Does your child rip holes in the paper from pushing way too hard? Or break their lead a dozen times?
Or does your child write so gentle that you can barely read the fine script?
Both of these are indicators of a pencil pressure issue. Either the child is pressing too hard or too soft on the paper. This can stem from a few things. One, a child may have difficulty with motor planning, so they overshoot/undershoot. Two, a child may have decreased hand strength so they hold the pencil extra tight and push hard to compensate. Three, the child could have decreased hand strength which limits the pressure they can apply on the pencil/paper. Or fourth, the child can have sensory difficulties where they like the feel of the pencil to paper when they push hard, or the feel or sound of the paper can be noxious and they barely push.
My family and I went to the movies recently and part of the the plot included Goldilocks and the 3 Bears TM characters. It made me think of the children we help at Handwriting Solutions and how their pencil pressure can be "too much" or "too little" or "just right." Even using this language with the child is great to increase their awareness by providing a fun example of what too much, too little, and just right actually means. So the porridge was too hot, or the bed was too soft... then when they write they can transfer that terminology to their pencil pressure.
Here are 5 more tips for helping your child or student with pencil pressure:
1 - Use a bumpy surface, such as sand paper or foam, under the paper. This gives sensory feedback as well as punctures if pressure is too hard.
2 - Use mechanical pencils to give immediate feedback of pencil pressure as the lead will break more easily than traditional pencils.
3 - Practice pencil pressure by using shading techniques when coloring. For example, have them color a picture that is light blue and dark blue using the same crayon so they can see and feel the difference in pressure.
4 - Change up the writing tool to a gel or foundation pen, marker, or other tool to increase legibility if the pressure is too soft.
5 - Use heavy work and strengthening to build up their hand strength and awareness of their body in space which will improve their pencil grasp, motor planning, and strength leading to the just-right pencil pressure.
Pencil pressure may not seem like a big deal, and likely it isn't if the child's writing is legible and effective and efficient. But for those kids that are tearing wholes in their paper, sharpening their pencils 100x, or barely writing, this really impacts their legibility and fluidity.
We want handwriting to eventually be automatic and fluid, so use these 5 (really 6!) strategies to try with your child or student today!
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