Cali is now the ripe old age of four!! You can probably guess we threw her a little party, and with that comes gifts, gifts, and more gifts. Growing up my mom taught each of us four kids the great value and importance of writing thank you cards, especially after receiving birthday gifts. Thanks mom. Nothing feels better than to receive a hand written note telling you thanks. I don’t think there is such a thing as a disingenuous thank you card. So with that, I thought it would be very appropriate to pass on the teaching to Cali. Not only would she begin to learn the value of a hand written thank you card, but we could also use this experience to work on her fine motor skills.
My idea was this: on one side of the page I would write the message and she would sign her name. On the opposite side, I would draw stick figures representing Cali and the friend/s we were writing. Therapy in a fun, easy, non-formal way. Practical and naturalistic. That’s the best kind anyway!
We sat down at the kitchen counter to begin. I already had the thank you messages written on each of the cards. The first step was to draw individual square boxes for each of the letters in her name. This is a technique Krisanne, the OT, has been using with Cali to help with her with writing alphabet letters. When I first saw her using this technique, I asked what the benefit was of using the boxes. Her answer made complete sense. She said the small boxes help to give Cali boundaries and control. It is the same idea I mentioned here about using small circles to help Cali learn to color inside the lines. I also drew the boxes as Krisanne did: first a big square to hold a capitol “C”, followed by a small square to house the “a”, then a tall narrow square (a.k.a a rectangle:) to accomodate a lower case “l”, and lastly another small square to bound in the “i”. Before Cali began, I gave her a small touch prompt, meaning I held the end of the pencil to show her where to start in the box. As she started to write, I immediately let go. My touch prompt now became a verbal prompt to help her know which direction to go and when to stop. For “C” it went something like this, “around, around, around, stop.” This is all from Krisanne’s great knowledge as well. Thank you!!
We proceeded through the next four letters in her name:
“a”: “around, around, around, up, down”
“l”: “down, stop”
“i”: “down, stop, dot”
With the name complete, it was on to the drawings. I figured drawing stick figures was a good, easy way for Cali to understand that one represented her and the other was her friend, or maybe I picked stick figures because drawing is last on my talent list. Either way:) After drawing the figures, I asked her to label which one was her and which was her friend. Next came the coloring. Again, this was also aiding in her fine motor skills. The heads acting as small circles to help her use short, controlled strokes. She was exercising/strengthening her fingers with out even knowing. Success!
A couple of days prior to the activity with Cali, I had Krisanne give me a little foreknowledge on writing the letter in boxes. This is how it went:
Tips for you:
Try using small boxes for your child when helping them learn how to write their letters.
Use a full physical prompt or just an initial touch prompt to help guide your child’s letter.
Use verbal prompts to help guide the child’s pencil in the correct direction.
The amount of progress Cali has made because of implementing these simple tips has been tremendous. Another key ingredient: Practice, practice, practice!!!
And we can’t forget about Ava…she’s still a work in progress;)