When children first begin to make marks, they do it for enjoyment, rather than to convey meaning. During the early stages of development, children use their upper body muscles to mark make. It is important to provide children with the opportunity to make marks on a large scale to enable them to use gross motor movements to strengthen and develop their shoulder pivot. Painting with mops, washing the walls with soap and brushes and painting with large rollers all offer such opportunities.
As children strengthen their back and shoulders they begin to make more movements further down the arm, using the elbow pivot. To allow for even smaller movements the pivot changes to the wrist as the arm muscles and the sense of balance develop further. Children need lots of opportunities to work on smaller surfaces and on activities such as threading, weaving and mixing to support and extend a wrist pivot.
As children develop their wrist pivot their pencil grip evolves, although the journey doesn’t stop there. Children need to master a number of pivots right to the end of the finger tips in order to hold a mark making tool for writing effectively. We assess and track children using a pencil grip progression chart to inform us of the children who need support in mastering their gross and fine motor skills.
At NAIS Pudong we use a range of interventions in Early Years, including Dough Gym and Funky Fingers to support children who show difficulty in using tools effectively and with control by developing their gross and fine motor skills. Dough Gym is an effective programme for children who really need to work on their upper body and gross motor development. Children work out using large amounts of dough to music. The children use a rage of movements designed to target specific areas of development from shoulder pivot right through to pincer grip. Some children need more focused input on their hands, fingers and grip. Funky Fingers can run alongside Dough Gym to provide opportunities for children to develop their fine motor control. Activities may include threading beads onto sticks, using tweezers to pick up small objects, wrapping wool around sticks and balancing marbles on golf tees. Sessions are fast paced and hard work but most of all fun!