Many kids struggle in the area of handwriting for various reasons. They don’t enjoy the process or they tire easily, fine motor skills are not developed like they should be for handwriting, and a variety of other reasons. Doing some fun handwriting warm up activities can help them to prepare for writing, not only mentally but physically.
I usually start warm up activities starting with the large muscles first and then working down to the smaller muscles. In therapy terms this is called distal (muscles farthest away from the ones you are focusing on) and proximal (muscles directly next to or close by the ones you are working on).
In the case of handwriting, the finger muscles are the ones you are primarily focusing on, but you want to start with the shoulder and arm muscles first for warm ups.
Shoulder Warm-Up Activities for Handwriting
Chair And Desk Push-ups
Chair Push-Ups: Begin this by sitting straight in your chair and gripping the sides of the chair, thumbs facing towards the fingers and pressing against the underside of the chair. Using the arm muscles, push up from the bottom of the chair. The feet should should up slightly from the floor.
Desk Push-Ups: Start with your hands flat on the top of the desk with the tips of the thumbs and index finger facing each other to create a triangle. Bend your elbows to bring your nose towards the triangle in your fingers, then push up with the arms to straighten your elbows.
Shoulder warm up activities prepare the arms for writing and may help to release tension in the neck and shoulder.
Shrug your shoulders up and down and then front to back. To describe this to your child you can tell them to lift their shoulders to touch their ears and then push them back down. For front to back it will feel like you are trying to push your scapula together in the back, much like a shoulder bench press when working out.
Raise your arms in the air with one above the other. Then snap your hands together like a crocodile snapping its jaw. Take turns having the left and right arm above each other for this activity.
Air Traffic Controller
Start with your elbows bent and your hands in a fist in front of each shoulder. Then straighten your elbows, moving one arm out from the body and the other arm to the side of your body. Alternate arms back and forth.
You can also use this to practice crossing midline by crossing the hands and arms while doing the movement.
Begin with your arms straightened in front of your body. Like your thumbs together to make an “X” and turn your hands facing out. Using the shoulders to move, make small circles with the hands, moving from left to right (remember to do this movement from the shoulders, not the fingers or hand).
Finger Warm Up Activities for Handwriting
Now that the shoulders and neck are loosened and ready for writing, let’s move on to the hand and fingers!
Put On Imaginary Gloves
Pull on your “gloves” by applying firm pressure to the fingers and back of the each hand. This provides proprioceptive and tactile feedback and prepares the muscles for movement.
Place the tips of your fingers together and straighten the fingers while pushing the finger tips against each other.
Drum your fingers on the table or desk as if playing the piano. Make sure each finger touches the desk. You can also work on fast vs. slow movements with this. “How slowly can you play the piano?” “How fast can you play the piano?” “Can you use both hands together to play the piano?” (works on bilateral coordination skills).
Get your pencils out and start to twirl them in the air like a baton, spinning them both horizontally and vertically in the air. This combines some shoulder and finger exercises together.
Make sure your child is holding the pencil with an appropriate grasp like the tripod or quadruped grasp. Move your fingers along the pencil from tip to tip, starting at the bottom and working towards the top. Then back down to the bottom of the pencil. Make sure you are only using your writing hand for this one, do not help out with the opposite hand.
Once your kids get the hang of these activities it should only take you 5-10 minutes at the most to complete them all. Then their muscles will be all warmed up and ready for handwriting.
If you'd like to have these exercises on hand to use in your classroom, home, or therapy sessions, I've created some hand warm-up exercise cards and you can check them out over in my shop.
For more handwriting tips, be sure to check out the resources below.