What are Visual Spatial Relations

spatial relations activities

Visual Spatial Relations is an important visual perceptual skill that is important for many functional tasks.  Spatial relations allows the organization of the body in relation to objects or spatial awareness.  This is an important part of spatial awareness in handwriting and many other movement-based activities.  An important part of visual spatial relations includes laterality and directionality. In general, these spatial relationship terms refer to left-right body awareness and the ability to perceive left/right relationship of objects. 

Spatial Relations is being aware of oneself in space. It involves positioning items in relation to oneself, such as reaching for items without overshooting or missing the object. Most of us realize as we walk through a doorway that we need to space ourselves through the middle of the door.

Some with poor visual spatial skills may walk to closely to the sides and bump the wall. It also involves the fine motor tasks of coordinating handwriting with writing in spaces allowed on paper, placing letters within an area (lines), and forming letters in the correct direction.

What are spatial relations?

Spatial relations, or visual spatial awareness, refers to an organization of visual information and an awareness of position in space so the body can move and perform tasks. Spatial relations are needed for completing physical actions, moving in a crowded space, and even handwriting.

More examples of spatial relations

Knowing which shoe to put on which foot.  Understanding that a “b” has a bump on the right side.  Putting homework on the left side of the take home folder before putting books into a locker beside the gym bag.  Visual spatial relations are everywhere!

Here are more everyday examples of spatial relations at work:

  • Letter formation and number formation
  • Writing letters without reversal
  • Reading letters without reversal
  • Sports
  • Completing puzzles
  • Walking in a crowded hallway without running into others
  • Standing in line without bumping into others
  • Left/right awareness
  • Understanding spatial reasoning concepts such as beside/under/next to/etc
  • Reading without losing one’s place
  • Copying written work with appropriate spatial awareness
  • Reading maps  

Visual spatial skills in occupational therapy activities are an important skill.  

Visual Spatial Skills and Handwriting

Spatial relations, and the ability to organize physical movements related to visual information impacts handwriting.

You might be thinking: “Movement and handwriting!? What?? I want my kiddo to sit still and copy his homework into his planner without wiggling all over the desk!”

Ok, ok. Here is the thing: We are asking our kids to write way to early. Preschoolers are being given paper with lines and are asked to write their name with correct letter formation. Kids are being thrown into the classroom environment with expectations for legible written work an they are missing the necessary basics.

When kids are not developing the skills they need to hold a pencil, establish visual perceptual skills, and organize themselves, they are going to have struggles in handwriting.

NOTE: There are a few other baseline tools that kids need in order to establish a base for better handwriting. Fine motor experiences, positioning, attention are just a few of these areas.

Here are a few easy hands-on strategies to help with spatial relations in written work:

  1. Read this resource on hand dominance and laterality.
  2. Then check out this post on what you need to know about writing with both hands.
  3. Finally, check out this movement activity for direction following that involves spatial relations.

These resources are all connected and can impact spatial relations skills!

Another resource is this post on Hand Aerobics and Fine Motor Skills Needed in the Classroom

You can find all of our handwriting posts here.

Spatial Relations Quick Tip:
Write a letter on the student’s back using a finger or a pencil eraser. Ask the student guess what letter it is. Then, ask the child to air write the letter. (While holding a pencil, with large motion, whole arm motions AND very small with just the fingers!) Finally have him write the letter on paper.

  • These activities all require the ability to perceive an object in space.  The way they interpret position in space to their body and to other objects in the environment impacts motor skills.    
  • Spacing pieces of a puzzle amongst the others and writing in relation to the lines is one way to work on this skill.

Fine Motor Quick Tip:
Encourage pinching activities. So many kids are exposed to screen technology from a young age. Screen interaction uses the pointer finger in isolation or just the thumb. These digits become strong and a dynamic pencil grasp is limited. Promote strengthening of the intrinsic muscles by pinching clay or tearing and crumbling small bits of paper. Read more about intrinsic muscle strengthening here.

What are visual spatial relations and how are visual relationships and visual concepts needed for functional tasks?

Spatial Relations Activities

Try these movement-based spatial relations activities to work on the visual spatial skills needed for writing and completing everyday tasks:

  • Create a paper obstacle course. Draw obstacles on paper and have your child make his /her pencil go through the obstacles.
  • Draw circles, holes, mud pits, and mountains for them to draw lines as their pencil “climbs”, “jumps”, “rolls”, and even erases!
  • Create an obstacle course using couch cushions, chairs, blankets, pillows to teach left/right/over/under.
  • Write words and letters on graph paper. The lines will work as a guide and also a good spacing activity.
  • Use stickers placed along the right margin of to cue the student that they are nearing the edge of paper when writing.
  • Highlight writing lines on worksheets.
  • Draw boxes for words on worksheets for them to write within.
  • Play Simon Says.
  • Practice directions. Draw arrows on a paper pointing up, down, left, and right. Ask your child to point to the direction the arrow is pointing. The child can say the direction the arrows are pointing. Then create actions for each arrow. Up may be jumping. Down may be squatting. The Left arrow might be side sliding to the left, and the Right arrow might be a right high kick. Next, draw more rows of arrows in random order. Ask your child to go through the motions and try to go faster and faster.
This map activity is great for building and developing spatial concepts and higher level thinking right in the backyard, using a map and lights to develop spatial relations. Teaching Spatial Concepts to Preschoolers and Toddlers through play. Over, under, around, and through and their need in functional tasks like shoe tying and handwriting. Visual Perception and spatial awareness in kids.  What is Spatial awareness and why do kids have trouble with spacing between letters and words, reversing letters, and all things vision.  Great tips here from an Occupational Therapist, including tips and tools to help kids with spacing in handwriting. What is spatial awareness?  Tips and tools for handwriting, reading, scissors, and all functional skills in kids and adults, from an Occupational Therapist.

Other activities to incorporate spatial relations include:

Try these other activities that challenge visual spatial relations:

Movement and spatial relations worksheet to improve spatial awareness in kids

Free Movement and Handwriting Worksheet

Today’s free printable shares movement based activities to help kids improve their spatial relations. These are the skills kids need to write legibly. It includes tips and activities to improve spatial relations, that were mentioned above. This free handout is a great resource to add to your occupational therapy toolbox.

You will receive this handout when you join the Handwriting Tips and Tricks series. Each day over the course of 5 days, you’ll receive a free handwriting worksheet to use in addressing common handwriting issues.

Join the free handwriting series!

handwriting handouts

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.

Fix Spacing in Handwriting (Free Handout)

spacing in handwriting handout

Working to fix spacing in handwriting so the kids you serve can write legibly? Spatial awareness is a huge means to improving legible written work. Sometimes having a few strategies to actually improve the spacing between letters and words is so beneficial for accuracy and carryover in handwriting.

Today, I have another free handwriting handout as part of our handwriting tips and tricks series. If you’ve already signed up for this series, you have the free worksheet in your inbox. This is the space to access more spacing in handwriting resources and tools to help with spacing between letters and words for legible written work.

Free spacing in handwriting handout that includes tips for improving spacing between words and letters in written work.

Fix Spacing in Handwriting

Spatial awareness is a powerhouse when it comes to legibility in written work. The child who forms letters with award formation no matter how many times you teach them that letters start at the top can increase overall legibility by spacing out words on the lines.

However, spacing between letters and words can be difficult when visual motor integration is an issue. Modifications and adaptations can help.

For those kiddos who have zero awareness of organization on the page and start at the middle of the paper or don’t seem not notice space constraints on a worksheet will definitely benefit from spatial awareness tips and tricks.

Here are a few easy ways to fix spacing in handwriting:

  1. Use graph paper
  2. Use a highlighter for writing words
  3. Use a small dot (colored pencil) to space between words
  4. Use a spacing tool. Kids can make their own (check out the spacing tools listed below) to help with carryover and use.
  5. Highlight margins
  6. Use boxes for words or letters. This blog post shows how to set up boxes for spacing between letters and words.
  7. Encourage the child to use a “finger space” between words and physically place their finger on the paper. This incorporates bilateral coordination and holding the paper when writing.
  8. Use stickers placed along the right margin of to cue the student that they are nearing the edge of paper when writing.
  9. Draw a red stop sign at the right margin.
  10. Graph paper Try 1/2 inch wide rule first.
  11. Raised line paper
  12. Slant board
  13. Try smaller width of lines instead of primary paper.
  14. RediSpace paper has a green line along the left margin and a red line along the right margin.

Fix Spacing between words with a spacing tool

There are many spacing tools on the market, but when kids are involved in the creation process, they are likely to use the item in handwriting tasks. We’ve made several spacing tool crafts here. Try these ideas:

Why Spacing between words is important

Spacing between letters and words is one of the easiest ways to improve overall legibility in written work. Why? There are a few reasons…

When letter formation is difficult for children, letters can appear sloppy or hard to discriminate from one another. This can make reading back written work difficult for children. Spacing between words can create white space that makes it easier to read sloppy or poorly formed letters. Those that struggle with handwriting challenges such as dysgraphia or dyslexia, fine motor challenges, sensory issues, motor planning challenges, correct formation of letters can be quite difficult. Spacing between words helps to improve overall legibility.

Spacing helps when line use is a challenge. Some children struggle with the visual perceptual skills needed to write on lines. Other contributors to poor line use may include pencil control challenges, motor planning issues, fine motor skill development, or difficulties visual motor skills. When any of these challenges exist, placing letters correctly on the lines, below the lines can impact legibility. Addressing spacing between letters and words can help with readability of written work.

Spacing helps with letter size issues. Similarly to the concept of line use, sizing of letters is important. When sizing is incorrect or inconsistent, children may fill the entire space with their letters. They may make all of the letters the same size or use quick writing speed which impacts legibility and results in large letters. Adding more space between words can help with reading this written material.

Addressing spacing issues allows others to read one’s handwriting. Teachers and parents can agree that when handwriting is illegible, there are difficulties with learning. Kids struggle to read their notes or homework list. Others might not be able to read back over what they’ve written making studying for quizzes and tests a challenge. Students may miss questions on exams or homework assignments when legibility is an issue. All of these issues can impact learning of information and grades.

For more information, you’ll want to check out all of our handwriting posts here.

Spatial Awareness Quick Tip:

Make a spacing tool that can be used while your child is writing words and sentences. It can be as easy as a popsicle stick or even the child’s finger. Show them how to place the spacing tool between words and sideways between letters.

Fine Motor Quick Tip:

Help kids to develop and strengthen the skills needed for improved pencil grasp with fine motor experiences. Encourage flexion of the thumb IP joint (bending the tip of the thumb). Thumb IP joint motion during handwriting helps with pencil control and positioning in the hand. Check out this resource on improving pencil grasp through play, or this massive Pencil Grasp Bundle for activities and tools to impact pencil grasp, motor planning, and fine motor skills.

Spacing in Handwriting Handout

Want tips and tricks to work on spacing in handwriting in a handout form? This free resource is a spacing worksheet that can be used to develop spacing awareness skills in written work. Use the handwriting strategies listed on the handout in educating parents, teachers, or other therapists on the needs of a child.

This free spacing worksheet lists the strategies we covered above and can be a great addition when making suggestions for specific spacing needs. To access this free handout, join the Handwriting Tips and Tricks series…5 days of free handouts and information on all things legible written work!

Head to Handwriting Occupational Therapy Tips and Tricks to sign up. You’ll receive 5 free handwriting handouts related to aspects of written work: spacing, sizing, line use, letter formation, and more. Each day for 5 days, a free handwriting printable is delivered to your inbox.

handwriting handouts

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.

Spacing Tool for Handwriting

Spacing tool for spacing between words in handwriting

This spacing tool is an alien craft that kids can make and use as a spacing tool for handwriting. A finger spacer handwriting tool is a powerful device to help kids space between letters and words when writing. We’ve come up with a few different spacing tools in the past, and this space themed spacing tool helps kids better understand the concepts of spatial awareness for better legibility in written work.

Sometimes, a child’s handwriting doesn’t improve given time and practice in the classroom. You might see a child copying words or sentences and squishing all of the words and letters together in a long string. There might be no space or inconsistent spacing between letters and words. It can be frustrating for the child and their parent or teacher.

Spacing Tool

This spacing tool will help with spacing in handwriting in a fun way.  My second grader and I had fun creating this Space Martian Spacing Tool and using it to practice spacing between words.

Spacing tool for spatial awareness in handwriting, using a space theme

Spacing Tool for poor spacing in handwriting

  This post contains affiliate links.   Poor spacing in handwriting can be a visual tracking problem.  It could be visual inattention or poor hand eye coordination.  Sometimes, spacing is just something that needs more practice and a visual prompt like this space alien can help.   Try this easy DIY version using a craft stick to create a spacing tool pointer stick, perfect for visual perceptual needs.  

Make a spacing tool with this space martian craft, and work on visual tracking, visual perceptual skills, and visual attention in handwriting.

You can easily make this spacing tool with just a few materials:

  1. To make the spacing tool, ask students to use glue to add a small dot of glue to the back of the googly eye. What a great fine motor precision and eye-hand coordination job.

2. Next, stick the googly eye onto one end of the green craft stick.

3. Cut the letter C foam sticker in half. Glue each piece to the craft stick above the googly eye.

And that’s it! If you don’t have foam letter stickers, you could use small pieces of pipe cleaners or scraps of paper.

Here’s a video showing how to make this space alien spacing tool:

Work on spacing in handwriting with a spacing tool craft kids can make.

 Use this handwriting spacing tool between letters and words.  Encourage your child to move the spacer over between words.  Sometimes, just that visual cue is enough to help.  The physical act of moving the craft stick to space between words can provide enough input to a child that they become more aware of the need to space, and are able to carryover the skill without using the physical reminder for spacing.  

Visual Perception and spatial awareness in kids.  What is Spatial awareness and why do kids have trouble with spacing between letters and words, reversing letters, and all things vision.  Great tips here from an Occupational Therapist, including tips and tools to help kids with spacing in handwriting.


Another easy way to make a handwriting spacing tool involves materials you have around the home, like buttons. The main thing to address with a handwriting spacing tool is a spatial awareness and using a craft that kids can make adds meaning and motivation to work on spacing between letters and words.  

When kids learn to write, it can be difficult to work on all of the parts of handwriting.  There is holding the pencil, and using muscles to maintain a grasp while writing sentences. Then there is letter formation.  Putting it all together can be challenging.  

In Kindergarten, children really work on letter formation, and especially lower case letter formation. When you throw in the lines and spacing to writing, it can be a real frustration for a new writer!  That’s where using a fun spacing tool comes into play. It allows for appropriate spatial awareness in handwriting is accurately spacing letters within words and spacing words correctly within a sentence.      

For another spacing tool idea, try this easy (and inexpensive!) way to create a Spacing tool using buttons. This spacing tool can be used in handwriting tasks, as a tool for spacing between letters and words.  

Visual Perception and spatial awareness in kids.  What is Spatial awareness and why do kids have trouble with spacing between letters and words, reversing letters, and all things vision.  Great tips here from an Occupational Therapist, including tips and tools to help kids with spacing in handwriting.

How to make a spacing tool with buttons

Spacing between words and letters can be easy with this button spacing tool.  It’s easy to make and can be created using items you already have.  The cost of this activity should be very inexpensive, especially if you use items you already have.  

To make spacing tool you’ll need just a couple of items: (This post contains Amazon affiliate links.)

  • Craft stick
  • Glue
  • Buttons

We used a colored craft stick and brightly colored button that we received from www.craftprojectideas, but you could use any material you have in your home.  Have a bin of beads or crafting pom poms in your craft supplies?  Use beads instead of buttons. Other ideas include craft pom poms or pipe cleaners.

  1. First, glue one button to the end of a popsicle stick or even a pipe cleaner.  
  2. Let it dry.
  3. Then, use the spacing tool while your child is writing words and sentences.  Show them how to place the button spacing tool between words and sideways between letters. 

This post is part of our 31 Days of Occupational Therapy where I’m sharing tips and tools for many developmental areas using free or inexpensive materials.     For more spatial relations related to handwriting, check out our Visual Tracking activities

RELATED READSpatial Awareness Tips and Tools

Spacing tool with an alien craft.


Visit our Visual Motor Skills page for more ideas in all thing visual perception and kids!      

More Space Activities

Know a kiddo that loves all things space, astronauts, and planets? The Outer Space Fine Motor Kit is your chance to develop fine motor strength, dexterity, and coordination skills.

Addressing hand strength, endurance, and precision is out of this world fun! The Outer Space Fine Motor Kit includes:

  • Fine Motor Mazes
  • Fine Motor Ten Frames for motor activities
  • 1-20 Star Counting Cards
  • Bead Copying Strips
  • Space Alien Directed Drawing Sheets

This fine motor kit includes 24 pages of printable resources. Included in this printable pack are:

  1. Two pages of color coded bead copying strips
  2. Two pages of blank bead copying strips
  3. Four pages of “draw and write” directed drawing activities with a space theme (Includes 3 styles of handwriting lines: highlighted lines, single rule, and double rule)
  4. Nine pages of fine motor mazes
  5. 1-20 Outer Space Counting Cards
  6. Four pages of fine motor ten frames activities

These printable activities extend to work on a variety of other functional areas, too: handwriting skills, numbers, math, adding, subtracting, one-to-one correspondence, scissor skills, coloring, and more.

Click HERE to grab the Outer Space Fine Motor Mini-Kit.

Outer Space Fine Motor 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.

Friendship Skills- Personal Space

friendship skills for personal space and body awareness with a free therapy slide deck for teletherapy

Part of building friendship skills is teaching kids to have an awareness of personal space with those around them. Body awareness is a big part of this, especially when social distancing is something to consider. Friendship skills involve a variety of pieces of the bigger social emotional skills picture and a component of that is personal space. Read more about the part that personal space plays in friendship skills, including personal space/body awareness activities. You’ll also find a free therapy slide deck to help children with the friendship skill of personal space and body awareness. If strategies to address friendship skills is needed for your clients, also try this writing about friendship slide deck.

Friendship skills for personal space and body awareness using gross motor activities in a free therapy slide deck.

Children who struggle with social and emotional development, and those with specific sensory preferences may show personal space issues that could be related to body awareness needs. For these needs, occupational therapists can offer several suggestions and interventions.

Occupational therapists have the ability to play a role in social skills training in children. Included in this support is activities designed to improve social and emotional skills.

One study indicated that children who participated in a friendship skills group in occupational therapy. The researchers found that children receiving the social skills training group showed improved friendship skills and quality of friendship as reported by the children’s parents.

Personal Space and Body Awareness

Some strategies to address personal space and body awareness can include:

  • Develop strategies specific to the child to address the individual’s preferences
  • Offer strategies for self-regulation
  • Offer strategies for controlling inhibitions
  • Focusing on spatial relations
  • Teach self-regulation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, self-awareness, and mindfulness, to decrease anxiety while improving body awareness
  • Incorporate play into spatial concepts such as over, under, around, and through
  • Body drawing activities
  • Body part naming activities
  • Obstacle courses
  • Proprioceptive activities
  • Coach the child to state their preferences for personal space in a given situation
  • Map activities for teaching spatial concepts
  • Set up a small social skills group for a low-stress social gathering
  • Offer instruction in sensory tactics that can help to calm or regulate sensory needs such as deep breathing exercises, heavy work input, or deep pressure
  • Sensory integration occupational therapy interventions
  • Practice social skills interactions that may come up in a given situation
  • Work on working memory so the individual can pull from past successful situations
  • Work on foresight so the individual can think ahead of tools they might need in a given situation
  • Incorporate dance and music
  • Body awareness games and activities such as Simon Says, Twister, and the Hokey Pokey
  • Body awareness positioning activities

Because of the need many children have with developing an awareness of personal space, and the part that plays into friendship skills, I wanted to create a free Google slide deck to work on these skills.

You’ll see that the therapy slide deck pairs friendship with body awareness activities so that kids can practice various gross motor body positioning challenges.

These free slides offer movement activities to incorporate proprioceptive and vestibular input, as well as motor planning challenges. All of these activities challenge movement changes and body awareness.

Friendship skills gross motor activity for body awareness and personal space awareness.

Users can go through the slides and visually track from left to right as they complete each gross motor activity. There is an interactive portion of the slide deck when used in “edit mode” in Google slides. Kids can slide the round dot along the arrow to complete each gross motor activity in sequence.

This motor planning activity challenges body awareness needed for personal space awareness as a friendship skill. Kids can challenge themselves in movement, motor planning, bilateral coordination, core strength, and movement changes for addressing personal space considerations as they learn how their body moves through space.

Free Body Awareness Slide Deck

Want to get a free Google slide deck to help kids with personal space and body awareness? This friendship theme activity deck is a fun way to get kids moving and gaining an awareness of their body and how it moves through space.

Enter your email into the form below. You will be emailed a PDF so you can access this slide deck at any time.

Before clicking the button on your PDF, be sure you are logged into your Google account. Make a copy and share the slide deck with anyone on your therapy caseload.

FREE Friendship Skills Body Awareness Activities Slide Deck

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    Want to help kids explore social and emotional learning through play? Exploring Books Through Play inspires social and emotional development though play based on children’s books. The specifically chosen books explore concepts such as differences, acceptance, empathy, and friendship.

    Exploring Books Through Play: 50 Activities Based on Books About Friendship, Acceptance and Empathy is filled with hands-on activities rooted in interactive, hands-on, sensory play that focus on creating a well-rounded early childhood education supporting growth in literacy, mathematics, science, emotional and social development, artistic expression, sensory exploration, gross motor development and fine motor skills. Kids can explore books while building specific skills in therapy sessions, as part of home programs, or in the home.

    Click here to explore acceptance, empathy, and friendship through play.

    social emotional activities for kids

    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.

    Margins in Handwriting

    You’ve seen it before.  A child is writing a journal entry or a writing response on a piece of paper and each line of the paragraph creeps in toward the center of the page. The margins in their handwriting are just all over the place! By the end of the passage, the left margin is half way across the page. You might see them start halfway across the page and try to squash letters in by the time they get to the right side of the page. It’s hard to read and even the kiddo has trouble reading back over their work. The thing is, the student may not even be aware they are writing like this…
    When a child has poor use of margins when writing, there is typically a problem with spatial organization and page orientation.
    Decreased spatial awareness can happen due to trouble with visual perceptual awareness.  
    It may carry over to handwriting that appears very messy with words that are squashed up against one another or spaced with very large spaces between letters.  
    Today, I’ve got some tips for helping with spatial awareness in handwriting, including how to help with margins when writing. These tips can help kids with writing on the paper and using handwriting that is legible so they can come back and read what they’ve written. (And so the teacher or parent can read that handwriting too!)
    Use a highlighted line to mark the margin in handwriting tasks, to help kids with spatial awareness.
    Visual perceptual skills are needed for so many functional skills. You’ll find easy and fun ways to work on visual perceptual skills through play here. These are creative ways to work on the underlying issues that might be playing into trouble with margin use in handwriting as a result of spatial awareness difficulties.
     This post contains affiliate links.

    Why kids struggle with margins in handwriting

    So, why do we see those handwriting samples where the lines of written work slowly creep over to the middle of the page? With each line that the student writes, they start writing just a bit more away from the margin?
    There could be a few different things going on here that impact margin use:
    1. There could be a visual perception difficulty going on. Specifically, it could be a problem with visual spatial relations. Spatial relations, or poor spatial awareness difficulties shows up frequently in handwriting. This presents as poor spacing between letters and words, poor use of margins, or written work that drifts in toward the center of the page. Kids may struggle with knowing when to stop writing on the end of a line of the page and try to squash the material in rather than stopping to move to the next line. Left to right use of paper or writing spaces on worksheets can be a problem. Other size aspects of handwriting including letter size, placement of letter “parts”, and consistency in sizing can be difficult for the child with visual spatial concerns. Spatial relations can also impact placement of objects or the child’s body parts in relation to other objects, other people, or in movement. This can show up as poor coordination, poor balance, poor self-awareness, poor self-confidence, and even impaired social emotional relations.
    Spatial awareness is the ability to perceive the world around one’s self and position themselves or objects accordingly.  Awareness of space relates a lot to the proprioceptive and vestibular systems as well as the visual system.  A child who demonstrates poor spatial awareness in handwriting tasks most likely shows some variances of difficulty with gross motor movement, understanding directions, abstract concepts, and language.  
    2. There could be an oculomotor component. The movement of the eyes in activities is complex! When we see issues with margins, there could be a couple of oculomotor issues happening. At a  basic level, the eyes move to take in information and process that information for use. One oculomotor skill that may be in play with margin trouble are visual saccades/visual scanning. Saccades are the ability to visually scan information. Saccades require the ability to fixate on information in the visual fields. Saccadic movement, or more commonly known as visual saccades, is the ability of the eyes to move in synchrony from point A to point B rapidly WITHOUT deviating from the path. When kids move their eyes to the next line of a paper, they jump to the nearest anchor (which will be the letter above on the last line of text they just wrote.) They will then scoot their pencil over and under that letter, resulting in written work that drifts in toward the middle of the page. Here is more information on visual saccades and learning.
    We cover more about oculomotor skills and how they result in functional issues in reading, writing, and daily activities in the free Visual Processing Lab here on The OT Toolbox. 
    3. It might be developmental. In this case, kids just need more experience with writing paragraphs of text. They place their written material anywhere on the page or drift over on the line when starting to write. Visual and verbal cues…and more practice can help. Even children without visual perception difficulties may tend to drift their handwriting in toward the middle of the page as they write paragraphs.  This is especially apparent in free writing, journal writing, or writing prompts.  You will see that children who are developing their ability to form thoughts in paragraph form.  As they write, it is common to see the lines start to drift toward the middle of the page. Here is more information on development of eye-hand coordination.
    3. It might be speed of writing or visual inattention. Basically, you might see a kiddo who just isn’t paying attention when they are writing. In this case, students might be writing so quickly that they are focusing on the content of the writing versus the layout of the page and where they are placing their written work. This happens when kids are taking notes and trying to quickly get the information on the page. You may also see the lines of text drifting over during free writing or timed writing tasks. In these cases, a visual cue can help but it might just take a verbal prompt. Point out how the margins are creeping over and see if that helps. Here is more information on visual attention.

    QUICK tips for improving spatial awareness:

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

    Visual Processing Checklist

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

    Try some of these strategies to help with margins:

    • There are ways to accommodate for difficulties with spatial awareness.  One quick tip is to use a highlighted left margin.  This is a great way for those kids whose writing drifts over to the middle of the page as they write or kids who start in the middle of the page.  
    • Use stickers placed along the right margin of  to cue the student that they are nearing the edge of paper when writing.  
    • Place a thin piece of tape along the left margin. This can serve as a visual and physical cue as the place to start writing. It’s a visual anchor that helps with visual scanning.
    • Draw boxes for words on worksheets for them to write within.
    • Place small green dots on each line along the left margin. These are the “green lights” so students know where to start writing. Place small red dots on each line along the right margin. These are “red lights” so students know where to stop writing.
    • Spacing Tools for spacing between words or letters.
    • Draw a red stop sign at the right margin.
    • Graph paper Try 1/2 inch wide rule first.
    • Raised line paper
    • Slant board
    • Try smaller width of lines instead of primary paper.
    • RediSpace paper has a green line along the left margin and a red line along the right margin.
    • Try using a spacing tool pointer stick.  You can easily make your own!
    Handwriting sample with poor margins and spatial awareness in writing task.
    Kids can use handwriting accommodations for poor spatial awareness and margins in handwriting.
    This activity is part of our month-long handwriting series where we are sharing creative and easy ways to address common handwriting issues in our 30 Easy Quick Fixes for Better Handwriting series.
    You’ll also want to join the Sweet Ideas for Handwriting Help Facebook group where you can find support and resources for handwriting. 

    How to Start a Handwriting Club

    How to start a handwriting club that kids want to join

    In this article, you’ll discover how to start a handwriting club for kids to develop and enhance the skills needed for legible handwriting. Create a Handwriting Club as an after school program, an in-school activity, or as a home program idea. A Summer Handwriting Club is a great way to prevent the summer slide in handwriting skills in fun ways and using multisensory strategies to get the kids excited about practicing handwriting skills. A handwriting club can even be implemented as part of the RTI process.

    Start a handwriting club to help kids learn handwriting and practice legible written work in a fun and creative environment. Handwriting club can be a fun way to practice letter formation, letter spacing, line use, and handwriting speed.

    Why Start a Handwriting Club?

    Occupational Therapy practitioners know the importance of learning handwriting skills for children.  They understand the necessity of learning pre-writing strokes and shapes prior to attempting letter formation and numeral formation and they understand the importance of proximal to distal development in order to provide the best foundation for a child to be the most successful.  Handwriting is a complex skill and requires many components to generate legible written output.

    When handwriting instruction is overlooked, some children will struggle with letter forms, legibility and writing speed. It is important that handwriting be directly taught with a targeted focus and monitoring on body preparedness as well as formation patterns. When handwriting becomes automatic, children can focus on other aspects of writing such as grammar, planning, punctuation, composition, and self-correction or revision.

    A fun handwriting club may be just the ticket for some children who experience more difficulty with learning handwriting due to a poor foundation. A handwriting club can provide direct instruction in body preparedness and formation or mechanics that utilizes sensory and motor activities to facilitate the learning process. This post will help describe the steps to organize and implement a simple handwriting club.

    How to Start a Handwriting Club

    Affiliate links are included below.

    Here are the planning steps in the development of a handwriting club:
    1. Determine the purpose of the club.  Will it target prewriting, upper case formation, number formation, lowercase formation, cursive formation, mechanics of handwriting such as letter size, letter placement, line use, spacing, etc.?

    2. Determine your target group and the goals you wish to achieve.

    3. Determine the handwriting resources or programs you wish to utilize such as Handwriting without Tears, Size Matters, Loops and Other Groups, First Strokes, Fundanoodle, etc.

    4. Decide the club agenda or sequence of club activities – always begin with body preparation in gross motor to fine motor and then proceed to handwriting content. This will be based on the length of time for the session.  Later in this article, I will provide an example of a formation handwriting club agenda.

    5. Collect and prepare the materials you will need to implement the activities of the club.

    6. Create any parent information sheets explaining the purpose of the club and any homework expectations.

    7. Prepare any homework materials.

    8. Determine the exact day(s), time(s), duration, and location of the club.

    9. If you want, decide the name of the club or this could be part of your first session.

    10. Finally, begin the club meetings.

    11. At the final session, present children with certificates of completion.

    Use sensory handwriting activities, fine motor and gross motor activities to promote handwriting skills in a fun way with a handwriting club. Here's how to start your own handwriting club at school, as an after-school club, or a handwriting RTI process.

    Make a Handwriting Club Fun for Kids

    By experience, a fun club name could provide the “just right” motivation for participation. Having children create a secret club name appeals to their sense of mystery and fascination.

    Another fun element could be using special accessories that are worn only during the club meeting time. An example would be dollar store glasses (with lenses popped out if needed) in which children wear only during the club time.

    Having a secret club handshake as the greeting can also make it more interesting and appealing for children to engage in the club.

    What Happens in a Handwriting Club?

    Here is an example of a formation handwriting club agenda or sequence of activities that has a duration of approximately 45 minutes:

    Step 1: Approximately 5 minutes. Greet with a secret handshake. Start each session with gross motor warm-ups. Work on activities that prepare the body while simultaneously building core, shoulder, and arm strength and control. (Send any activities home.)

    Step 2: Approximately 5-10 minutes. Follow with fine motor warm-ups. These should serve to “wake up” the hand and finger muscles while simultaneously building fine motor strength, coordination, and manipulation. (Send any activities home.)

    Step 3: Approximately 5-7 minutes. Follow with beginning instruction in formation. (This time could also include a review of previous letters learned.)  The formation could be upper case, numeral, lower case or cursive letter focused.  Utilize verbal and visual strategies placing yourself appropriately in order for children to see from their handwriting viewpoint.

    For example:
    Instructor demonstrates formation with emphasizes on start point and sequence utilizing verbal and visual cues such as those in the Handwriting without Tears program. Use the board and air writing format.

    Follow with air writing imitation for children as they follow verbal and visual instruction. Instructor should monitor child arm movements to ensure correct start and sequence pattern. If needed, provide hand-over-hand guidance to facilitate the correct motor plan.

    Once confident in gross motor, shift formation with children to finger writing on the table top while children verbalize steps and instructor monitors finger movements to ensure correct start and sequence pattern. If needed, provide hand-over-hand guidance to facilitate correct motor plan.

    Step 4: Approximately 10 minutes. Provide further multisensory activities to practice formation before moving to paper. Change the medium with each session, if desired.

    Step 5:  Approximately 10 minutes. Move to formation practice using handwriting workbooks or paper with instructor monitoring and correcting errors in grasp and formation. Have the children circle their best formation. (To note, utilizing the Handwriting without Tears workbooks could provide children with a simple page format containing less visual clutter and improved space for handwriting practice coupled with visual cues and instruction. However, there are other handwriting programs that have a similar format.)

    Step 6: Approximately 3-4 minutes. Once letter practice is complete, explain and issue any materials or information sheets that you plan to send home in order for parents to support their child’s club participation.

    Try some of these fun strategies to use motor components and sensory activities in handwriting:

    sensory handwriting activities for kids to learn how to write letters and numbers creative ways to build and work on a functional pencil grasp

    Sensory Handwriting Activities add multisensory components to learning letter formation.

    Use creative fine motor and play activities to promote a better pencil grasp.

    Size awareness activities for legibility and neat handwriting Spatial awareness handwriting activities to help with spacing between letters and words when writing.
    Promote and boost spatial awareness in handwriting for consistent use of spacing between letters and words with creative (and memorable) activities.

    A Handwriting Club Makes Handwriting Practice Fun!

    A handwriting club such as described in this article can help generate enthusiasm and make handwriting fun for children who struggle or need additional support in developing the foundational skills necessary for future handwriting success.

    A fun club makes it seem less like dreaded handwriting work and more like special-time fun with friends. A handwriting club can provide the much time needed for children to develop essential skills in foundational body preparedness as well as handwriting acquisition.

    Included with this article is a free Handwriting Club Session Planner and a list of possible Handwriting Club Activities including gross motor, fine motor, and multisensory activities, all which could be used during club meeting times. Get it by entering your email address below. If you are already a subscriber to our newsletter, you will still need to enter your email address. This is simply so we can deliver the PDF file to you.

    Kids can join a handwriting club to improve handwriting and work on the skills kids need to produce legible handwriting.

    Following Direction Activities

    These following direction activities are directionality activities that can help kids learn directions or spatial concepts such as left, right, up, down, and compass directions (north, south, east, and west) with a motor component. This hands-on learning activity really gets the kiddos moving and learning! 

    We’ve shared directionality activities before that help kids navigate and use maps with movement. 

    Following Direction Activity

    These direction following activities can help kids learn directionality such as left/right awareness, laterality, and directions needed for navigating.

    Teaching kids to follow the directions they need to physically move right, left, up, down requires development of spatial concepts such as spatial reasoning. This can be a real challenge for some kids! 

    Following directions and understanding of spatial concepts is a foundation for understanding and utilizing compass directions or the cardinal directions of north, south, east, and west, and the use of maps. 

    Left Right Confusion Direction Challenges

    It can be a real challenge for some kids who struggle with the spatial understanding of following directions, or understanding their left from right in a subconscious manner. 

    Have you come across the child who is told to raise their right and and they take a five second count to stop, think, and then raise their hand? They might hesitate when raising one hand or the other and still be uncertain whether or not they have held up the correct hand. Then, when the teacher, parent, or anyone else really, says the inevitable, “Your other right hand…”, the child feels a sense of discouragement and self-consciousness that doesn’t drive in the underlying need to really know the right from left! 

    That’s where a directionality activity or following direction activity can come into play. Adding a physical component to learning directions and the difference between right, left, up, and down and what that looks like in relation to the child’s body can be such a helpful force in driving home this concept. 

    Why work on directions with kids?

    Working on the ability for kids to follow directions and spatial concepts is so important for kids. The direction/spatial relationship/preposition words that tell you where something is related to something else (beside, in front of, behind, over, under, around,  through, last, etc.) are very important when teaching math and handwriting concepts. Directionality and the ability for kids to follow physical directions is important for discovering where their bodies are in relationship to objects. This translates to following directions when getting from place to place by following a map or the cardinal directions.

    When kids picture a scene in their mind’s eye and use that image to draw a map on paper, they are using higher thinking skills and spatial reasoning.

    Directionality Activities

    Amazon affiliate links are included below. 

    The fun idea below comes from a new kids’ activity book that we’re devouring. It’s the new Playful Learning Lab for Kids, by the occupational therapist and physical therapist team at The Inspired Treehouse. It’s a book full of whole-body and sensory activities that enhance focus, engagement, and learning through movement and interaction.

    Playful learning Lab activities for kids to learn through whole body movements

    We used just a few materials to create this following directions activity:

    Playful Learning Lab for Kids Book

    Use arrows to work on following directions and learning directions or directionality.

    This is a simple activity (perfect for the classroom or homeschool when teaching directions!). First, draw and cut out large arrows from the cardstock. 

    Next, place them along the floor in a path and start playing! 

    Teach kids about directions and left right awareness or directionality through whole body movements with arrows!

    There are so many ways to use these arrows to work on following directions and directionality:

    1. Place the arrows on the floor for a fun brain break or sensory walk that uses directions as the kids work on following directions to stand in the direction the arrows are pointing. 

    Direction following activities with arrows are a fun way to teach kids directionality and teach left and right with movement.

    2. Name a cardinal direction or spatial direction and ask the child to point to the corresponding arrow. 

    3. Place the arrows in a compass rose on the floor and ask kids to “step into a map” on the floor as they move north, south, east, and west.

    Teach spatial concepts and spatial reasoning with arrows.

    4. Stick the arrows to a wall using tape. Ask the students to write out a list of words that describe the directions the arrows are pointing (left, right, up, and down).

    5. Hold up a sequence of arrows pointing in different directions. As the child to remember the pattern or order as they complete a series of side steps, front steps, or backward steps to follow the directions they see. 

    6. Work on left/right directionality by holding up an arrow pointing in either the left or right directions. Kids should call out “Left!” or “Right!” when they see the direction the arrow is pointing. 

    Teach kids directions and north, south, east, west using arrows and directionality concepts.

    All of these following direction activities are ones that can be completed as on an individual basis or with a whole group. It’s a great mini brain break for the classroom and can be incorporated into the classroom curriculum by working on cardinal directions. 

    Want to grab more movement-based learning ideas that you can start on today? You will love the bright pictures, sensory-based activities, and whole-body activities in Playful Learning Lab for Kids

    It’s available now and is the perfect way to add movement to learning to improve attention, focus, brain function, remembering and learning!

    This book will shift your entire mindset so you can begin to replace sedentary, one-dimensional lessons and worksheets with whole-body, multi-sensory activities that can instantly create a classroom or house full of active, engaged learners.

    Playful Learning Lab for Kids is available on Amazon.

    How to Teach Spacing Between Words with a Clothespin

    When it comes to legibility in handwriting, spacing between words makes all the! Addressing spatial awareness in handwriting can make a big difference in legibility fairly quickly given intervention, practice, awareness, and the tools to address spacing in written work. We’ve shared several handwriting spacing tools here on The OT Toolbox, like a cute DIY space martian spacing tool and this pipe cleaner spacing tool.
    Sometimes a simple visual cue like this craft stick spacing tool and pointer stick can make a big difference in handwriting spatial awareness and handwriting legibility.
    Read on for another quick craft that kids can make and use to teach spacing between words…using a clothes pin for better spatial awareness in written work.
    This spacing tool is one that can be attached to a notebook or folder and used again and again…because any school-based OT knows that those spacing tools can get lost very easily!

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

    Handwriting Spacing Between Words Tool

    The best part of this handwriting spacing tool is that kids can make their own, while creating a unique tool that fits their personality!
    First, read more about how spacing tools work.

    Teach spacing between words with a clothespin for better legibility and spatial awareness in handwriting.
    Next, get all of your materials ready, because this handwriting spacing tool is a fun activity! In fact, school-based therapists can create a group activity in a classroom with random items found in a craft bin…while boosting those fine motor skills!

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

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

    To make the Clothes Pin Spacing Tool

    You’ll need some basic craft items (affiliate links are included below):
    We received the paints and gems from www.craftprojectideas.com.
    Kids can make this clothespin craft in therapy or school to teach spacing between words for better handwriting.

    Next, get the kids started on painting. Ask the child or group of kids to paint all sides of the clothes pins.

    Make a clothespin craft to work on spacing between words when writing.

    On the wet paint, glitter and sparkling gems can be added. Let the paint dry and embellish with additional items including gems, stickers, puffy paint, or other items.

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

    How to teach spacing between words with a clothespin:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Teach legible handwriting to kids using a spacing tool for a visual and physical reminder to space out words when writing.

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

     Use a clothespin craft to teach spacing between words for better legibility in handwriting.

    Looking for more ways to address spatial awareness? Grab our free handwriting printable packet and you will also receive a short email series that addresses areas like spatial awareness, letter size, letter formation, and more. This is perfect for the OT looking for handwriting handouts, or anyone who works with kids on handwriting.