- Peg Marano
Bridging (writing) Gaps
Ah the glory of technology. It is EVERYWERE! You go the supermarket and scan your card for discounts. You go to a doctor and log in on an iPad or from your phone. In fact you are even reading this on the device of your choice. Do you remember a time before endless connectivity? I surely do but your children will never know that world. In fact the technological world your children will grow up in is one we cant even fathom as the changes in that world are happening at break neck speed. Yet we will need to understand the depths of its impact so we may plan accordingly.
In this day and age many toddlers can manage a smart phone or iPad like a pro. They exhibit such exuberance as they attempt to move whatever is happening on the screen. And because they are so adept at this process we believe they should engage in screen time simply because they can. Now this is a no judgement zone. It's not a discussion about the pros and cons of screentime. We can discuss that at a later date. As we know our relationship with technology is a necessary evil and so too will our childrens'. So let's discuss ways to make their engagement better.
One of the most notable deficiencies we see amongst toddlers in recent years is their pincer grip. Ruling out any medical contributing issues, these deficiencies can be linked to simple under use. You see this grip develops long before they are using it for writing. As babies they begin reaching for objects with their whole arm. They grasp items using their pinky and ring finger using the side of their hands (crude palmar grasp). Clearly not the most useful of grips when trying to accomplish more involved tasks as it leaves out our three most useful fingers. Around six months or so they begin to use their entire hand (palmar grasp). Eventually this grasp will begin to include their thumb (aposable thumbs set us apart from so many other species). I'm going to fast forward now a bit to around 10 months where their inferior pincer (utilizing the pads of the index finger and thumb) and or pincer grip (utilizing the tips of index finger and thumb) begins to develop. This is where they begin to pick up small items like cheerios and using their hand and arm they can manipulate the item. These types of activities help to strengthen the muscles in the hand and fingers which will be necessary to eventually use a more advanced version of this grip to write. Being so incredibly curious about the world around them it stands to reason that they manage to get their hands on smart phones and or tablets. The issue here is the swipe process they use is and open hand thumb slide. See where I'm going here.... developmental milestones march along toward a writing grip but by giving a new process we have changed a part of the outcome. After moving to a pincer grip we introduce a process that goes back in time to utilize a rudimentary skill to accomplish a task. It slows the process down at a time when the developmental process is increasing.
Now I've been in this business a long time and I am by no means against change. On the contrary I love using what we know and observe to change our process and impact outcome. So that's what I'm going to suggest. There's a very simple solution that can keep the skills from regressing. Teach them to use their index finger instead of their thumb. That's it. Yes it is that simple. It will help to build the muscles necessary in the palm and continue the process so the natural progression the pincer grip doesn't regress. Using the Index finger to swipe has it pointing down as it would on a writing utensil and it will engage the hand along with a whole lot of arm movement. All skills to help develop naturally into a writing grip. As they age you can further the developmental process by introducing the use of a stylus but only when they are ready. And, while there is a window of time between the age of 2-5 where that grip develops, it is different for every child. You just want to continue the process working toward progress not perfection. The same way you would approach any fitness program. They are in training to become stronger capable individuals and you are their coach. Giving suitable options and opprotunities coupled with instruction, encouragement, and success will help them to continue to develop the necessary skills to succeed.
And on that note... I have a Peloton stack of classes (with my coaches Cody, Kirsten, Tunde, and Camila) calling my name. Life takes a village and I'm happy to be part of yours.
You got this!!! And we got you!!!