By: Leah Gross
March 31st is National Crayon Day, so I wanted to highlight some of our favorite ways to use crayons at The Therapy Place. Aside from the typical ways children use crayons to color and write, they are actually a great tool to use for occupational therapy. Cracked crayons that are small allow children to practice and exercise their fine motor movements in their hands.
What are fine motor skills?
Fine motor is defined as the fine movements of our hands including our shoulders, elbows, wrist, and fingers. Some examples include cutting, coloring, painting, sewing, opening, and closing buttons, zippers, and containers. Sometimes, children need help strengthening their muscles in order to write better or use their hands to open things. Other times, they need help forming the motions and connecting patterns in their heads. The job of an occupational therapist is to find out what each child needs, and work on certain activities to help them perform. Here I’ll be discussing fine motor movements in conjunction with handwriting and coloring.
Why are fine motor skills important?
Fine motor skills are essential for learning how to read, write, draw, paint, play music, and do other activities that require hand coordination. Children who develop these skills early tend to be better readers, writers, artists, musicians, and athletes later in life. This is because fine motor skills and speech and language skills are very connected. In fact, the first step toward fine motor development is sensory input. This includes touch, sight, hearing, taste, smell, and proprioception (the awareness of where your body parts are in space). Sensory stimulation helps infants develop muscle tone, which is important for fine motor skills.
As children get older, the best way to improve fine motor skills is through physical activity. This can include many different types of activities, such as playing sports, dancing, drawing, and doing crafts. Occupational therapy helps focus on the tasks each child struggles with and finds the right activities for them.
The therapists at The Therapy Place are passionate about helping children reach their full potential through therapeutic services. Our goal is to provide high-quality care for children and families. We believe every child deserves to grow and develop to their fullest potential.
How Can Using Crayons Improve Fine Motor Skills?
Crayons are a great utensil to use for fine motor strengthening. When teaching children to write with a pencil, I always like to start by having them hold a crayon. In fact, I prefer to start a child off holding a broken crayon. Many young children have the tendency to write or draw with a fisted grasp, where they use their whole hands to grip the utensil. If you crack a crayon into small pieces, children are forced to grip the crayon using only their first three fingers, while the fourth and fifth fingers hideaway behind.
This is the correct hand form for writing; only three pads of the finger should touch the pencil. In occupational therapy, we like to use the term digits instead of fingers. We have 5 digits on each hand – the first is the thumb, the second is the pointer, the third is the middle finger, the fourth is the ring finger, and the fifth is the pinky.
Crayons In Occupational Therapy Activities
Today I will share a few different activities that promote this correct grasp pattern needed for proper writing. These are used by occupational therapists very often, but they can also be done in the comfort of your own home.
1. Color With Cracked Crayons
One simple activity is to switch things up and allow your kids to have fun coloring with cracked or broken crayons. this acn be done anywhere but it’s especially fun to do while sitting inside a cardboard box. How fun!
2. Kneel & Draw With Crayons
My personal favorite activity, that I use all the time with kids, is having the child sit in a tall kneeling position while they color on the wall with the cracked crayon. The child uses his three digits while coloring, nicely demonstrating the grasp pattern. In addition, this position works the upper extremity strength – through the shoulders, elbow, wrist, and fingers.
3. Lie Down & Draw With Crayons
Another activity utilizing cracked crayons is one in which the child lies down on their back underneath a table and colors with the crayons in this position. Extending out their wrist in this way is another opportunity for the child to strengthen their upper extremity, while again using the correct grasp pattern.
4. Melt Crayons
A final activity idea that I like to use is one which works well for an older child who already has a more mature grasp and a precise grip pattern. This activity involves placing crayons on a canvas and using a hairdryer to melt the crayons onto the canvas. Holding the hairdryer while moving it around further strengthens the child’s upper extremity. Having strong shoulders, wrists, and hands creates strong writers. I always remind parents that doing activities like these are both fun and helpful in strengthening fine motor movement; it’s a win-win!
Find out more ways to use crayons for occupational therapy-related activities by reaching out to our creative team of therapists at The Therapy Place. Call today, or fill out our online contact form!