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How does exercise improve your child’s handwriting

Many people who are trying to improve their kids’ handwriting will look to exercise booklets or drills, however these kinds of books don’t address the whole picture.

Why is GM skill important in handwriting?

The tiny finger muscles we use for handwriting are the fine (small) motor muscles. The other big muscles we use for sitting up straight and moving our limbs are the gross (big) motor muscles.

Just as bones are joined together, muscles are connected and affect each other.

For example, if you injure your wrist, you may have difficulty with writing or holding onto items. 

Muscles are connected for body’s movement.

Gross motor skills are the skills that involve the whole body, including balance, motor planning, motor control, postural control, and coordination. 

Fine motor refers to smaller coordinating muscles, like the ones in your fingers that you use to write. A gross motor skill like sitting up straight will affect a fine motor skill like holding a utensil or handwriting.

Gross motor skills include:

  • Core strength

  • Posture

  • Joint stabilization

  • Breathing

  • Hand-eye coordination

  • Walking, running, jumping

Fine motor skills include:

  • Grasping

  • Utensils use

  • Buttoning, zippering 

  • Handwriting, scissor cutting

  • The muscles in the face and tongue that use for talking

Just as bones are connected, small and big muscles are connected and layered; they affect each other. So, a weak back muscle that affects posture is connected to the arm and hand, impacting writing.

Signs of poor gross motor skill:

  • Clumsiness 

  • Low muscle strength

  • Difficulty sitting still on a chair, slouched posture

  • W sitting (sitting on the knees with the feet on the sides of the body)

  • Difficulty with jumping or fear of jumping 

  • Difficulty with standing on one leg 

  • Difficulty with doing stairs, riding bike

  • Prefers to be sedentary. Less active.

W sitting.

Signs of poor fine motor skill:

  • Poor handwriting and scissor cutting

  • Difficulty with utensil use 

  • Difficulty with holding pencil or utensils correctly

  • Difficulty with buttoning or zippering

Typical difficulties for children working on handwriting.

Fine motor: Hand weakness, poor finger coordination and dexterity

Gross motor: Overall muscle weakness or “floppy” appearance, poor balance, motor planning and control, hand-eye coordination.

Neurodivergent people often have difficulty with their motor skills and developmental delay.


When working on motor skills, we have to start with gross motor. The “big muscle” skills always affect the fine motor skills. The majority of the time, people who struggle with FM skill struggle with GM skill too. 

In addition, GM activities are very important for our sensory regulation. GM activities can help to increase our proprioception (body awareness) and vestibulation (balance).

GM activities will help to increase a kid’s…

  • Balance

  • Sitting tolerance on a chair 

  • Attention span

  • Hand-eye coordination 

  • Handwriting, scissor cutting

  • Ability to follow directions  

Examples of GM activities for kids:

  • Catch and throw 

  • Monkey bar

  • Bubbles 

  • Swimming

“Children who master coordination and balance can climb and walk confidently.”

Ella Wu, OTD, OTR/L

Doctor of Occupational Therapy

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