Handwriting warm up exercises

Before starting to work on letter formation, joins or even the pre-handwriting patterns it is a good idea to help focus the body on the activity that it is about to be performed in a fun and relaxed way.

The exercises only take a couple of minutes to do. Not only can they be done at the beginning of the session but throughout and at the end to help relax muscles and release tension that may build up over the session. Tense muscles can make handwriting difficult and make a child tire more quickly in the writing activity being tried.

Five areas to support the body with handwriting are covered in the warm up activities:

Shoulder stability and strength

When we talk about the shoulder, we are actually referring to the shoulder girdle a number of bones, ligaments, muscles and tendons that work together to support arm strength and give the full range of arm movements.

Crossing the mid-line

To make handwriting comfortable the writing arm has to be able to cross the vertical central line of the body (crossing the mid-line). It is a key skill that enables us to write comfortably with the paper positioned appropriately and to sit at a desk correctly.

Wrist strength and flexibility

Having the full, pain free, range of wrist movements and the strength to hold the correct, slightly extended, position for handwriting is important. In this position the tendons, which run over the wrist bones, can work the finger muscles more easily giving better finger control for handwriting.

Thumb and finger strength and dexterity

Thumb and finger strength are important for the coordinated movements and strengths required to hold and maintain an efficient pencil grip as well as to move the pencil effectively for handwriting and drawing.

Whole hand strength and dexterity

Whole hand dexterity and strength is important for in-hand manipulation, grip and grip release skills as well as being able to judge the appropriate amount of pressure required to hold and release items safely, all required for handwriting.

Try to do one exercise from each of the groups before starting handwriting. During or after a handwriting task and depending on the area of the body which a child may say is aching or tired use another exercise from the appropriate group. For instance, if they say their shoulders or neck are aching try the ‘Chair Push’ exercise from the Shoulder Stability section.

Remember tense muscles can make handwriting hard work and will tire a child more quickly.

Handwriting warm up games - Shoulder stability activities

Hand Pushes

Place your palms together, with elbows out and forearms held horizontally.
Now push your hands together as hard as you can and hold for 5 seconds - you should feel all the muscles around your shoulder girdle contract.

Repeat a few times.

had-pushes

Up We Go

Hands hold opposite elbows, so the left hand holds on to the right elbow and the right hand holds on to the left elbow. Now lift your arms slowly over your head, return to waist.

Repeat 10 - 15 times.

up-we-go

Chair Push Ups

Place your hands on either side of the chair that you are sitting on and PUSH, until your bottom rises off the chair. To start with just repeating the push will be enough; later you can make it more challenging by holding the position for a couple of seconds. Increase the difficulty by lifting your feet off the floor and hold them off while raising your bottom off the chair.

"I Don't Knows"

Start with your arms down by your sides and then bend the elbows 90 degrees with palms facing upwards. Then lift the shoulders up towards the ears hold for 2 seconds or say slowly "I don't know!" then release the shoulders.

Repeat 5 times

Desk Push Ups

Sit up straight with hands flat on the table with finger tips pointing away from you, shoulder width apart. Then bend at the elbows and from the waist bend the body forward so that your nose dips between the hands. Push back up using your arms so that the arms straighten and you return to an upright sitting position.

Bear Hug

Stretch the right arm across your body and try to touch your left shoulder blade with your right hand. Then stretch the left arm across your body, laying it under the right arm and try to touch the right shoulder blade with the left hand.

Hug yourself tightly for 2 seconds then release the hold.

Then stretch the left arm across your body and try to touch the right shoulder blade with the left hand.

Next stretch the right arm across your body, laying it under the left arm, and try to touch the left shoulder blade with the right hand.

Hug yourself tightly for 2 seconds then release the hold.

Handwriting warm up games - Crossing the mid-line activities

Lazy 8

Hold your right arm straight out in front of you. Keeping your arm straight trace a large "lazy eight" (a figure of 8 on its side) 5 - 8 times in the air, so that the drawing hand crosses the middle of the body. Repeat with the other arm. Track your hand with your eyes while keeping your head still.

lazy-8

Butterflies

Start by holding arms straight out in front of the body, then link the thumbs to make an X, lift the palms so that they are facing out and finger tips point to the sky. Then draw lazy 8's (figure of 8 on its side) in the air start by moving to the left for 5 lazy 8's and then 5 moving to the right as a start point.

butterflies

Macarena

With palms face down on the table raise your right hand to the left ear - hold in place - then your left hand to your right ear - hold in place. Then move your right hand to your left elbow - hold in place - next move your left arm to your right elbow - hold in place. Move your left hand out in front of you so it is bent at 90 degrees with the elbow at your side with the palm facing upwards, then do the same with your right arm. Finally turn the left palm downwards and place the table in front of you, do the same with the right palm. Try to do this twice through.

Scissor Cuts

Raise your arms to shoulder height straight out in front of you with the palms facing downwards. Then cross your arms over one another alternatively, firstly with the right on top and then the left on top, in a scissors action. Do this 10 times for each arm.

Paper Chase

Place index fingers on to the middle of the paper side by side.

Right index finger is moved to touch the top left hand corner of the paper.

Left index finger moves to touch the top right hand corner of the paper, by moving the left hand up and over the right arm.

Right hand pulls back under the left arm and then over the top of the left arm so that the right index finger can be placed on the middle edge of the left hand side of the paper.

Left hand pulls back under and then over the right arm so that the left index finger can be placed on the middle of the edge of the right hand side of the paper.

Right hand is pulled under and over the left arm so that the right index finger can be placed on the bottom left hand corner of the paper.

Left hand is pulled under and then over the right arm so that the left index finger can be placed on the bottom right hand corner of the paper.

Right hand is pulled back under the left arm and the right index finger is placed in the start position at the middle of the paper.

Left hand is pulled out from under the right arm and the left index finger placed next to the right index finger in the middle of the paper (start position).

Repeat 2 - 3 times.

Windscreen Wipers

With arms hanging down by your sides slowly raise both arms out to the side of your body to shoulder height, hold for 2 seconds.

Then raise them straight up above your head.

Swing both arms to the left till the right arm touches the right ear.

Then swing both arms to the right till the left arm touches the left ear. Change swing direction again, do this for 5 swings on each side.

Then hold your arms up straight above your head then lower slowly to shoulder height on either side of the body, hold for 2 seconds.

Next slowly lower your arms till they are hanging down by the sides of your body.

Repeat once more.

Handwriting warm up games - Wrist strength activities

Wrist Circles

Extending your arms straight out in front of you with your palms facing down. Make a fist with your fingers wrapped around your thumb. Rotate your wrists clockwise and then counter-clockwise six times in each direction.

wrist-circles

Doorknob Turns

Stretch arms in front of you with elbows slightly bent and palms facing upwards. Keep your fingers together and your thumbs open. Turn both hands inwards at the wrist so that your thumbs point down towards the floor and return to the start position, 10 - 15 times.

doorknob-turns

Wrist Lift

Place your left forearm on the table and hold it down with your right hand. Then make a fist and bend your wrist gently back as far as possible for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 to 10 times. Then do the same activity with the right wrist.

Heel swing

Lay hands out flat on the table straight out in front of you about a shoulders width apart. Then pivot on the thumb area of the heal of the hand so that the fingers sweep across the table inwards towards the thumbs. The thumbs should then end up close to the edge of the table and the fingertips of both hands pointing towards each other. Then swing back to the start position

Next swing the hand outwards trying to get the little finger as close to the table edge as comfortably possible, then return to the start position. Repeat both moves 5 times.

Handwriting warm up games - Thumb and finger strength activities

Circles

Hands held relaxed out in front of you start with the left hand first. Touch your thumb to your first fingertip and make a circle and then stretch your thumb out to the side. Repeat for each finger and then do it with the right hand. Repeat 2 - 3 times.

hand-circles

Tips Only

Make a hook with the fingers of your left hand but keep your knuckles straight. Hold for 2 seconds. Then straighten your fingers. Repeat 5 times.

Hold the middle of your thumb, with your right hand, just below the top crease. Bend your thumb tip down. Hold for 2 seconds. Then straighten your thumb tip. Repeat 5 times.

Repeat the exercise for each individual finger. Repeat 2 - 3 times. Then do the same for the right hand.

tips-only

Tommy Thumb

Sing and do the actions to the traditional Tommy Thumb nursery rhyme.

tommy-thumb

Bow Politely

Make a fist with your left hand by bending your fingers. Hold for 2 seconds. Then straighten your fingers. Repeat 5 times.

Hold the base of your left thumb firmly. Bend your thumb down. Hold for 2 seconds. Then straighten your thumb. Repeat 2 - 3 times.

Use your right hand to hold the knuckle joint of your left hand straight, then bend your fingers down one at a time. Hold each for 2 seconds. Then straighten your finger. Repeat 2 - 3 times. Then swap and do the same on the right hand.

Finger Bend

Extend arms and fingers straight out in front of you at chest height in an "Egyptian Mummy" position. Keeping the knuckles and wrists straight turn the palms face upwards, bend the fingers until they face your body and then straighten them out. Do not create a fist while bending your fingers. Repeat 5 - 10 times.

Finger Walk

Place both hands on a flat surface such as a desk, table or wall. Spread your fingers slightly apart and one at a time move each finger, starting with the index finger, toward your thumbs while trying to keep the other fingers still.

Reverse the process and walk your little finger first then the ring finger middle and finally the index finger back to your original start point. Repeat 2 – 3 times.

Finger Twirls

Rest arms on a flat surface in front of you.

Place hands together with fingers pointing towards the sky (palm to palm) and push hard against each other for 2 seconds - relax.

Keep the finger and thumb tips together and gently move your arms and hands apart.

Circle your thumbs around each other in both directions for 5 seconds then place them back together again.

Then circle the index finger around each other in both directions for 5 seconds and then place the finger tips back together again.

Repeat this for the middle, ring, and little fingers.

Then push the hands back together again and push hard against each other for 2 seconds, release and shake out.

Handwriting warm up games - Whole hand activities

Walk & Flip

Walk your fingers up the pencil (your index finger will look like an inchworm climbing the pencil). Flip the pencil over by holding the top of the pencil between the thumb and index finger use the middle finger to support and help to flip the pencil over. Walk your fingers up again. Repeat with the other hand.

walk-and-flip

Rolling Pencil

Start with the pencil held across all the fingertips of one hand. Use your thumb to roll the pencil into your palm and back to your fingertips. Repeat 2 - 3 times then try the other hand.

rolling-pencil

Baton Twirl

Rotate the pencil in, around and between all your fingers like it was a baton.

Super Hands

Start with your wrist, knuckles and fingers straight and pointing to the sky.

Then make a hook with your fingers bending them from the first finger joints. Hold for 2 seconds.

Then straighten your fingers up towards the sky again. Repeat 5 - 8 times.

Finally with straight fingers bend them forward from the knuckles, remember to keep your fingers straight. Hold for 2 seconds.

Then straighten your fingers up towards the sky again. Repeat 5 - 8 times.