Most people think of hand and finger strength and coordination when they think of skills for handwriting. However, multiple body systems are involved in this seemingly simple task. While we will specifically talk about wrist stability in this post, I want to briefly discuss how the whole body physically impacts our writing.
First, we need a solid core to provide a foundation. The core involves the abdominal and back muscles and shoulder muscles, essential for good sitting posture. Ideally a child should be able to sit upright in a chair with their feet supported on the floor with appropriate posture when writing. This involves a lot of tiny muscles to activate and can be challenging and tiring for a child with low muscle tone or weak core strength. (See our post here about posture!)
Once we have that solid foundation and can activate those essential muscles to provide a stable support, then we can look at forearm and wrist stability. This is a bit tricky because some children actually overuse or over activate this area of the body when writing if their fine motor skills are weak. While other children need strengthening in this area to provide stability for them to recruit their precise fine motor skills. What we want to see is the wrist and forearm strong enough to provide a solid support for writing, so that the fingers and hand can do their job... use precise small movements in a smooth controlled manner to write. There is a saying in the therapy world "stability precedes mobility" meaning we must have a solid and stable and strong foundation to stabilize our body so that our tiny muscles can perform precise and controlled movements!
So how do we achieve this?! Easy answer = PLAY! That may sound too easy, but good old-fashioned physical play is the easiest way we can get that solid stability. Think crawling, climbing, jumping, animal walks, any physical activity where the child engages their core and/or places weight on their upper extremities. For older kids, activities like yoga, burpees, planks, and more can strengthen the areas that provide the foundation.
Let us know what your favorite core/wrist strengthening activity is!