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Gross motor activities like running, jumping, and riding a bike are fun - but did you know that they also have a huge impact on printing? When kiddos are having trouble pinching their pencil or writing their name, we often give them ways to strengthen their hands and fingers. However, they might first need to strengthen the big muscles of their legs, core, and back.

These large muscles are essential for fine motor activities such as printing, cutting, and drawing. Strength and control in the large muscles of the shoulders, neck, and trunk are necessary to help the small muscles of the hands and fingers. They also keep us sitting tall with our head up, which is needed to pay attention in the classroom. If all of my energy is being used up to keep me from falling over, I won’t have any brain power left to listen to what the teacher is asking.

Children develop their trunk muscles before the ones that are used for colouring and printing. By creating a strong core, our hands are free to work on more complex tasks. We get a strong core by playing games that require us to keep our body steady and in control. Think of the way our body needs to be to win a foot fight, or to stand on one leg to pick up your rock in a game of hopscotch. Both of these games challenge our core.

Encourage a variety of gross motor activities to build strength and confidence in your children. Here are some ways to strengthen the shoulders, arms and wrists:

Use easels to make games vertical; chalk art, paint by number, and sticker games can all be played on an easel. Letter and number magnets on the refrigerator can also be used to strengthen the upper body while standing.

Lie on your belly on the floor with arms propped on forearms to read books, colour, or do puzzles. If this is tricky, roll up a towel or place a pillow under your chest.

Draw on the walls; tape paper to the walls so you can stand to create your works of art. For an extra challenge, channel your inner Michelangelo and tape paper to the bottom of the table.

Push and pull; push a heavy cart or a laundry hamper full of toys (or a sibling if they’re brave!). Games such as tug-of-war and ‘magic carpet rides’ also build up muscles of the arms, shoulders, and back.

Weight bear through the arms; wheelbarrow walking or animal walks will help to strengthen your back. Check out our Instagram highlights for lots of animal walk inspiration!

Hanging and climbing; use the playground equipment, such as the climbers and monkey bars at your local park.

So get out there and play -- your penmanship will thank you.

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