Start with fine motor exercises
Babies and toddlers grab with their entire hand, often using their palm to push items into their mouth. But when they are presented with smaller items, they soon learn to use their fingers to pick them up.
Try these activities to increase finger strength:
Supervise your little one, of course, as you present him with small pieces of cereal to eat. If you put only one or two pieces of cereal or small pieces of food on his tray, he will need to use his pointer finger and thumb to pick it up and put it in his mouth.
Give your toddler small blocks to stack. He will need to grab them with his forefinger and thumb to place the blocks precisely where he wants them to be.
Present your child with finger paint. Direct him to use his pointer finger to make designs.
Give your child puzzles to play with. Some have pegs that are ideal for pinching with the pointer finger and thumb and other chunky wooden puzzles have pieces that can also be picked up with the finger and thumb. Supervise your child as he works to ensure that he is pinching the puzzle pieces with his fingers to strengthen them.
Ask your child to squeeze the bubbles on a sheet of bubble wrap until they pop. Remind him to use just his forefinger and thumb to pop the plastic bubbles.
Teach the proper pencil grip
Children need to be taught how to hold a pencil correctly. If left to their own devices, children usually grab a pencil with their fist (toddler style), turn their fist over, lift their elbow in the air and make large, uncontrolled strokes on the paper.
Try not to let your child get into this bad habit. When your child is going to use a crayon or pencil, sit with him and put the pencil or crayon correctly in his hand. Remind him to pinch the pencil with his forefinger and thumb and rest his pinky finger and forearm on the table to stabilize his hand.
Practice tracing lines and letters
Worksheets that give children dotted lines to trace provide wonderful practice for developing handwriting skills. The dotted lines show children where to place the pencil. At first, your child’s lines may be wobbly and uncontrolled. But practice makes perfect. So encourage your child to continue practicing using his pencil or crayon.
Begin with simple lines going down and across and then add the worksheets that ask your child to trace over curves. When your child can comfortably trace curves and loops, he is ready to begin tracing letters. Using beginning tracing worksheets can be very helpful.
I recommend introducing the uppercase letters first, since they are made with straight lines and broad curves and are all the same size. Letter tracing worksheets will show children how to correctly form each letter.
Keep a record of your child’s efforts
Children can be encouraged to continue practicing when they are shown the progress they are making. Put a date on each worksheet and keep the sheets in a folder. After a few weeks of practice, show your child his early efforts. He will be happy and maybe a little surprised to see how far his pencil control has come. I always smiled when I showed children in my preschool and kindergarten classes writing pages that they completed earlier in the year. Sometimes they did not believe that the page I gave them was theirs! I, too, was surprised and pleased to see the progress my students had made in a period of a few months.