Training finger movements for drawing and handwriting

Once the child has learned to maintain a reasonably effective way of holding a pencil that provides a stable grip but also allows for small bending and straightening movements of the fingers, the next step is to train finger movements for producing small circles and short lines. 

For these training activities you will need:Circles in blocks

A sheet of paper with rows of blocks about 2 cm squared with a thick baseline to emphasize hand position. (Click here to download a task sheet.)  

Choosing writing tools 

Some writing tools provide better  sound feedback for getting fluent movements

One of the most effective ways to increase the fluency of drawing circles and writing letters is to get the child to pay attention to the sound made by the pencil or pen tip moving across the paper. Felt tip markers are particularly good at providing sound feedback. A larger bore soft (2B)pencil also works well.

What size and shaft of writing tool works best?  

Should you use a triangular or round pen or pencil? Is a smaller or larger bore shaft better?

These are open questions - there is not evidence that that one or the other is better. The best is to see what works for the individual child.

I tend to use large felt tipped pens for drawing activities and thin felt tipped markers or thicker pencils (round or triangular) for practising small finger movements.

On the other hand there are some tools that are not good. Wax crayons are bad because they require a great deal of pressure to produce a good line and after a little use cease to have s sharp point.

Short stubby crayons and pencils are difficult to stabilise in the hand. Pencils with small circular indents are irritating because the indents do not conincide with the natural position of the fingers on the pencil shaft. 

Demonstrating and providing sound cues 

In these activities the teacher / parent demonstrates how each circle or line should be drawn.  The child is encouraged to listen to the sound of the movement and to try and copy the sound when drawing the circles and lines. 

When working with an individual child or small group of children the teacher can sit opposite the child / group.  When working with a class the teacher can demonstrate the direction of the movements on the chalk board. Chalk on a board provides excellent sound feedback.

Drawing small circles in a grid

In this activity the child is instructed to draw a small continuous circle in each block. 
finger ex - small circles.jpg

First demonstrates the action
Place your hand so that it is positioned just below the thick baseline of the first block. Draw a small continuous circle in the first block using finger movements with steady wrist. Go around and around about 4-5 times. 

Draw the child's attention to your hand position and the sound of the pen on the paper.

Instruct the child: Position your hand just below the next block. Remember to keep the wrist straight so that the end of the pencil looks past your shoulder. 

  • Draw a circle in the next block. Make your circle the same size as my one. 
  • Listen to the sound you make. Was your sound the same as mine? 
  • Draw a few more circles. Remember to listen to the sound. 

If the child is pressing very hard the sound will be loud and uneven. Suggest to the child that he/she tries to draw the next circles quietly, so that you cannot hear the sound. Follow this with drawing a few circles making the sound a little louder. 

Generally speaking this activity will elicit finger movements with very small wrist movements while keeping the wrist straight.  

Remember that this is a new skill and will need require several guided practice sessions  before it is well learned.  The child has to replace a well established movement pattern with a new pattern. Breaking a habit is difficult and requires dedication.

Additional circle drawing activities 

Let the child practice drawing single circles and spirals in the blocks. 

finger ex- spirals_1.jpg

R  5y 9m vertical line.jpgDrawing short vertical lines 

In this activity the child practises drawing short vertical lines with repeated up and down movements of the pencil on the paper. 

 

If the hand is positioned just below the base line of the drawing blocks with the wrist straight and the pencil end pointing past the shoulder, small vertical lines are produced by flexing and extending the middle joint of the fore and middle fingers. This movement produces a forwards and backwards "nodding" action of the end of the pencil. 

The lines are drawn in a grid of 2 cm square blocks with dots to mark the begriming and end of the line. 

finger ex - lines down.jpg

Demonstrate how you draw down and up lines
Draw 4 down and up movements in the first block. Direct the child's attention to the position of your hand on the paper and the very soft sound the pencil makes on the paper.

You can also point out how the end of the pen wobbles backwards and forwards. 

Instruct the child 

  • Rest your hand on the page ready to draw a line in the next block. Remember that your hand must be below the base line block. Is the end of your pen pointing past your shoulder?
  • Draw a line from the top dot to the bottom dot, and then back again. Do this 3 more times in the same place. 
  • Was your sound the same as my sound? Was it nice and soft? 
  • Now move your hand along and draw more down and up  lines in the next block.  Can you make your pen wobble backwards and forwards? 

You may need to demonstrate the action action after the child completed a few vertical lines. 

Children who have not used small finger movements for drawing will often find this activity quite tiring as it  forces them to use the muscles in the hand along with the forearm muscles that control the finger actions.  These may be weak and lack endurance. If the child reports that the hand muscles are getting tired you know that the finger muscles are working. 

 

The forearm and pinky side of the hand should rest on the writing surface as the fingers bend and extend. R  5y 9m vertical line 5.jpg

This child has good finger movements, but she is also flexing her wrist and lifting the forearm up off the writing surface. 

What next?

Practice drawing small straight line shapes and capital letters in a 2x2 cm grid. This allows the child to stabilise the new movement pattern and builds finger muscle endurance. 

Drawing diagonal lines in a grid

Drawing short diagonal lines top left to bottom right is more difficult than drawing vertical lines.  Younger children may not manage this task, but it is a good way to improve an older child's (7 years plus) ability to use effective finger movements for handwriting. 
finger ex - diagonal lines.jpg

If the hand is positioned just below the base line of the drawing block, with the end of the pencil pointing passed the shoulder,  a diagonal line from left to right is produced by flexing the fingers along with a very small movement of the wrist. 

Demonstrate the action, drawing 4 down and up diagonal lines in the first block. Draw the child's attention to the position of the hand on the paper and the very soft sound the pencil makes on the paper. You can also point out how the end of the pen wobbles backwards and forwards. 

Instruct the child 

  • Rest your hand on the page ready to draw a line in the next block. Remember that your hand must be below the base line of the block. Is the end of your pen pointing past your shoulder?
  • Draw a line from the top dot to the bottom dot, and then back to the top dot again. Do this 3 more times in the same place. 
  • Was your sound the same as my sound? Was it nice and soft? 
  • Now move your hand along and draw down and up diagonal lines in the next block.  Can you make your pen wobble backwards and forwards? 

Children who have not used small finger movements for drawing will often find this activity quite tiring as it  forces them to use the muscles in the hand along with the forearm muscles that control the finger actions.  These may be weak and lack endurance. If the child reports that the hand muscles are getting tired you know that the finger muscles are working.

What next?  

Practice drawing diagonal lines in the opposite direction. 
finger ex - diagonal lines 2_2.jpg

Also practice writing capital letters in a grid with careful attention to positioning of the hand and using finger movements to write the vertical and diagonal strokes that form the letters. 

More about pencil grip and finger movements 

Overview 

What is an effective pencil grip?  

Thumb position for an effective grip 

How to assess your child's pencil grip and finger movements

How to change an ineffective grip

Training finger movements for handwriting ► You are here