1. Encourage alternate working positions for homework - There are many good positions for completing homework that will help prepare your child’s body and brain to learn. Although some children prefer to sit at a desk or table, there are many other options! Lying on one’s tummy, propped up on the elbows is actually a great position for working – the deep pressure on the body is calming and organizing and weight bearing through the shoulders and arms is strengthening and stabilizing. Who would have thought that lying on your tummy in front of the TV would be good for you! Additional positions that your child may want to try include: standing at a table or easel, kneeling or half-kneeling, and sitting in a beanbag chair, on a therapy ball or on an office swivel chair. As well, encourage your child to change positions several times throughout a homework session if he or she needs.
2. Heavy work chores as part of routine - Research indicates that “heavy work” activities (movement involving resistance) is both calming and organizing – a perfect combination for helping your child to get ready for or re-focused during homework or help to calm him/her during moments of excitement. Heavy work wakes us up when we are drowsy or sluggish and calms us down when we are hyper or angry. Simply enough, most household chores involve heavy work, for example carrying a laundry basket, taking out the garbage, moving furniture, moping the floor, raking leaves, shoveling snow, etc. As well, there are several fun games that involve heavy work, for example tug-of-war, animal walks, wheelbarrow races, twister game, etc. Include heavy work activities in your child’s daily routine, especially before and during a homework session.
3. Encourage activities to develop fine motor skills - There are many fun activities you can do at home with your child to build basic hand skills.
- Marbles, pick-up sticks, Jenga, Etch-a-sketch, mazes, painting, puzzles, blocks.
- Practice manipulating household objects such as spray bottles, clothes pins, hammer and nails, tongs and eye droppers.
- Build hand strength by using a hole punch, stirring cookie batter, using playdough/plasticine, crumpling paper and wringing out sponges.
To Encourage Proper Tripod Pencil Grasp:
- Use small pieces (1/2” to 1”) of chalk or crayons during art projects because the only way to hold something this small is to use a pincer grasp (i.e. using the tips of the pointer and thumb to hold).
- Finger tug of war with a popsicle stick or straw – have your child make an “O” with is thumb and index finger, making sure all the joints are nice and round.
4. Provide opportunities for sensory exploration and play - The senses (especially touch, position and movement) are important influences for the development of motor skills. Help your child to learn about his or her world and how their body works in space by creating many opportunities for exploration of the senses through play. Some examples include: water play, finger painting, sandbox play, beading/macaroni art, making cookies (rolling dough, shaping and of course, eating!), massage, songs/rhymes about the different body parts, playing barefoot on the grass/beach in summer, play structures (swings, slides, tire swings), jumping on a trampoline, etc.
5. Provide opportunities for gross motor play - Unfortunately in our era of computer and video games, kids are spending less and less time outside involved in active play. Gross motor play, however, remains an essential part of developing coordination, body awareness, muscle tone strength and self-confidence. As well, research shows that physical activity also enhances brain development! Therefore, encourage your child to participate regularly in physical activities, either through an organized sport or outdoor play.