Graph paper to promote fine motor control in coloring
This was SUPER tiny graph paper I found at Michael’s on clearance or something. I have no idea what it’s intended for, but when I saw it I knew I wanted it to promote coloring skills, ie just using the fingers and carefully coloring in small squares – it takes a lot of focus as well. We have so many kids that hate coloring and just scribble – I’d rather have a kid fill in about 5 tiny, tiny squares very carefully with his wrist “glued” to the table then scribble all over a piece of paper, at least as a start while improving control. When I was a kid I used to love to color on graph paper, filling in each square carefully with different colors and making patterns. Maybe getting a half piece of graph paper for each of your children and each time they see you, they color in maybe 5 squares very small, with either a pencil (varying degrees of pressure and therefore shading) or colored pencils or other very precise tools, and eventually even if their coloring is normally horrendous, they might end up with a pretty cool work of art. 🙂
Because remember: OUR ARMS ARE NOT WINDSHIELD WIPERS! We do not erase or color with windshield wipers! 🙂
Activity: Color in at least 3-5 tiny squares on graph paper with wrist “glued” to table so fingers do all the precision work.
Rationale: If you hand a child a big coloring sheet and they have poor fine motor control, they will use their windshield wipers and hurriedly fill up the sheet. If you tell them…Look, I know you don’t like coloring, but we need to practice. If you just fill in three of these tiny squares (demonstrate) VERY CAREFULLY, I won’t have you do any more coloring today. This will show me you know how to control your fingers while you color.
Result: Typically, even children with somewhat poor control (I’m talking about pretty high functioning kids here though) when given the chance to just do 3 very tiny careful squares, will actually try hard/do a reasonable job with this task.
Modification: Use slightly larger grid paper and/or draw a few small shapes. Make them quite small (no bigger than an adult pinkie fingernail or so) and let them use pencil, ideally one with a really sharp tip. Start with just a shape or two so they can be successful, then you can slowly add in more shapes etc.
Modification 2: If the child is handed a coloring sheet that you know they wil do a poor job with, maybe use a small marker to dot a few small shapes that they need to do a careful job on, and then they can do their more typical work on the rest of it so that they can keep up with their class. Again focusing on just using fingers, not windshield wipers, and showing them how they can kind of outline it and then fill in the middle.
Scenario: Teacher has 1st grade child with IEP who is very delayed in motor skills. She knows she has to accept output from him that is below grade level, but when does she say “That’s unacceptable, do it again” the way she might to some of her other kids?
In this case, OT would show teacher some samples of “typical” work versus “best work”. “This is what he is typically able to do (see sample) but this is his best work, what he can do when motivated and working hard in a 1:1 environment (see sample). When you give him assignments, highlight or show him one small area (maybe one sentence out of five) that he has to do in his neatest handwriting, or one small area (maybe two shapes out of six) that he needs to color very carefully. The rest he can do his typical way to keep up with the class. If he submits work to you where it’s clear he rushed or did not put forth best effort on even those few small pieces, you can ask him to do those parts over again. But if he submits it and those parts are carefully done and the rest is more his typical work, that’s fine. Accept that, and we can build up our expectations for what he can manage in a large classroom environment, and as his skills continue to develop/refine.” Etc.
Same can be done for coloring, cutting, gluing, handwriting. Knowing their best work in a small environment, and starting to carry it over into the large classroom environment with baby steps. ALWAYS start with success! (Oh look, I can handle this!) so that next time you can turn 2 shapes into 3 shapes, etc because they are meeting their challenge with success. I’m sure tiger mothers will argue me on this one. So if they want to show up and take over, go ahead!