coloring Pads. They are perfect for the youngest colorers. 


      For more creative fun, try Dry Erase Crayons right on a dry erase surface. This is a great way to practice spelling words on a resistive surface. 


      Little artists will love to create their own t-shirt designs using Fabric Crayons
      . This is a fun way to work on fine motor strength and bilateral coordination. Holding down that cotton t-shirt is a bilateral coordination workout!

      There are so many benefits to coloring for kids: hand strength, visual motor skills, visual perception, tool use, creativity, endurance, creativity, self-confidence, task completion, and learning objectives!  Tips from an Occupational Therapist for working on coloring and handwriting in school and at home.

      Colors Handwriting Kit

      Working on handwriting skills in occupational therapy sessions?

      Need to help your child with handwriting legibility, letter formation, spacing, and sizing in written work?

      Working on handwriting in the classroom and need a fun colors of the rainbow theme for motivating handwriting tasks?

      The Colors Handwriting Kit has you covered!

      In the 60 page printable kit, you’ll find handwriting worksheets, fine motor activity pages for A-Z, colors “write the room” cards for uppercase letters, lowercase letters, and cursive letters. This kit has evertyhing you need for helpiing kindergarten-2nd grade students with handwriting skills.

      Click here to access the Colors Handwriting Kit.

      Colors Handwriting Kit
      Colors Handwriting Kit for working on handwriting with a colors theme.

      More Crayon activities

      Metallic Crayon Dough

      Shades of red crayon play dough 

      Harold and the Purple Crayon play dough 

      Rainbow Crayon Play Dough

      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.

      Pencil Grasp Activities with Fine Motor Play

      Pencil grasp activities for kids

      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 for kids

      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.

      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
      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. 

      Fine motor play activity using tweezers made from craft sticks

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

      creative ways to build and work on a functional pencil grasp

      Help kids with fine motor skills using small balls of play dough.
      Use clay to work on fine motor skills
      Improve hand dominance using fine motor activities.

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

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

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

      pencil grip occupational therapy ideas for fine motor skills and pencil grasp
      Kids can work on fine motor skills by playing with masking tape on a table surface.
      Work on fine motor skills by playing with waterbeads
      Fine motor play using tissue paper
      Make DIY lacing cards to help kids with fine motor skills.

      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.   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 Table-Top Play addresses intrinsic muscle strengthening.   DIY Lacing Cards improves bilateral coordination, needed for holding the paper while writing.  

      Use pipe cleaners to work on fine motor skills.
      Use clothespins to work on hand strength.
      Make your own pencil control worksheets.

      Pipe Cleaner Fun builds tripod grasp for use with handwriting.   Fine Motor Strengthening Color Match works on increasing the intrinsic muscle strength of the hands.   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
      Play with coins to improve fine motor dexterity.
      Tracing letters with sidewalk chalk improves hand strength.

      Learning With Dyed Pasta provides a fun activity for building eye hand coordination.   Manipulating Coins for Fine Motor Development is a great way to work on in-hand manipulation needed for manipulating the pencil during handwriting.   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
      Use pipe cleaners and a plastic bottle to work on tripod grasp.

      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.   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.  

      Creative ways to work on pencil grasp

      Pencil grasp Activities

      Here are more ways to work on pencil grasp using fun activities:

      Pegboards
      Tweezer activities

      Clothes pin games

      Lacing beads
      Play Dough (Here’s a GREAT play dough recipe using old crayons.) 

      Pop bubble wrap

      Play with play dough or silly putty

      Use spray bottles to water plants

      Play hand games like “where is thumbkin”

      Color with very small pieces of broken crayons
      Draw or doodle with a small pencil

      Crumble paper

      Playing cards

      Sign language

      Shadow puppets

      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 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.