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    Make it Multi-Sensory

    With the beginning of school just a couple weeks away, sharpening up those pencils and cleaning out that craft center is sure to be on the agenda. Summer tends to be a well-deserved break for children, allowing them to spend time outdoors and forget about the burden of academics. That being said, providing your child with a bit of preparation right before school resumes may not be a bad idea. For younger children in particular, having them practice their pre-printing shapes, letters and numbers is a good place to start. However, for the next two weeks it’s still summer vacation; therefore, you’ve gotta make it fun!

    As an Occupational Therapist (OT) who does a lot of work with children in the area of printing and written output, I must admit that I rarely encourage practice with simply a pencil and paper. I tend to make the activity multi-sensory (engaging more than one sense), most frequently utilizing the tactile (touch) domain. This not only assists with compliance, but it often masks the notion that “work” is being done. In addition, involving a variety of senses has neurological benefits. It can help to encode and integrate information, make retrieval easier, and improve motor skills.

    Below are some tactile activities that you can use with your child to practice pre-printing shapes, letters and numbers.

    1. Sidewalk Chalk: For an added fine motor benefit, use small chalk bits (see the previous blog post The Smaller The Better).
    2. Sponges or Spray Bottles: Trace over chalk drawings with sponges, participate in a sponge toss game, or write on the sidewalk/side of the house.
    3. Shaving Cream: Get messy by writing in this slippery, yet smooth substance. Food coloring can be mixed in for an added effect.
    4. Sand/Salt/Rice Bins: Place some in a small container, but ensure that it’s thin enough that you can write through it and create a legible design.
    5. Sandpaper Cards: Make this a fun DIY project by creating master copies and then trace over them regularly for practice.
    6. Window Writers: Use these on windows or mirrors. Write notes or messages to friends and family members.
    7. Back Writing: Write letters or numbers on a partner’s back and have him/her guess what’s been written.
    8. Finger Lasers or Flashlights: Write letters or numbers on a dark wall and have others guess what’s being written.
    9. Silly Putty or Play-Dough: Mold these substances into shapes, letters or numbers and then trace over them. This activity has the potential to work on hand strength as well.
    10. Popsicle Sticks/Wiki Stix: Combine these sticks into shapes, letters or numbers. Turn this into a craft by coloring, decorating, or creating patterns.

    I bet you wouldn’t have thought that these basic craft activities had the potential to improve motor skills and assist with school preparation. Making it multi-sensory not only has neurological benefits, but almost guarantees that a good time is had as well! The list above isn’t exhaustive – I’d love to hear some of your personal ideas in the comments section. Never hold back on channeling your inner Pinterest self when coming up with creative ways to make writing fun!

    About Jordana Schwarz, MSc.OT., OT Reg. (Ont.)

    Jordana is a certified Occupational Therapist who received a Master of Science degree in Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy from the University of Toronto and an Honour’s Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of Western Ontario. Jordana is a member in good standing of the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario (COTO) and the Ontario Society of Occupational Therapists (OSOT).

    Learn more about Jordana Schwarz, MSc.OT., OT Reg. (Ont.)