For most kindergarteners, writing the letters of the alphabet is quite an achievement. For parents, however, the sight of the child’s letters can be pretty distressing. Let’s put it this way: it’s a rare kindergartener who’s going to win penmanship honors. But should you worry? Not yet!
When kids are very young, their hand muscles are just beginning to develop the strength and coordination required for writing neatly. In this activity, help your child build up those muscles by creating a squeezy ball. Make this ball with this “silly, squeezy putty” composed of cornstarch, a completely nontoxic and safe household substance. Have your child help you mix up a batch and then squeeze away!
What You Do:
- Put the cornstarch int o the bowl.
- Slowly add the water, mixing with your fingers until all the cornstarch is wet. Add a few drops of food coloring if you like.
- Invite your child to help you mix the whole batch thoroughly. If the mixture is too sticky, add some cornstarch; if it’s too dry, add a little water. You should have a putty-like, pliable mix that’s fun to squeeze and roll.
- When you've mixed it, give your child the ball and have him squeeze it repeatedly. This can be done while riding in a car, reading a bedtime story, or while watching a favorite program on television. Try to have him squeeze at least twice a day for a minimum of five minutes each time.
Note: This “goofy putty” is not quite as resilient as the old standby of “silly putty,” but it has the advantage of being completely natural and easily biodegradable. Keep it in an egg shaped container or a plastic bag, and it should stay squeezy for a week.
What's Going On?
What’s the goal besides having fun? The goal of this activity is very simple: to strengthen your child’s hand muscles, particularly ones in his palm which are just starting to coordinate with his fingers. Squeezy toys and play dough are often used to improve hand strength and dexterity.
Occupational therapists often use this technique to help kids write, and you can, too. While your child is working with the squeezy ball, continue to have him practice his writing over the next few weeks. You should begin to see improvement in his handwriting as the muscles in his hand become stronger and stronger.
Victoria Hoffman, M.A., is an elementary school teacher, writer and mother from Leonardtown, Maryland. She has taught grades K-5 in both regular and special education classrooms.