Handwriting success is a widely discussed topic and often on the radar for many parents/guardians. One thing I love to share with parents is the importance of visual boundaries as an underlying skill to successful handwriting, as well as how easy it is to incorporate them into daily playtime.
Why are visual boundaries important? In the context of this topic, a visual boundary references a specific “spatial area.” In handwriting, it is expected and assumed that a child is able to properly form, size, align, and space a letter so that the writing is “legible.” However, it is important to recognize this is a process that needs to be taught. In addition, there are many visual assumptions such as a child’s ability to separate central from peripheral focal points in order to properly determine where the writing should go. The good news is, much of these skills can be developed thru playtime facilitation!
3 fun Ideas for facilitating boundaries/spatial localization in play:
- Containers! Using containers in play creates a boundary that children learn to follow. For example, a sorting task. We can start off with boxes to sort objects into, then transition to smaller containers, a taped off area rather than an actual box, eventually leading into an assumed space that can be verbally directed such as “put the red items to the left and the blue items to the right”
- Visual Examples: When teaching spatial concepts, it’s important to always have a visual sample or demonstration so the child can learn to copy, before transitioning to being able to do it independently. For example, drawing a face. I like to draw out a “frame” on the paper, which designates the space in which we will draw the object. I also like to add a “starting dot” to mark where the writing utensil should begin. This helps to guide the formation, sizing, and orientation of what they are drawing.
- Peripheral Play: Being able to utilize and organize our central vs. peripheral vision is an important factor in being able to legibly handwrite. Fun games that can be incorporated to stimulate the integration of central-peripheral vision include gross motor activities such as playing catch, soccer, basketball, etc. A fun indoor game to play is flashlight tag. Holding a flashlight in a dim room and trying to “catch” another person’s light requires a lot of central-peripheral integration which will help down the line in handwriting!
So how does all of this add up? When a child is given a lined piece of paper and asked to write a sentence, we are asking them to motor plan the formation, sizing, and alignment of each letter on the background (lines) in a uniform consistency. That’s a lot of components to get right in order to create a legible outcome! Having a solid foundation in the underlying skills will help students be able to perform the task with more automaticity.
I received a game in exchange for this blog post. All opinions expressed belong to me.
Lina Awshee is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant with a background as a Pediatric Vision Therapist. Currently, Lina is practicing in the school systems where she works with students of all ages. When she isn’t working, Lina enjoys sharing purposeful ways to include skill development into daily playtime. You can find fun suggestions by following her on Instagram @motormommy.co.
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