British paediatricians are worried that “British children starting school today do not have the same hand strength and dexterity as children of ten years ago”. We know that to hold a pencil and move it, children need to be able to control their finger muscles. In these days, excessive use of electronics, especially early and over exposure to mobile phones, can deprive children of the opportunity to exercise their hand muscles.
Experts suggest that this doesn’t mean abandoning technology altogether, but parents should make sure that their children are practising more hand movements from playing games and actually using a pencil, such as playing with blocks, doing crafts and colouring. It is important to work on hand muscles as they are not only relevant to your child’s writing and drawing, but also to many activities in daily life such as tying shoelaces, buttoning buttons or using scissors.
Nowadays, many young parents like to use so-called ‘electronic pacifiers’ to calm their children when they are caring for them. They may not realise how harmful this can be! There are good ways to train your child’s hand muscles, so that he or she can learn to hold a pen, write. There are good ways to do it, so let’s share them with you now.
Training hand muscles
Before your child can even really hold a pencil, there are games and activities that parents can do to train their hand muscles. Start with large muscle training, such as building blocks and brushing teeth, and move on to small muscle training, such as stringing, beading and buttoning. These seemingly simple activities promote flexibility in the wrist, fingers and hand-eye co-ordination. These activities are fun in their very nature and can be a great alternative to the “electronic pacifier” for mums and dads to “parent” their children.
Doodling with crayons
After all this muscle training, parents can prepare some drawing books and crayons for their child to hold and doodle in their own way. It is best to choose thicker crayons as they are easier for the child to grip and control. The purpose of doodling is to develop children’s interest in holding crayons and to introduce them to the use of learning tools such as pens and paper. It is a good idea to tell your child a story about the pictures while they are colouring. This will help to develop your child’s writing skills as well as his or her language skills. At this stage, parents do not need to ask the child to colour neatly or to draw specific colours, nor do they need to correct the child’s pencil grip.
Practising writing with a pencil
When your child is comfortable with pencils and enjoys holding them. Parents can prepare a triangular pencil and a pencil exercise book for their child. The triangular pencil is easier to grip and control than a regular pencil and is more suitable for children who are just starting to learn to hold a pencil. Kumon has created a triangular pencil for children who are just starting to learn to grip a pencil. This is because the pencil is mainly held with the thumb, index finger and middle finger. The gap between these three fingers is a triangle, so the triangular pencil allows the child to hold the pencil more firmly and easily.
However, with the thickening of the pencil barrel, the pencil became too heavier and the child tended to feel tired. So Kumon searched the world for a lighter wood to use as a raw material, and although the cost was higher, a drier, lighter wood from Canada was chosen to make it easier for children to use.
When choosing a pencil exercise book, it is important to look at the design and appeal of the design, but also to see if the exercises are comprehensive, for example, if they include straight, diagonal and curved lines, if the lines get progressively longer and narrower, and if there are tips on the direction of the lines.
When working on the pencil exercise book, parents can use storytelling to keep the child relaxed and entertained. For example, “Do you see this carrot and the white rabbit? We’re going to give the carrot to the white rabbit. Let’s do it together!”
You can start by drawing short, straight lines with a wide range of spacing, holding the child’s hand and helping them to draw the lines with a correct grip. By observing whether or not the lines are drawn out of the specified range, parents can see how flexible the child’s hand muscles are in controlling the lines; the shades of the lines can be used to check whether the child’s grip is appropriate. Once the child has mastered the wider and shorter straight line exercises, he or she can try the narrower and longer straight line exercises, followed by diagonal and curved line exercises.
Throughout the training process, it is important for parents to encourage their children and praise them for every little improvement. This will help your child to feel confident and relaxed as he or she progresses and enjoys writing even more!
Kumon pencil skills programme
For Kumon Method, we have provided a set of pencil skills worksheets for children. This is a carefully structured, step-by-step approach to developing your child’s penmanship and flexibility, as well as preparing them for Kumon Maths, English, Chinese 4A level and above. This set of worksheets allows children to develop fluent writing skills through hand muscle training, while improving their ability to concentrate on the material.
Like other Kumon worksheets, the pencil skills programme follows the principle of “small steps”, starting with simple colouring and drawing straight lines, allowing children to gradually improve their pencil skills through self-learning, and gradually increasing in difficulty as they begin to draw curved and broken lines. This layout allows children to keep their interest in learning as they progress and gives parents an intuitive view of their child’s development.
Before the children are introduced to Kumon Maths, English and Chinese, they will be assessed on their pencil skills and the instructor will be able to understand their writing skills. During the study, the instructor will arrange for the child to learn writing according to his or her specific needs. Through this well-designed curriculum and its integration with other learning content, children will develop solid pencil skills and be well prepared for future learning.
Learning to write is an important foundation for your child’s learning career. A good foundation will help your child to learn more smoothly in the future. Parents should start by putting down the “electronic pacifier” and training their children’s hand muscles!